Saturday, May 09, 2015

2015 and 2016 Gubernatorial Election Predictions

Final Prediction 2016:
Democrats to pickup IN, MO, NC
Republicans to pickup NH, VT
Three states will hold their gubernatorial elections in 2015 and eleven will in 2016.

Delaware 2016

Rating: Likely Democratic hold
Democrat: Congressman John Carney (likely) (incumbent Jack Markell term-limited out)
Republican: State Senator Colin Bonini (likely)
Overview: (7/22/15) Rest in peace, Beau Biden. Attorney General Biden was the presumptive Democratic nominee; now the blue team can expect a spirited primary. Given that President Obama carried Delaware by nearly 20 points in 2012, this seat is probably safe.
(4/9/16) Democrats have a top-tier recruit in John Carney. This race is over.

Indiana 2016
Rating: Toss up
Republican: Lt. Governor Eric Holcomb (incumbent Mike Pence retiring)
Democrat: Former Speaker of the state House John Gregg
Overview: (5/9/15) Mike Pence was until a short time ago considered a lock for reelection, and was talked about as a strong potential nominee for President should he throw his hat into the ring. That was before Indiana's recent ugliness with a Pence-backed law allowing businesses to discriminate against gays. Bizarrely, Pence repeatedly attempted to claim that the purpose of the bill was not to enable discrimination, despite the fact that the people he invited to the law's signing ceremony were anti-equality leaders who had lobbied for the bill specifically to enable discrimination. All this has not helped Pence's public standing (hey, even in Indiana you can only lie so much), and recent polls have shown a close race between Pence and former state House Speaker John Gregg. Gregg was Pence's opponent in 2012, and lost by only 3%; a good showing considering that Mitt Romney beat President Obama in Indiana by more than 10%.
(8/29/16) A conservative-leaning Monmouth poll shows Donald Trump leading Hillary Clinton by a whopping 11% here. The same poll shows Republican Holcomb leading Gregg by one in the gubernatorial, and, incidentally, Democrat Evan Bayh comfortably ahead in the race for the open Senate seat. I don't believe Trump is that far ahead, and other polls have shown Gregg ahead in the gubernatorial. Interestingly, Mike Pence is not helping Holcomb with campaign funding. Race is a toss up, but I think Gregg has a good chance to win.
(11/4/16) This is very close, but I'm calling if for Gregg.

Kentucky 2015
Rating: Leans Democratic hold
Democrat: Attorney General Jack Conway (incumbent Steve Beshear term-limited out)
Republican: State Agriculture Commissioner James Comer or former Louisville Hal Heiner (likely)
Overview: (5/9/15) The Republican party has pretty much run the table in the south, leaving Kentucky, with its Democratic Governor and state House majority, something of an oddity. Jack Conway is the best possible nominee for the blue team. Although Conway lost the 2010 Senate race to Rand Paul, he did collect a respectable 44.3% of the vote. The race on the other side is the epitome of Republican battles in the 21st century. James Comer, who's already won a statewide race, is facing an avalanche of personal attacks from less known, but more conservative Hal Heiner, who's being backed by the super-wealthy, super-evil Koch brothers. A divisive Republican primary can only benefit Conway, but on the other hand this is Kentucky and the Republicans will always have the inside track.
(10/26/15) Conway maintains a small but consistent lead in the polls. Republicans have never been very excited about Bevin or the quality of his campaign;  in late September the Republican Governors Association stopped airing ads on his behalf. It's possible that Republicans will get the better turnout and Bevin will win despite himself, but I'm calling it for Conway.

Louisiana 2015
Rating: Leans Democratic takeover
Republican: Senator David Vitter
Democrat: State House minority leader John Bel Edwards
Overview: (5/9/15) Even conservative sources are saying it: Governor Bobby Jindal has wrecked Louisiana. Coming into office with a huge state budget surplus, Jindal's aggressive tax cutting has created a $1.6 billion dollar budget deficit, and public services and education in Louisiana are simply disappearing. Jindal's likely successor is US Senator David Vitter, the prostitute-loving family values hypocrite. Now you might think that given the mess Republicans have made of Louisiana, Democrats might be poised for a comeback. Think again. Huge numbers of Democratic voters left Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina and never went back. Given the state's hard swing to the right, the Louisiana Democratic Party is having a difficult time finding candidates willing to be sacrificial lambs in statewide elections, and likely gubernatorial nominee John Bel Edwards doesn't have a prayer.
(10/18/15) The Democrats with a chance? Start with three consecutive polls showing that this will be a Vitter versus Edwards matchup, with Edwards winning the runoff between four and twelve points. Add to that an alleged former mistress who claims to have had Vitter's child, and that Vitter had urged her to have an abortion. This may be enough to cook Vitter's goose and send either Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle or Lt. Governor Jay Dardeene to the runoff as Edwards' opponent. Either of those two gentlemen would be better than even money to win this race.
(10/26/15) Vitter won the jungle primary, although by a narrower margin than most expected. Conventional wisdom says Louisiana is so Republican that Vitter cannot lose no matter how may scandals he piles up, and I see no reason to doubt it.
(11/19/15) The runoff is this Saturday. Polls show Edwards with a lead between 6 and 16 points. Is that enough to win? Recently, the likely voter models used by polls in red states have been over-estimating Democratic support. Case in point, the aggregate of polls showed Democrat Conway with a slight edge in the Kentucky gubernatorial, yet he lost by 9. It's very close, but I'm calling it for Edwards.

Mississippi 2015
Rating: Guaranteed Republican hold
Republican: Phil Bryant (incumbent)
Democrat: Businessman Robert Gray
Overview: (5/9/15) Bryant will probably out-poll his opponent better than 2 to 1.
(10/26/15) Make that a Bryant win by 4 to 1. Mississippi is about as much a one-party state as it's possible to be.

Missouri 2016
Rating: Leans Democratic hold
Democrat: Attorney General Chris Koster (incumbent Jay Nixon term-limited out)
Republican: Businessman Eric Greitens
Overview: (5/9/15) Missouri is trending red; while President Obama nearly won there in 2008, he lost there in 2012 by nearly 10%. Somehow, Jay Nixon bucked the trend and was elected Missouri Governor in both those years. In 2016 Democrats should benefit from the fact that top-tier recruit Chris Koster has already been unofficially running and raising money for a long-time, while Republican support appears to be divided among several second-tier candidates.
(4/9/16) A recent poll shows Democrat Koster leading Republican Kinder by 2. With Hillary Clinton a strong candidate in Missouri, I like this office to stay blue.
(8/29/16) Eric Greitens was the surprising winner of the GOP nomination. Unfortunately for Republicans, Geritens is a political novice and has little chance of winning.
(11/4/16) Koster leads in every independent poll and I think he'll win.

Montana 2016
Rating: Likely Democratic hold
Democrat: State Attorney General Steve Bullock
Republican: Businessman Greg Gianforte
Overview: (5/9/15) President Obama is unpopular in Montana, and incumbent Governor Steve Bullock is polling no better than even against his potential Republican opponents. Thank goodness for the Montana Libertarian party. Their perennial candidate Ron Vandevender has already declared for this race. Vandevender captured 3.8% of the vote in the 2012 gubernatorial. Most of those votes came of course from folks who otherwise would have voted Republican, and, as Bullock beat his Republican opponent by only 1.5%, it's safe to say Vandevender handed Democrats the election. The same thing happened in the 2012 Montana Senate race. Incumbent Democrat Jon Tester beat his opponent by 4.0%, while the Libertarian candidate ate the Republicans' lunch in the form of 6.6% of the vote.
(4/9/16) Apparently, Republicans are not sanguine about this race; no major party leader has declared to take on Bullock. Democrats to get a free pass?

New Hampshire 2016
Rating: Toss up
Democrat: Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern? (incumbent Margaret Hassan running for Senate)
Republican: Executive Councilor Chris Sununu (likely)
Overview: (5/9/15) Popular Governor Maggie Hassan will have no trouble fending off any of her potential Republican opponents. The real question here is whether Hassan will forgo reelection to take on Republican US Senator Kelly Ayotte. Democrats would dearly love her to do so, as polls are already showing Hassan could win. If this race does become a open seat, it might well go Republican as Jeb Bradley would be a strong candidate against whomever is next in line for the blue team.
(4/9/16) Governor Hassan's decision to run for Senate has left quite a vacuum. Both parties seem prepared to nominate lower-tier candidates (what the heck is an "executive councilor"? On the one hand, polls show Republican Sununu with the edge, on the other hand Democrats may have a big advantage at the Presidential level that provide coattails for their nominee in this race.
(11/4/16) Apparently "Sununu" is some kind of magic name in New Hampshire. Calling this one a narrow win for the GOP.

North Carolina 2016
Rating: Leans Democratic takeover
Republican: Pat McCrory incumbent
Democrat: Attorney General Roy Cooper
Libertarian: Lon Cecil
Overview: (5/9/15) Governor McCrory's approval ratings are pretty dismal. Democrats have a top-tier recruit in Roy Cooper, and he's polling well against McCrory. The blue team could also get some help in the form of the strong state Libertarian party. In 2012, Libertarian Barbara Howe captured more than 2% of the vote that would have otherwise mostly gone to the Republican candidate. Still, North Carolina is a red state and Democrats will need every break to win.
(4/9/16) As expected, polls show a very close race. If the Libertarian candidate can really pull 6% in November, I have to think McCrory is in trouble. I think the controversy surrounding North Carolina's new anti-LGBT law is not helping McCrory, but then again, who knows? This is the south we're talking about.
(8/29/16) Nothing has gone right in this race for McCrory and Cooper is now comfortably ahead in the polls.
(11/4/16) This one is close, but calling it for Cooper as he leads every polls.

North Dakota 2016
Rating: Likely Republican hold
Republican: Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem (incumbent Jack Dalrymple retiring)
Democrat: State Representative Marvin Nelson
Overview: (5/9/15) Dalrymple is more or less a lock. The only wild-card here is Democratic US Senator Heidi Heitkamp; she's threatened to jump in to this race. I very much hope that does not happen. If it does, Democrats can kiss her Senate seat goodbye.
(4/9/16) Republican Stenehjem is the stronger candidate, and in North Dakota that should be enough.

Utah 2016
Rating: Likely Republican hold
Republican: Gary Herbert (incumbent)
Democrat: ?
Overview: I had a dream where a Democrat won a statewide race in Utah. I also had a dream where it rained White Castle cheeseburgers. It's 1,600 miles from my house to the nearest White Castle.

Vermont 2016
Rating: Toss up
Democrat: Former state Transportation Secretary Sue Minter (incumbent Peter Shumlin retiring)
Republican: Lt. Governor Phil Scott
Overview: (5/9/15) Pete Shumlin was elected to a third two-year term in 2014, but only by 1% of the vote. Democrats have the Libertarian party to thank for that one, as they captured 4.4% of the vote that would otherwise have mostly gone to the Republican. Shumlin should have a much easier time of it in 2016 because it's a Presidential election year in deep-blue Vermont. In 2012, Shumlin won by more than 20% as President Obama carried Vermont better than 2 to 1 over Mitt Romney.
(4/9/16) If this were not a Presidential election year, I'd give the edge to Republican Phil Scott. But in 2012, President Obama beat Mitt Romney 66% to 31% in Vermont. With lopsided numbers like those expected again in 2016, it's unlikely any Republican can win a statewide race.
(11/4/16) A close race, and Clinton's coattails might be enough to carry Minter to victory, but Scott leads in all the polls and I'm calling this one for the GOP.

Washington 2016
Rating: Likely Democratic hold
Democrat: Jay Inslee (incumbent)
Republican: Seattle Port Commissioner Bill Bryant
Overview: (5/19/15) I live in Washington state. We've had three gubernatorial elections in a row that have been considered Democratic upsets, at least by some. In 2004, Christine Gregorie was declared the winner only after a recount. In 2008, many expected her to lose before she won comfortably. In early 2012, state Attorney General Rob McKenna was showing a wide lead in the polls over his opponent Democrat Jay Inslee; Inslee went on to win by 3% as President Obama crushed Mitt Romney in Washington by 15%. In 2016, I expect something more mundane. Republicans are talking about either Seattle Port Commissioner Bill Bryant, who doesn't seem to be much of a politician, or frequently-confused Congressman Dave Reichert as their candidate. Neither of those fellows worries me much.
(8/29/16) Bryant has not presented any kind of real challenge to Inslee in this race. Inslee will win.

West Virginia 2016
Rating: Leans Democratic hold
Democrat:  Businessman Jim Justice (incumbent Earl Ray Tomblin term-limited out)
Republican: State Senate President Bill Cole
Overview: (5/9/15) Both parties have several good potential candidates, but Democrats don't win very often in West Virginia any more. The question here is, can any Democrat get enough crossover votes to win this race, given that the Democratic Presidential nominee will probably lose West Virginia by a substantial margin? In the last four elections the answer was yes, but in those years the blue team also fielded must stronger candidates than the GOP.
(4/9/16) Jim Justice is perhaps the biggest name in business in West Virginia, and he's polling well against Republican Bill Cole. And although Romney beat Obama by 27% here in 2012, we may see a somewhat closer race at the top of the ticket this year which could help the Democratic nominee in this race.
(8/29/16) Justice is comfortably ahead in the polls; I expect him to win.

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