A Silver Lining for the GOP in Governors’ Races

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Sure, they failed to take the White House or the Senate. And, yes, they lost seats in the House. But Republicans weren’t total losers on Nov. 6. They maintained their majority control over the nation’s governorships. There will soon be 30 GOP state executives, which the Republican Governors Association touted as a “major accomplishment” given how evenly divided the country is right now.

The party of Lincoln can boast that no GOP governor has lost a general election since 2007. Despite millions spent by Democrats and Democratic-leaning groups in various gubernatorial races around the country, the GOP actually picked up a state, in North Carolina, with one race still to be decided. If you count the June recall victory for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, you can credit the party with an additional save. The GOP held on to three governorships, including Walker’s and the safe-GOP-state victories in Utah and North Dakota.

There are lessons the GOP can learn from these victories. First, court the women’s vote, a problem for Mitt Romney on Nov. 6. New Hampshire elected all female candidates statewide, including governor-elect Maggie Hassan. “We have a long tradition in New Hampshire of electing women,”  she told MSNBC during her morning-TV victory lap.

Second, as with President Obama’s campaign, grassroots organizing is key. High turnout in St. Louis and Kansas City helped propel Democrat Jay Nixon to hold on to the governorship in Missouri, says Beth Miller, political scientist at the University of Missouri–Kansas City. Nixon also outraised and outcampaigned his Republican challenger, making a far greater number of campaign appearances all around the state.

And third, stay out of the mud. Patrick McCrory, governor-elect of North Carolina, attributed his victory to a positive campaign. “Even in my own city, Romney lost by 100,000 votes, but we won,” he told MSNBC. “If you communicate your values and your philosophy and your vision … in the right tone, I think that appeals to people across the board.”

Democrats, meanwhile, retained six governorships, in Delaware, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, Vermont and West Virginia. And while only New Hampshire and Montana were considered toss-ups, it’s not clear the GOP’s hold over 60% of governorships marks an upward trend. “It’s not like 2010, when there was a Republican wave nationwide, or 2008, when it was clearly a good year to be a Democrat,” says Steven Greene, a political scientist at North Carolina State University. “The country is just very closely divided this year, and in an election year with not that many governors’ races, idiosyncratic differences in just a few states can make random variation look like a pattern.”

4 comments
ArmandWinter
ArmandWinter

That's good, then they can run their states like Walker runs Wisconsin and Herbert runs Utah.

anon76
anon76

On Tuesday the Republicans lost three Governor races in states that Romney won by near double digit margins (Montana, Missouri, and West Virginia). The nation might be evenly divided, but the 11 governor races occurred in 7 states that Romney won (out of 24) and 4 states that Obama won (out of 26). The fact that the Dems won 7 of those races should be cause for sober reflection on the part of the Republicans, not consolation.

Between now and Nov 8 2014 there will be 38 state Governor elections, featuring 16 in states that Romney won and 22 in states that Obama won. If the Democrats win the same relative proportion of these groups of states as they did on Tuesday, they'll have 36 Governorships after the mid-term. Hardly a silver lining.

kbanginmotown
kbanginmotown

@anon76 You're upsetting the narrative, anon. After suffering a crushing defeat, the GOP is entitled to a week's worth of obligatory "There, there, it's not so bad." posts... ::rolls eyes:: 

anon76
anon76

@kbanginmotown

Hmm.  Then I'll refrain from posting what happened to the GOP in the State Houses and State Senates across the country, as well as what happened to their ballot initiatives nationwide.