There isn’t much to analyze of our six safe Democratic seats; those states are Hawaii, California, New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts. Massachusetts is a flip for Democrats among our ratings, and its clear why it’s already rated Safe for them. With incumbent Governor Charlie Baker and LG Karyn Polito passing on a run, the state’s GOP has nothing to go for. The chosen nominee of extremely Trump Massachusetts GOP Chair Jim Lyons is Geoff Deihl. Deihl is deciding to run on the Trump wing in a state that bluntly, hates Donald Trump. Without Baker, Massachusetts is a Safe Dem flip in 2022.
Of the other states, the only thing to watch is primaries. Hawaii will be open with incumbent governor David Ige term-limited, and New York and Rhode Island have promoted LG’s fighting to keep the role. In New York, Kathy Hochul so far seems set to keep her job. Her most dangerous competition, Attorney General Letitia James, dropped out last month. In Rhode Island, Dan McKee is facing a tougher challenge, with both Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea and Treasurer Seth Magaziner running.
Connecticut, surprisingly, has finally decided to like its Governor. Ned Lamont is currently popular and Republicans have struggled to find a good candidate – although 2018 nominee Bob Stefanowski is expected to jump in. That’s not enough for us to move Connecticut to the Likely category yet.
For California… see the 2021 recall results for your answers.
Maryland is another state held by Republicans that seems set to flip to Democrats. However, it is much less certain than Massachusetts. While Larry Hogan is retiring, recent polling has shown that he is still popular and that most Marylanders like the direction of the state. That same polling has also seen Joe Biden at around mid-50s approval in Maryland. Still fine, but a decrease from his 60%+ win in 2020. Maryland Republicans also have a good, Hogan connected candidate running in Kelly Schultz. Schultz running is key to the Likely ratings, and if Republicans end up nominating say, Trump-loving, conspiracy-spreading Delegate Dan Cox, this race becomes much more like Massachusetts.
Of the other three states, they are among varying degrees of Likely. Colorado is closer to being in the Safe category next, Illinois is squarely stuck in Likely, and Oregon is closer to the Leans category if it moves. Colorado sees incumbent Jared Polis incredibly popular and Republicans struggling to find a good candidate.
Illinois has always been a weird state in midterms, and we don’t expect 2022 to be any different. Even with trends in the Chicagoland suburbs going strongly away from Republicans, in 2018 many of them stuck with incumbent Republican Governor Bruce Rauner. Ccandidate quality is again key here, and if Illinois Republicans nominate a further right candidate, they won’t have a shot.
Oregon is similar in that their governor elections always seem competitive. 2022 seems no different. Retiring incumbent Kate Brown continues to have middling approval ratings, and Oregon Republicans have decent candidates lined up. How each primary goes will determine this race, and it’s interesting enough to me that you’ll end up seeing a more focused piece on the matter from me soon.
A key factor in all these races is that they all have Democratic incumbents. If they didn’t, states like Nevada and Maine would probably be in our Tossup category already. But with incumbents in each state, it will come down to who Republicans nominate.
Minnesota is where they are most struggling. Strong candidates like MN-08 representative Pete Stauber have passed on a run. The current favorite is state senator Paul Gazelka, who does not have a good reputation in some key areas of the state. Tim Walz has also had slightly above-average approvals as well, making him the strongest incumbent among these four states. The environment is what makes Minnesota a Leans state at the moment.
New Mexico and Maine are similar in that their races are basically already set. In New Mexico it will be Michelle Lujan Grisham against 2020 GOP senate nominee Mark Ronchetti, and in Maine former Governor Paul LePage will seek a third term against incumbent Janet Mills. Ronchetti has become hot commodity ever since he massively over performed expectations against Ben Ray Lujan in 2020. That combined with some of Lujan Grisham’s scandals make this a Leans race.
Do not underestimate Paul LePage either. He’s overperformed in the past, especially among northern Mainers. He will likely make this a race.
There isn’t much to talk about here with the Safe Republican states. Bar three primaries, one to replace term limited Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts and two against incumbents in Alabama and Idaho, not much is happening.
The main ones to watch are Vermont and Idaho. Vermont could change ratings rapidly if Phil Scott retires, although the tea leaves are pointing to him running for a fourth two-year term. Idaho sees incumbent Brad Little facing off against his Lieutenant Governor Janice McGeachin. McGeachin and Little have had a contentious relationship, and McGeachin believes Little has not been right wing enough as Governor.
However, that anger has not yet shown up in polling. The most recent GOP polling shows Little with a strong lead and with a majority of the vote. Even with former President Donald Trump endorsing McGeachin, it hasn’t registered yet. It’s still a race to watch, but so far nothing has come of it yet.
Most of these are pretty self-explanatory. These are either strong GOP incumbents in states that Donald Trump won, or incredibly strong incumbents in a Democratic-leaning state.
Alaska is the only one that doesn’t fit either category, it just fits as being a weird state at state level politics. With its new system of voting and former Governor Bill Walker running, there is room for Alaska to get interesting.
Ohio, Florida and Texas are all states where the current incumbent is strong and taking the race seriously. Ohio and Texas will likely see incumbents Mike DeWine and Greg Abbott shrug off primary challengers and start heading to re-election. In Florida, Ron DeSantis does not have a truly strong opponent and is severely outrasing those who are involved. It’s hard to see a path for any of their opponents, but it’s not outside of the range of possibility there could be.
In New Hampshire, this rating is because of the return of Chris Sununu. Passing on a Senate run, Sununu running for a fourth term puts this seat squarely in the Likely category, and probably closer to the Safe category if Democrats don’t find a strong candidate to run against him.
There is only one Leans Republican state: Kansas. This would be a flip under our ratings, as we see Republicans currently defeating incumbent Democrat Laura Kelly.
Republicans have coalesced around Attorney General Derek Schmidt, especially after former Lieutenant Governor Jeff Coyle dropped out due to health concerns. This has all but set in stone a Kelly v Schmidt matchup, and it will be one significantly harder for Kelly than her 2018 matchup against Kris Kobach. Kelly’s approvals have been okay though, and she, for now, is still in the race, even with the current environment.
This will be a crucial race, and is one that could get away quickly from Democrats if the environment starts to effect Kelly’s approval or gets worse.
Of our six tossup states for Governor races, two are currently held by Republicans in Arizona and Georgia.
Arizona is a slightly simpler task. Incumbent Doug Ducey is term limited, leading to a large GOP primary. The frontrunner right now is Kari Lake, a former news anchor from the Phoenix area. She has based her campaign strongly around the false claim Arizona’s 2020 elections were rigged. That will not win the state in its current form. However, there are other challengers to Lake who can make an impact. Former Congressman Matt Salmon and Treasurer Kimberly Yee are both in, and businesswoman Karrin Taylor Robson made a surprise impact in fundraising, with some arguing it has vaulted her into the conversation for the nomination.
Katie Hobbs is the strong favorite for Democrats, but there have been some recent scandals regarding her office hiring and firing procedures. That has caused some Arizona Democrats to encourage AZ-09 Representative and former Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton to jump in. However, the Democratic field is currently more stable and along with Arizona’s recent trends have it squarely in the tossup category.
With Georgia it is both less and more messy. Georgia Democrats already have their nominee in Stacy Abrams, who is back for another go. For Georgia Republicans, it’s a big mess, as it has been since 2020. Former Senator David Perdue is back, trying to knock off incumbent Brian Kemp for the horrible thing of not overturning a free and fair election. This has led to a good amount of chaos, and if Perdue knocks off Kemp, it may end up making things harder for Republicans in a state rapidly trending away from them. This is the tossup of the tossups, and it will be fascinating to see where the state goes.
Our final four states are Nevada, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Three of these states have incumbents and Pennsylvania sees incumbent Governor Tom Wolf term-limited.
Of the four states, Michigan feels like the state as of now that’s most likely to stay in Democratic hands. Incumbent Governor Gretchen Whitmer has had up and down approvals, especially since Joe Biden was sworn in to office. However, Whitmer feels like the strongest incumbent of the bunch, and we don’t know how the Michigan GOP will act this cycle. This is still a Tossup state though, and the environment could very easily end up overpowering Whitmer’s strengths.
Nevada sees Steve Sisolak gunning for his second term. His approvals have been dropping though, and Nevada Republicans are starting to coalesce around Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo as their nominee instead of Dean Heller. Lombardo has strength in the all-important county and had a very good first fundraising haul. If it ends up being Sisolak vs Lombardo, which it seems set up to be, this is a race where Republicans could end up being favored in a state that likes to elect Republican governors.
Pennsylvania has a lot to be said about its race. Attorney General Josh Shapiro has cleared the Democratic field for himself, while the GOP side is much more messy. I’ll be providing a much more detailed analysis soon. But as Pennsylvania generally is with open seats, this election starts as a Tossup.
Finally Wisconsin’s matchup appears set to be between Democrat Tony Evers and Rebecca Kleefisch, Scott Walker’s Lieutenant Governor. The GOP field has seemingly been cleared for Kleefisch after former Congressman Shane Duffy passed on a run. 2018 GOP Senate candidate Kevin Nicholson is pondering a run, but it’s doubtful he could beat Kleefisch in a primary. Evers is an unexciting incumbent with middling approvals who was dragged over by the 2018 environment. This seat starts as a Tossup, but arguably 2022s environment could easily be what send Evers packing.
Yee dropped out of the AZ Governor’s race on January 15.