It's not just the Senate that is in danger for the GOP, but several governor's mansions are up for grabs this year and the Republican brand is suffering across the board, so much so that Democrats now have a serious shot of picking up several governor's mansions.
Democrats were initially uncertain about their chances to make strides at the gubernatorial level, given the number of conservative states — Missouri, West Virginia and Montana among them — the party had to defend. But the recent polls have given them a reason to be more optimistic.
“We’re in a map right now where we’re pleased, on a race-by-race basis, at how this looks,” said Jared Leopold, a spokesman for the Democratic Governors Association. “Everyone expected that 2016 would be a difficult cycle for Democrats because we were defending more.”
A Ball State University poll released Wednesday, conducted for WISH-TV in Indianapolis, shows former Indiana House Speaker John Gregg (D) leading Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) by a 48 percent to 43 percent margin in the race to replace Republican Gov. Mike Pence, Donald Trump’s running mate.In North Carolina, another Republican-led state, three surveys released this week show Attorney General Roy Cooper (D) locked in a tight race with Gov. Pat McCrory (R), who has faced nationwide backlash over the state’s law on public bathroom use for transgender people. Polls conducted by CNN and Survey USA showed Cooper with a narrow lead, while a survey conducted by the conservative Civitas Institute showed McCrory slightly ahead.
Surveys in two states led by Democrats, Oregon and New Hampshire, show Democrats up by significant margins in gubernatorial races.
A University of New Hampshire poll conducted for WMUR showed Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern (D) leading fellow Executive Councilor Chris Sununu (R) 44 percent to 38 percent. A MassInc poll conducted for WBUR released last week showed Van Ostern up 47 percent to 44 percent. Current Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) is running for Senate, hoping to boot the vulnerable GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte.
In Oregon, polls conducted for The Oregonian and Oregon Public Broadcasting show Gov. Kate Brown (D) leading her opponent, little-known physician Bud Pierce (R), by double digits. Republicans had hoped Oregon voters might punish Brown for supporting a ballot measure that would raise corporate tax rates, though the opportunity never materialized.
The one pickup Republicans are looking for? Vermont. Go figure.
With two weeks remaining before November’s elections, Republicans’ best opportunity to pick off a Democratic-held seat appears to be in Vermont, where unpopular Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) decided not to seek a fourth two-year term. A Castleton Institute poll conducted for Vermont Public Radio this week, the first poll of the race, showed Lt. Gov. Phil Scott (R) and former state Transportation chief Sue Minter (D) in a statistical tie, with Scott up 39 to 38 percent.
Minter will campaign this weekend with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I), who is wildly popular in his home state. Democrats believe Minter can ride a favorable wave to the governor’s mansion, while Democrats have sought to portray Scott as a New England Republican divorced from the national party’s conservative reputation.
Sure hope Bernie has enough juice left to save his own state from the GOP.