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Alaska (Open Seat)

Outlook: Leans Republican


November 8, 2006 Update:

As the Crystal Ball predicted, Sarah Palin (R) defeated Tony Knowles(D) with 49% of the vote.

August 10, 2006 Update:

On Tuesday, August 8, incumbent Gov. Frank Murkowski publicly apologized for calling into question the accuracy of primary opponent John Binkley‘s resume during a televised debate featureing Murkoqski, Binkley and Sarah Palin. During the debate Binkley questioned the incumbent governor’s state jet use, and Murkowski responded by accusing him of misrepresenting his college transcript and high school graduation date.

August 2, 2006 Update:

One thing appears highly probable: Frank Murkowski is going to be a one-term governor. Currently he is running third in the GOP primary, trailing Sarah Palin and John Binkley. Palin is leading but Binkley is still in the race. Murkowski is having problems even raising money, which is a remarkable commentary on any incumbent governor. The Crystal Ball cannot remember when another incumbent governor, who was not under indictment, was running third in his own party’s primary for re-nomination to a second term.

The ultimate Democratic nominee, former governor Tony Knowles, would be in a superb position if he were to face Murkowski. Given that Murkowski will almost certainly not be the nominee, Knowles faces a real race with the eventual GOP standard bearer. But unlike almost any other Democrat in Alaska, Knowles will be an even-money bet to secure a third term.

June 1, 2006 Update:

In late May Frank Murkowski finally decided to run for a second term as governor. This came as a considerable surprise to many observers in Alaska who had assumed that the unpopular Murkowski would step down, especially since he is 73 years old. But old politicians die hard, and they rarely fade away–unless sent into oblivion by the voters. Murkowski has a potentially tough primary with John Binkley and Sarah Palin. In addition, if he survives the primary, he will undoubtedly face former governor Tony Knowles (D), who served from 1994-2002.

It is too soon to say whether Murkowski, currently one of the most unpopular governors in the country, can recover in time to win his primary and the general election. For now, until the dust settles, we will simply call it a toss-up.

March 27, 2006 Update:

This race is still frozen, and it will be for quite a while–not because of Alaska’s frigid temperatures, but because Governor Frank Murkowski has still not announced whether he will seek a second term.

Update:

It actually happened as forecast: Gov. Frank Murkowski was overwhelmingly defeated in the GOP primary, garnering just 19 percent of the vote. Denying him a second term was former Wasilla Mayor Sarah Palin, whose 51 percent may well entitle her to frontrunner status in the general election against former Gov. Tony Knowles (D). Knowles won his primary, but his 74 percent as a former two-term Governor was somewhat underwhelming. A little known state legislator, Eric Croft, received 25 percent in the Democratic primary.

Murkowski thus becomes only the second Governor in twelve years to lose re-nomination. (The other was Gov. Bob Holden, D-MO, in 2004.) And it is difficult to find a modern precedent for a non-indicted incumbent governor faring this poorly among his own party’s voters. But then no other Governor appointed his daughter to his seat in the U.S. Senate as did “Murky” in 2002, after his election as Governor; Lisa Murkowski overcame the taint to win a full term narrowly (over Knowles) in 2004 during the Bush landslide in Alaska. Murkowski was also involved in controversy after controversy as Governor, from buying an expensive taxpayer-funded jet plane to cutting senior citizens’ prized benefits in this oil-rich state to unsuccessfully trying to arrange for a controversial gas pipeline.

At age 73, Frank Murkowski’s career is over, after 22 years as junior U.S. senator and four years as Governor. While the general election will be close, the Crystal Ball currently leans the race to Palin, who is a very conservative Republican and who could become Alaska’s first female Governor. If Knowles is to win, he will have to paint Palin as “extreme” and ride a national Democratic tide–if it ever reaches as far north as Alaska.


Background

Every poll and sounding shows it. One-term Republican Governor Frank Murkowski is very unpopular, despite his nearly twenty-two years in the U.S. Senate (1981-2002) and easy victory for Governor in 2002. So what’s the problem? It’s partly personality, partly a rocky economy and partly his audacious appointment of his lightly-qualified daughter Lisa Murkowski to succeed him in the Senate. It’s possible Gov. Murkowski may not even run for a second term.

If he does seek a second term, you can expect a GOP primary and then a free-for-all in November 2006. The Republican nature of Alaska may save him, but Alaskans have proven perfectly willing to have Democratic state chief executives in recent times. The Governorship is less ideological than the U.S. Senate or House, and people everywhere realize that.

A common rumor in Alaska is that former two-term Democratic Governor Tony Knowles, fresh from his defeat for the U.S. Senate in 2004, may try to recapture his previous office. Knowles lost the Senate seat by a narrow margin, and he would be the strongest possible candidate for the Democrats, should he decide to make this rumor a reality.

Candidates

Tony Knowles – Democrat – former two-term governor and 2004 Dem. nominee for U.S. Senate
Website

Sarah Palin – Republican – current Alaska oil and gas commission chair and former lt. gov. candidate
Website

Andrew Halcro – Independent – businessman and former Republican state representative
Website

Alabama

Outlook: Likely Republican


November 8, 2006 Update:

As the Crystal Ball predicted, Republican Bob Riley won re-election over Democrat Pat Hubbert with 58% of the vote.

August 2, 2006 Update:

Republican Governor Bob Riley continues to dominate Democratic Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley and is now widely expected to secure a second term. Let’s remember that after his failed tax referendum at the end of his first year in office, he was almost unanimously written off for this second term. So the days must be sweet indeed for Riley.

June 7, 2006 Update:

These were the contests that weren’t. Governor Bob Riley won the Republican primary in a landslide over former Chief Justice Roy Moore, and this sets Riley up nicely for reelection. Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley also won a landslide over indicted former governor Don Siegelman; Democrats recognized the obvious–that an indicted former governor does not make the best gubernatorial nominee. Given Alabama’s GOP leanings, we believe that Riley is very likely to win in November.

June 1, 2006 Update:

Governor Bob Riley is doing very well against Roy Moore in the GOP primary, and he is now a favorite to win that primary and the general election.

March 27, 2006 Update:

GOP Governor Bob Riley has solidified his position, and while we would still not put this solidly in his column, it appears that he is doing well against Roy Moore in the Republican primary, and he has a solid edge in public and private polls against both of the possible Democrats, former governor Don Siegelman and Lieutenant Governor Lucy Baxley. We continue to believe Lieutenant Governor Baxley will be the Democratic nominee. It is simply impossible to run for a non-consecutive term for governor while one is under indictment and is attending trial daily, as Siegelman is.

September 27, 2005 Update:

Alabama is certainly a Republican bastion, but recently, Governor Bob Riley has been facing a lot of opposition in his race for reelection. Leading lobbyist Paul Hubbert is strongly advocating against Riley’s tax-cut reforms. Hubbert says that the tax-cut with inevitably cost $350 million in annual revenue if implemented the way Riley wants it. This is a direct split between Democratic and Republican ideals…and the result on November 7th will show how most Alabamans truly feel.

Erin Levin, Crystal Ball Southern Regional Correspondent


Background

This ought to be a sure thing for the Republicans, but it isn’t. Alabama is massively conservative, and therefore GOP-listing. Republican Governor Bob Riley, a former U.S. House member, ousted one-term Democrat Don Siegelman in an extremely close election in 2002. Then Riley did something few Reagan Republicans attempt: he sought a statewide referendum to raise taxes. Predictably, it failed overwhelmingly. In the two years since, Riley has recovered somewhat. Nevertheless, even though he may have been a narrow favorite for reelection in the past, he barely maintains that status.

Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, tossed from his judicial office for insisting on the public display of the Ten Commandments, is mounting a GOP primary challenge to Riley. In Alabama, God is exceptionally popular, and many Christian conservatives will flock to Moore. State Senator Harri Anne Smith, the most conservative member of the state senate, is considering entering the GOP nomination race, and if she does, it could further split the Republican Party.

Due to this Republican division, the Democrats have a chance to take back the statehouse, but only with Lieutenant Governor Lucy Baxley. Why not former Governor Siegelman? Because he has been indicted on multiple charges and is facing trial in mid-2006. Even were he to be found not guilty in court, a serious indictment concerning cash-for-appointment in Siegelman’s prior gubernatorial administration does not recommend him to voters for reelection.

Candidates

Bob Riley (I) – Republican – current Governor and former U.S. Congressman
Website

Lucy Baxley – Democrat – current Lt. Governor and former State Treasurer
Website

Arkansas (Open Seat)

Outlook: Likely Democratic


November 8, 2006 Update:

Election Results

As the Crystal Ball predicted, Democrat Mike Beebe defeated Republican Asa Hutchinson with 55% of the vote.

August 27, 2006 Update:

Our Arkansas contacts report that Democrat Mike Beebe is gaining steam and Republican Asa Hutchinson is having difficulty with this campaign. After ten years with a Republican governor, Arkansas appears increasingly likely to return to the Democrats, thus solidifying Democratic control of the Razorback State. Should Beebe win, Arkansas will have two Democratic Senators, a Democratic governor and a heavily-democratic legislature–as well as a U.S. House delegation with three Democrats to just one Republican. Except at the presidential level, Arkansas may well be the most Democratic Southern state.

August 2, 2006 Update:

With the tragic death of Lt. Gov. Win Rockefeller (R), who might well have been the GOP nominee for governor, Republicans in the state are reminded of what might have been. Instead, Democrat Mike Beebe has opened up a steady lead over Republican Asa Hutchinson, and while it is close and the lead could switch, Beebe is seen as the frontrunner and at least for now the likely winner.

Governor Mike Huckabee may have a hard time explaining on the presidential campaign trail why the GOP has not done better during his tenure as chief executive; Democrats control both U.S. Senate seats, a large majority of the House delegation, the state legislature, and may not get the governorship back, too.

March 27, 2006 Update:

We have talked with quite a number of Arkansas sources over the last month and, in both parties, the belief is that Democrat Mike Beebe has at least a narrow lead over former Congressman Asa Hutchinson. Perhaps it is simply the Democratic drift in 2006, or perhaps it is the fact that Arkansas remains one of the more Democratic Southern states, despite having voted for George W. Bush in both 2000 and 2004.


Background

Republican Governor Mike Huckabee is term-limited–and 110 pounds slimmer–after serving since July 1996, when he succeeded resigning, disgraced Governor Jim Guy Tucker (D). The born-again fitness guru-governor was, like Bill Clinton, a native of Hope, Arkansas, and may run for President in 2008 or eventually for one of the two Democrat-held Senate seats.

For 2006, though, he is out of the picture. Huckabee’s party was headed for a tough primary between Lt. Gov. Win Rockefeller, son of the late Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller (1967-1971), and former Congressman Asa Hutchinson, an ex-Bush undersecretary of Homeland Security and brother of one-term U.S. Senator Tim Hutchinson (1997-2003). Rockefeller, sadly, has had to withdraw from the race because of a battle with cancer, and as a result, Hutchinson is now effectively the GOP nominee. The Rockefeller tragedy has saved the Republicans a potentially divisive battle.

The Democrats seem to have settled on a nominee: state Attorney General Mike Beebe. Of all the Southern states, Arkansas is arguably the most competitive between the parties, and there is no favorite in November at present. However, the Arkansas political specialists with whom we have spoken seem to believe that Beebe has a small edge over Hutchinson, at least at this early stage.

Candidates

Mike Beebe – Democrat – current Arkansas Attorney General and former state senator
Website

Asa Hutchinson – Republican – former Undersecretary of Homeland Security and ex-U.S. Congressman
Website

Jim Lendall – Independent – Green Party nominee, former Arkansas house member
Website

Rod Bryan – Independent – business owner from Little Rock
Website

Arizona

Outlook: Solid Democratic


November 8, 2006 Update:

As the Crystal Ball predicted, Gov. Janet Napolitano (D) won reelection over Len Munsil (R) with 63% of the vote.

Update:

Governor Janet Napolitano continues to breeze toward a second term.


Background

First-term Governor Janet Napolitano is the rare Democrat who succeeds in statewide Arizona politics. She narrowly won the governorship in 2002, but appears to be in relatively good shape for her 2006 reelection.

No Democrat can take anything for granted here, but since GOP Congressman J.D. Hayworth, Napolitano’s toughest potential foe, has opted out, the Republicans will have to scramble to find an opponent of real stature. There are a couple of Republicans interested in the race, but whoever the nominee turns out to be, he will have a decidedly uphill battle.

Candidates

Janet Napolitano (I) – Democrat – current Governor and former Arizona Attorney General
Website

Len Munsil – Republican – attorney, conservative activist
Website

Barry Hess – Independent – businessman, state Libertarian party vice chair
Website

California

Outlook: Likely Republican


November 8, 2006 Update:

As the Crystal Ball predicted, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) won reelection over Phil Angelides (D) with 56% of the vote.

August 2, 2006 Update:

Democrat Phil Angelides is simply not catching on. His sole chance of victory is a massive Democratic wave in November that sweeps one of the most heavily-Democratic states. This eventuality cannot be ruled out, given the way election year 2006 is going, but Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appears to have come back from if not the dead, then at least the comatose.

June 7, 2006 Update:

Phil Angelides narrowly defeated Steve Westly for the Democratic nomination, 48 percent to 46 percent. The campaign turned nasty, and in the end the division was close, so this is all good news for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Crystal Ball also believes that Westly, as the more moderate candidate, would have been the stronger Democratic nominee. Score another one for Schwarzenegger. By no means will Arnold’s reelection be a given; California is so heavily Democratic that–in a Democratic year–he will have to scrape for every vote above 45 percent. Nonetheless, what could have been a Democratic rout may now be considered a race that favors him slightly.

June 1, 2006 Update:

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has recovered a bit, and his popularity ratings are now in the mid-40s. However, he is still statistically tied with either of the potential Democratic nominees, Angelides and Westly. The polls have fluctuated about which Democrat will get the party nod, and in this very difficult year for Republicans, Schwarzenegger is certainly not out of the woods.

March 27, 2006 Update:

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger still has a Matterhorn to climb and a ton to bench press before he can secure his second term, and we still wouldn’t be surprised at all if the Democratic nominee upsets him. So far neither possible Democratic candidate, Phil Angelides or Steve Westly, has had a thing to do with setting California afire. That’s Mother Nature. We remain to be convinced that either Democrat is going to run the kind of race needed to upset Schwarzenegger.

Update:

“Having a lot of money never hurts a candidate. In this case, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s campaign funds of $28.6 million to Phil Angelides‘ $14.6 million have prevented the challenger from, ironically, posing any real challenge. A mid-September poll has Schwarzenegger leading Angelides 54 percent to 31 percent, and without any drastic mishap on the part of the governor, it does not appear that those numbers will change dramatically between now and November. That is not stopping public employee unions from commencing statewide television ads portraying the governor as untrustworthy and dependent upon special interests, however. Similar ads succeeded in helping prevent Schwarzenegger’s initiatives in the special election last year, but the prospects for the current attempts remain questionable.”

Brenan Richards, Crystal Ball Pacific Regional Correspondent


Background

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has now formally declared his reelection intentions, used to be the GOP savior in the Golden State, but he has had a Gray Davis-like decline among Democrats and Independents. Schwarzenegger has simply not worn well with Californians, and he is increasingly viewed as celebrity-lite and inadequate to the task at hand. This may be unfair and a product of the fickleness of Golden State voters. Nonetheless, he is no better than a slight favorite for reelection in 2006 as he seeks a full four-year term after his abbreviated, recall-generated three-year term. Surprisingly, Schwarzenegger’s poll ratings are now almost as bad as ousted Governor Davis’ were before disgruntled Californians sent him packing from Sacramento.

But what really has Democrats licking their chops is the fact that California voters just said no to nearly all of Schwarzenegger’s ballot initiatives in 2005. Many experts contend this could spell termination for his tenure in Sacramento, though The Governator hopes that this analysis is just a “True Lie.”

Right now, it looks like Democratic state treasurer Phil Angelides or State Controller Steve Westly will be Schwarzenegger’s Democratic opponent. In spite of his frontrunner status, the charisma-free Angelides has a real chance to polarize the California electorate along party lines. Though he is the underdog, it is possible that Westly, who is more charismatic than Angelides, might be chosen by Democratic voters to face Schwarzenegger.

Candidates

Arnold Schwarzenegger (I) – Republican – current Governor and former Mr. Universe
Website

Phil Angelides – Democrat – current state treasurer and former California Democratic Party chair
Website

Peter Camejo – Independent – Green Party nominee and candidate during Gray Davis recall
Website

Colorado (Open Seat)

Outlook: Likely Democratic


November 8, 2006 Update:

Bill Ritter (D) defeated Bob Beauprez (R) with 56% of the vote.

August 2, 2006 Update:

For the first time, the Crystal Ball has decided to lean this race toward Democrat Bill Ritter; it is not that Congressman Bob Beauprez is a bad candidate or has done anything particularly wrong in his campaign. Rather, this state appears to us to be in the mood for change in the executive office, and that change means the moderate Ritter has a good chance to become governor. At the same time, this race without an incumbent is still competitive and is close enough that the lead could change hands.

June 29, 2006 Update:

Finally, Marc Holtzman has given up the ghost, admitting that his campaign did not collect enough signatures to pursue his GOP primary challenge to Congressman Bob Beauprez. But Holtzman has hurt Beauprez, and some of his charges may weaken the Republican in November, when he faces Democrat Bill Ritter. We’re not ready to move this out of toss-up status, but Colorado has been moving Democratic, so if 2006 is even a mildly Democratic year, then…

March 27, 2006 Update:

There really is no doubt that Colorado is drifting to the Democrats, and this was demonstrated in 2004. The surprise is that the nearly certain Democratic nominee Bill Ritter is even in some cases leading Republican Congressman Bob Beauprez in the polls. We are not at all certain that Ritter can maintain this momentum. Beauprez is a solid candidate, while Ritter has a somewhat divided party since he is partially pro-life on abortion. But it may simply be that Colorado is ready for a change after eight years of Republican rule. We’re not ready to say that, though.

Update:

Our previous update is still valid, and contacts from Colorado tell us that Republicans are fully aware that Bob Beauprez is in trouble. Again, it seems to be simply a “time for a change” mentality after two terms of a Republican governor in a state that has been tilting more Democratic of late.


Background

There’s a wide-open race to succeed term-limited Republican Governor Bill Owens as he finishes his second term. Nonetheless, the Republicans have gotten off to a strong start, with second-term Congressman Bob Beauprez as the near-certain GOP standard-bearer. However, the candidacy of former University of Denver president Marc Holtzman and an effort to draft former Congressman Scott McInnis may disrupt an otherwise smooth ride to the nomination. Democrats have no clear frontrunner and this gives Beauprez–who represents a competitive district that Democrats would probably have to win statewide in order to capture the governorship–a definite advantage.

However, the Democrats are on the upswing in this state, having captured a U.S. Senate seat, a U.S. House seat, and the state legislature in 2004. So we should not write off the Democrats’ chances this soon.

Candidates

Bill Ritter – Democrat – three-time Denver district attorney
Website

Bob Beauprez – Republican – current U.S. Congressman and businessman
Website

Paul Fiorino – Independent – businessman and educator
Website

Connecticut

Outlook: Solid Republican


August 10, 2006 Update:

In a primary race largely overshadowed by the state’s Senate primary, New Haven Mayor John DeStefano topped Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy in an all-mayor battle for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. The race was decided by less than 2 percentage points, and DeStefano likely benefited by the strong turnout of primary voters supporting Ned Lamont for the Senate nomination. Like Senator Joe Lieberman, Malloy had won the party’s convention in May but failed to garner enough delegates to avoid an August primary. Having said all that, this could be the most inconsequential gubernatorial primary contest in 2006, as Rell remains the heavy favorite for the general election in November.

August 2, 2006 Update:

All of the focus in Connecticut is on Senator Joe Lieberman and Ned Lamont; Governor Jodi Rell has nothing to worry about as she seeks her first elected term.

Update:

Democrat John DeStefano‘s tiny primary victory has done nothing to generate momentum for him, and Gov. Jodi Rell seems even more secure than before.


Background

The GOP is just plain lucky. In 2004, three-term Republican Governor John Rowland was found to be corrupt and forced to resign. Normally, such an event would lead to a party change in the statehouse at the next election, especially in a liberal Democratic state such as Connecticut. But, waiting in the wings was Lt. Gov. Jodi Rell.

As Governor, Rell has proved to be enormously popular, sweeping out many remaining Rowland cronies and winning hearts with her gritty survival of breast cancer. She should be the clear favorite.

Candidates

Jodi Rell (I) – Republican – current Governor, former Lt. Governor and state house member
Website

Dannel P. Malloy – Democrat – current mayor of Stamford
Website

John DeStefano – Democrat – current mayor of New Haven
Website

Florida (Open Seat)

Outlook: Leans Republican


August 2, 2006 Update:

A lot has changed and nothing has changed. As we have said all along, Charlie Crist is likely to defeat Tom Gallagher for the Republican nomination. Given Governor Jeb Bush‘s popularity, Crist is a slight favorite in November, but we stress the word slight. If a Democratic wave develops, then the Democratic nominee will have a realistic chance to win. Who will that nominee be? The polls suggest that Congressman Jim Davis is maintaining his edge over state Senator Rod Smith, but it’s tight and the primary could go either way.

June 29, 2006 Update:

If you hate “the politics of personal destruction” and unpleasant private issues that seep into campaigns, then Florida is one state you do not want to be these days. Three of the four gubernatorial candidates in both parties are spending time talking about their painful marital pasts. Hardest hit has been the GOP’s Tom Gallagher, whose first marriage ended very badly and let to charges of theft, drug use, and, well, let’s just stop there.

His Republican opponent, Charlie Crist, had one brief marriage must earlier in life, and his lack of a family has led to scurrilous rumors about his sexual orientation which have plagued his campaign for months. Add Democrat Rod Smith to the list of messy divorces, and throw in an old accusation of unpaid child support. Smith’s Democratic foe, Congressman Jim Davis, is the only one of the gubernatorial quartet with a happy, enduring first marriage. Will any of this matter come the primaries or the general? If the candidates and the press keep talking about it, probably so.

March 27, 2006 Update:

It still looks like Charlie Crist will be the Republican nominee, and it still appears that Jeb Bush‘s popularity can overcome George W. Bush‘s unpopularity and elect Crist over the eventual Democratic nominee. But we’re watching this one carefully, because if 2006 turns solidly Democratic, the Sunshine State could easily have an upset Democratic winner for governor.

Update:

All in all, the script written months ago was followed. Attorney General Charlie Crist cruised to victory over state CFO Tom Gallagher by nearly a two to one margin (64 to 33 percent). The Democrats were more divided, but the early favorite, Congressman Jim Davis, defeated state Sen. Rod Smith by 47 to 41 percent. These relative proportions suggest the general election odds, at least at the starting gate. Crist has the edge over Davis, though it is not a daunting one. Still-popular Governor Jeb Bush will do his best to help Crist keep the statehouse in Republican hands, while Davis will try to make Crist pay for his ties to another Bush, President George W. Bush, newly unpopular in the Sunshine State.


Background

Jeb Bush will likely finish his two terms as governor of the Sunshine State as popular as he has been throughout his eight years, and that gives hope to Republicans that they can hold on to this key statehouse.

Either of two GOP contenders could end up as the nominee: state Attorney General Charlie Crist or state CFO Tom Gallagher, but Crist is the clear, current frontrunner.

There appears to be only one notable Democratic candidate: Congressman Jim Davis. Better-known candidates such as 2004 U.S. Senate nominee Betty Castor and Lawton “Bud” Chiles III, son of the former Governor, are not running. Davis may now be the Democratic favorite. State Senator Rod Smith (no, not the Denver Broncos’ wide receiver) is also running.

While we are tempted to list this contest as “Leans Republican,” there are still too many unknowns. How divisive will the GOP primary be? Will Davis find a traditional Florida campaign gimmick (such as work-days or walking the state) and catch on with voters? Will anything happen before November 2006 that could put the Jeb Bush administration in a less favorable light? Some early GOP optimism here is justified, but euphoria is not.

Candidates

Jim Davis – Democrat – current U.S. Congressman and former state house majority leader
Website

Charlie Crist – Republican – current Florida Attorney General, former state senator and education commissioner
Website

Georgia

Outlook: Likely Republican


November 8, 2006 Update:

As the Crystal Ball predicted, Republican Sonny Perdue won re-election over Democrat Mark Taylor with 58% of the vote.

September 25, 2006 Update:

A recent poll shows Gov. Sonny Perdue dominating the race for Georgia’s governor. The Republican incumbent, Perdue, leads Democrat Lieutenant Governor Mark Taylor 52 percent to 32 percent. This is an increase in Perdue’s lead from previous polls. With the election just a short six weeks away, Taylor’s got a lot of catching up to do. Perdue is Georgia’s first Republican governor since Reconstruction and today it seems like he will retain his title.

Erin Levin, Crystal Ball Southern Regional Correspondent

July 19, 2006 Update:

Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor‘s campaign surged at just the right time, and the “big guy” came away with a solid victory in the Democratic primary on July 18th, outpacing Secretary of State Cathy Cox 51 percent to 44 percent to conclude of the most bruising intra-party gubernatorial fights of the year. But the biggest winner on Tuesday night was none other than GOP Gov. Sonny Perdue, who has up until this point enjoyed the luxury of sitting on the sidelines while his possible opponents have drained precious campaign funds to beat each other up. The first-term governor dodged a bullet when state Sen. Casey Cagle topped former Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed in the GOP primary for lieutenant governor, 56 percent to 44 percent. Reed, who had recently been implicated in the Abramoff lobbying scandal, would have been a polarizing general election candidate; instead, Perdue will share the ticket with a moderate and becomes an even stronger favorite in November.

June 29, 2006 Update:

Most of our Peach State contacts are truly surprised that Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor has apparently upended Cathy Cox as the Democratic primary favorite for July 18. Primaries have squirrelly turnouts, and are tough to predict, though. Still, Taylor has run an aggressive campaign on TV, and the negative ads are going back and forth between the two fast and furious. All of this is music to the ears of Sonny Perdue, still the favorite for reelection as Governor regardless of the identity of the Democratic nominee. If private polls are accurate, Perdue may not even be stuck with the heavy baggage of Abramoff scandal-connected, ex-Christian Coalition director Ralph Reed. State Senator Casey Cagle may take Reed in the GOP primary–though, again, turnout is the key.

June 15, 2006 Update:

Governor Sonny Perdue has had a good run recently in a wide variety of areas and the Peach State’s electorate seems to be leaning rather strongly to giving him a second term. Neither Democrat is doing especially well in match-ups with Perdue, and it’s still unclear who the party’s nominee might be. Secretary of State Cathy Cox got off to a strong start, but recent polls have shown Lieutenant Governor Mark Taylor with a modest edge as the July primary draws near.


Background

Our early bet is that Governor Sonny Perdue, the Peach State’s first GOP governor since Reconstruction, will be reelected in 2006. His stunning ousting of one-term Democrat Roy Barnes has been followed by the Republican takeover of the state legislature (not to mention both U.S. Senate seats), so it would be foolish to pick the Democrat. Perdue has also recently scored big with his post-Katrina suspension of the state’s gas tax.

Either Secretary of State Cathy Cox or Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor will be the nominee of the once-dominant Democratic Party, and there is still enough residual Democratic support in Jimmy Carter‘s home state to enable either to make a decent showing. At the moment, public polls are indicating that Cox has a much better shot at dethroning Perdue than does Taylor; therefore we expect Cox to be the Democratic nominee.

Candidates

Sonny Perdue (I) – Republican – current Governor and former state senate majority leader
Website

Bill Bolton – Democrat – secretary of state, former state representative
Website

Mark Taylor – Democrat – current Lt. Governor and former state senator
Website

Hawaii

Outlook: Solid Republican


November 8, 2006 Update:

As the Crystal Ball predicted, Gov. Linda Lingle (R) won reelection over Randall Iwase (D) with 62% of the vote.

Update:

It’s Lingle all the way. Governor Linda Lingle is accomplishing the very difficult act of winning a second term as a Republican candidate in this heavily Democratic state. She has dodged all of the bullets, and the remaining potential Democratic candidates are quite weak.


Background

One of the least likely states for a Republican resurgence is Hawaii, so reliably Democratic that all governors since 1962 have had a D next to their name–until 2002. Republican Linda Lingle, who barely failed to oust an incumbent Democrat in 1998, won the open seat contest for the statehouse in 2002, and she has maintained her popularity during her first term.

No prominent Democrat has yet emerged to take her on in 2006. But be careful, dear readers. Hawaii almost reflexively votes Democratic, and no GOP candidate–even a popular incumbent–is ever safe here.

Candidates

Linda Lingle (I) – Republican – current governor and former mayor of Maui County
Website

Randall Iwase – Democrat – former state Senator
Website

William Aila – Democrat – served as Wai’anae’s harbor master for nearly two decades
Website

George L. Berish – Republican – businessman and Vietnam veteran
Website

Iowa (Open Seat)

Outlook: Leans Democratic


November 8, 2006 Update:

Chet Culver (D) defeated Jim Nussle (R) with 54% of the vote.

June 1, 2006 Update:

Secretary of State Chet Culver has become the frontrunner to win the Democratic nomination, and the general election with Congressman Jim Nussle is still considered to be very close.

Update:

There is still no favorite in this exceptionally close race, in a state that has become known for its cliff-hangers


Background

Democratic Governor Tom Vilsack apparently means it when he says he is stopping at two terms, so the 2006 contest in this “Purple” state (a state closely divided between Republican Red and Democratic Blue) will be exceptionally competitive. The Republican nominee will be well-known Congressman Jim Nussle, who faced an early challenge from 2002 GOP gubernatorial primary candidate Bob Vander Plaats, who withdrew from the race and joined Nussle as his running mate in February.

The Democratic nomination will come from a field of candidates that is currently quite crowded, including Iowa Secretary of State Chet Culver–son of a former Iowa U.S. senator, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Patty Judge, Economic Development Dept. Director Mike Blouin and state house member Ed Fallon.

The November match-up will be a barnburner in the cornfields of this highly political state.

Candidates

Chet Culver – Democrat – current Iowa Secretary of State and former high school teacher
Website

Jim Nussle – Republican – current U.S. Congressman and former Deleware County Attorney
Website

Idaho (Open Seat)

Outlook: Leans Republican


November 8, 2006 Update:

Butch Otter (R) defeated Jerry Brady (D) with 52% of the vote.

August 2, 2006 Update:

Every indication is that Congressman Butch Otter is continuing to do very well, and will be the next Republican governor of Idaho, succeeding now-acting Gov. Jim Risch.

March 27, 2006 Update:

With Governor Dirk Kempthorne‘s selection as Secretary of the Interior by President Bush in mid-March, Lieutenant Governor Jim Risch is poised to become governor. Risch has decided to do an unusual thing–to fill out Kempthorne’s term, but not run for a full term as governor; rather, he is seeking another term as lieutenant governor. This is good for GOP unity and it nearly guarantees that Congressman Butch Otter will be Risch’s successor as the state’s chief executive.

Update:

Idaho is proving that it is not immune to the current political landscape. Once considered a shoo-in for Republican Butch Otter, the race may be slightly more competitive than we once thought. A Goodwin Simon Victoria research poll released on September 14 shows Democrat Jerry Brady has succeeded in causing voters to think twice before committing to Otter. While the numbers do not necessarily indicate a huge surge in support for Brady in particular, they do show a sizable portion of voters re-considering their choice of candidate with regards to who they “lean” towards. Brady’s campaign is hoping that two scheduled debates and new television ads will strengthen the trend and sway more voters come November. This race has the potential to get interesting as the election nears.

Brenan Richards, Crystal Ball Pacific Regional Correspondent


Background

Two-term Republican Governor Dirk Kempthorne, a former U.S. senator, is stepping down. GOP Congressman Butch Otter will be the party nominee to succeed him. Former newspaper publisher Jerry Brady looks like the Democratic nominee, although it really doesn’t matter much who the Democrats select in this one-party state.

Candidates

Jerry Brady – Democrat – 2002 gubernatorial nominee and former newspaper publisher
Website

Butch Otter – Republican – current U.S. Congressman and former Idaho Lt. Governor
Website

Illinois

Outlook: Leans Democratic


November 8, 2006 Update:

Rod Blagojevich (D) won reelection over Judy Baar Topinka (R) with 50% of the vote.

March 27, 2006 Update:

Illinois has become very Democratic, and so far Gov. Rod Blagojevich has not stumbled badly enough to put himself in extreme jeopardy of defeat by the Republican nominee, State Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka. This is close, though, and we’re watching it, but Blagojevich has a good year to run for reelection–assuming no major Democratic scandal blossoms between now and November.

Update:

The Crystal Ball has received mixed report from Illinois; it is clear that Governor Rod Blagojevich has not been universally well-received during his first term, and the Republicans have nominated a relative moderate in Judy Baar Topinka. The polls are close, but they show a consistent lead for Blagojevich, by varying margins. Our belief is that in this Democratic year, the now-Democratic state of Illinois will reelect its Democratic governor, barring revelations of massive scandal. The investigations so far of corruption in the Democratic administration do not amount to enough–at least in the state of Illinois–to defeat an incumbent chief executive.


Background

Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich ended a 26 year GOP monopoly on the statehouse with his election in 2002. Considering his one-term GOP predecessor, George Ryan, has since been indicted, and the Land of Lincoln has now become a virtually one-party Democratic state, one would suspect Blagojevich will get a second term in 2006. But Blagojevich has had more than his share of problems, and has been accused of everything from incompetence to corruption, and has been troubled with feuding within the Democratic family, from his own father-in-law, a Chicago alderman, to Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago.

The Republican nominee is State Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka, who defeated leading businessman James Oberweis and several other candidates in a statewide primary. As usual, former Republican Governor Jim Edgar tempted his party with a possible run for months and ended up giving his usual answer: no. Edgar would have defeated Blagojevich, and so Blagojevich must have been happy and relieved with the news.

Still, the governor has not been a roaring success in his first term, and his popularity ratings are not impressive. So a Topinka upset here should not be ruled out, at least at this early juncture. However, Topinka must be seen as mainstream in this moderate-liberal state in order to take advantage of Blagojevich’s difficulties. She may not be able to fulfill that imperative–so we will see.

Candidates

Rod Blagojevich (I) – Democrat – current Governor and former U.S. Congressman
Website

Edwin Eisendrath – Democrat – former Chicago alderman and HUD executive
Website

Judy Baar Topinka – Republican – Current Illinois state treasurer and former state senator
Website

Marvin J. Koch Jr. – Independent – real estate developer, serves in Navy reserves
Website

Randall C. Stufflebeam – Independent – Illinois Constitution Party Chairman, running as a Constitutionalist
Website

Rich Whitney – Independent – attorney, ’02, ’04 state rep. nominee, Note: candidate is the Green Party nominee for Governor
Website

Kansas

Outlook: Likely Democratic


August 2, 2006 Update:

The Republican chose state Senator Jim Barnett in the August 1 primary, from a crowded field, for the dubious honor of opposing Democratic Governor Kathleen Sebelius. Barnett secured about 36 percent of the Republican vote, outdistancing his closest rival by about 9 percentage points. With about two-thirds of GOP primary voters casting ballots for someone else, and Sebelius being very popular, Barnett’s journey to the governorship will be straight uphill–a hill named Mt. Everest. Sebelius is strongly favored.

June 1, 2006 Update:

Governor Kathleen Sebelius is very likely to be reelected governor, and the Republicans have been unable to lineup a strong nominee to oppose her. Incumbents are difficult to defeat, even when the other party has a large lead in partisan identification.

Update:

As the Crystal Ball predicted, Democrat Kathleen Sebelius won re-election over Republican Jim Barnett with 58% of the vote.


Background

Democrat Kathleen Sebelius accomplished the near-impossible in 2002–election as Governor in overwhelmingly Republican Kansas. She has had some modest successes and is reasonably popular, but there is no such thing as a safe election for a statewide Democrat in the home state of Bob Dole and Alf Landon.

The Republicans are a long way from deciding the identity of their nominee, but they have an embarrassment of riches: loads of congressmen, state legislative leaders, and statewide officeholders from which to choose. We’ll just have to see. State House Speaker Doug Mays seems to be in the Republican contest, with former State House Speaker Robin Jennison also leaning toward running.

As always, we give a tiny edge to an incumbent who has not become mired in scandal, but if the GOP chooses wisely–far from a sure thing–this contest could quickly move into the toss-up category.

Candidates

Kathleen Sebelius (I) – Democrat – current Governor, former state insurance commissioner and house member
Website

Jim Barnett – Republican – current state senator and physician
Website

Ken Canfield – Republican – Director of the National Center for Fathering
Website

Massachusetts (Open Seat)

Outlook: Likely Democratic


September 1, 2006 Update:

The polls are all over the lot on the Democratic primary. While the front-runners continue to be Deval Patrick and Chris Gabrieli, the one with momentum appears to be Gabrieli. If he emerges as the nominee, the Crystal Ball will be inclined to install him as the favorite over GOP Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey. This is a Democratic year in a substantially Democratic state, and after 16 years of Republican governors, it appears that the inevitable is likely to happen–should Gabrieli be the nominee, and possibly even if Patrick is selected.

June 29, 2006 Update:

Readers keep asking us when we are going to clear up the confusion in this Bay State free-for-all. Hey, we’re talking about a state where politics is taken seriously by the voters, not just the politicians. So what is true today may not be true next week. For now, it looks to us as though the 2002 Lt. Gov. nominee Chris Gabrieli is leading the Democratic pack, with AG Tom Reilly (the old frontrunner) and party convention-endorsed Deval Patrick closely bunched for the second pole position. Gabrieli could be tough for GOP Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey to defeat in the fall, especially with independent Christy Mihos taking some of her votes.

June 1, 2006 Update:

This race is still wild and wooly on both sides, and while an observer is tempted to lean it to the Democrats, it is too soon to do that–especially after Republicans have held the governorship consistently since the 1990 election.

March 27, 2006 Update:

Incredibly, Democrats are trying to blow it again in their safest state. Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly had an embarrassing choice for lt. governor–someone who had not paid her taxes and had to quickly withdraw from the race, and the other Democrat, ex-Deputy U.S. Attorney General Deval Patrick, is quite liberal. At the same time, Republican Lt. Governor Kerry Healey does not appear to have the heft of prior Republican winners Bill Weld, Paul Cellucci and Mitt Romney.

The entry of Christy Mihos as an independent complicates the picture. While the wealthy Mihos seems to be taking votes from both sides, he is almost certainly hurting Healey more. The Democrats may well win this in the end, and it’s probably time for them to take over the statehouse in the Bay State, but they’re not making it easy on themselves or the voters.

Update:

Liberal former U.S. Assistant Attorney General Deval Patrick‘s near-majority victory in Tuesday’s Democratic primary exceeded most pre-election expectations, which had pegged his lead somewhat narrower than the 49 percent to 28 perecent to 23 percent blowout result over the two more moderate candidates, Chris Gabrieli and Tom Reilly. Patrick’s charisma and status as a fresh face in Massachusetts electoral politics seemed to give him distinct advantages over his primary rivals, and seem to give him an initial edge over the Republican nominee, Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey.

Outgoing (and by outgoing we mean literally running away–for president) GOP Gov. Mitt Romney is not nearly popular enough to lift Healey’s chances, and Healey is a somewhat weak candidate who just this week attempted to shift attention to cracking down on illegal immigration at a time when most liberal Bay Staters resent the national GOP’s hard lines. She reminds us more of unsuccessful former stand-in Gov. Jane Swift than others in the surprise GOP line of state executives here–Weld, Cellucci, and Romney. For now, though we approach this race with special caution thanks to the wild card of Independent Christy Mihos’s spirited and serious bid, we tilt this race towards a Democratic homecoming on Beacon Hill that has been 16 years in the making.

Update:

Governor Mitt Romney has resurfaced in his home state to take charge of the Big Dig investigation, but he won’t be there for long. As an outgoing governor, he is spending most of his time on the road seeking the presidency; this is not good news for Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey, and the Crystal Ball is increasingly of the belief that Democrats will finally retake this governorship, from which they have been absent since 1991. But, the Democrats are fighting like cats and dogs for the nomination, and so until the Democratic nominee emerges–and we see weather he is healthy or bleeding–we will keep this race in the Toss-up category.


Background

Republicans have controlled the governorship of the nation’s most liberal state consistently since 1991. This would be the equivalent of a two-decade run for Democrats in Utah! (There was precisely this kind of Utah Democratic domination from 1965 to 1985. But those were very different times.)

The latest GOP chief executive is the unlikeliest of all, a Mormon and former resident of Utah, Mitt Romney. Despite social views that are culturally more conservative than most residents of the Bay State, Romney won in 2002 for essentially the same reason his three immediate GOP predecessors had triumphed: Voters were unimpressed with the Democratic nominees and probably feared complete Democratic hegemony. After all, Democrats have virtually a one-party state legislature, and they have captured every single U.S. Senate and House seat in Massachusetts–the largest totally Democratic delegation in the Congress.

Republicans will have to aim to make it four consecutive GOP governors in 2006, because Romney has already said he’s not running for re-election. His lieutenant governor, Kerry Healey, will be his likely replacement for the GOP nomination.

Healey will have her work cut out in the fall, assuming state Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly, is the Democratic nominee. He is moderate enough to win the general election, assuming that he can overcome the challenge of liberals such as ex-Deputy U.S. Attorney General Deval Patrick, a fellow Democrat. Sooner or later, Massachusetts will revert to form and elect a Democrat for this vital post, too, so the GOP can take nothing for granted in 2006, or ever.

Candidates

Deval Patrick – Democrat – former assistant U.S. Attorney General and Coca Cola executive
Website

Kerry Healey – Republican – current Lt. Governor
Website

Christy Mihos – Independent – convenience store magnate, former Masspike Authority member
Website

Maryland

Outlook: Leans Democratic


August 27, 2006 Update:

This is one race that is living up to its billing; Republican Governor Bob Ehrlich and Democrat Martin O’Malley are evenly matched in many ways, and the balance here is almost certainly turnout. Ehrlich has gained some and lost some around the state his first victory in 2002, and O’Malley should be able to do better in the Baltimore area and maybe even in some of the rural localities compared with Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. Ehrlich has one of the toughest fights for any Republican incumbent in the country, but he also appears to be fully engaged and keeping the race very close when circumstances ought to favor a Democrat. We keep it as a Toss-up.

August 2, 2006 Update:

It is rare that an incumbent with a relatively high approval rating is considered a slight underdog, but that is the current position of Governor Bob Ehrlich. His status is solely due to his Republican Party identification; it’s a Democratic year overall, and Maryland appears exceptionally resistant to reelecting a Republican. We are reminded of the extraordinary case of Texas in 1994, when Democratic Governor Anne Richards had 70 percent favorable rating on Election Day. The very day that saw her defeated for a second term in a landslide by the GOP nominee, George W. Bush. Ehrlich’s opponent, Democrat Martin O’Malley, has not achieved “favorite” status, and the Republican incumbent might well pull this out in November, but the political winds are blowing Democratic and Ehrlich might be an unintended victim. We are not ready to call this contest–we believe that the Ehrlich-O’Malley race will be very, very tight and this is about as pure a Toss-up as you will find in the country.

June 29, 2006 Update:

Long before the polls turned on GOP Gov. Bob Ehrlich, the Crystal Ball has been predicting a close contest that Ehrlich could well lose in his substantially Democratic state. But a Washington Post poll taken June 19-25 suggests that Ehrlich will lose in a landslide. In the survey Ehrlich trails Democrat Martin O’Malley by 16 percentage points among likely voters, and O’Malley is also well over the critical level of 50 percent: O’Malley 55 percent, Ehrlich 39 percent, Other/Undecided 6 percent. We don’t believe the poll, which simultaneously showed that Ehrlich’s job approval was 56 percent positive and his personal rating was 55 percent favorable. This will be a tight contest, one way or the other. This campaign will matter enormously.

June 22, 2006 Update:

Doug Duncan is out as of June 22, making Martin O’Malley the Democratic nominee for Governor; Duncan cited health concerns. O’Malley is no worse than a slight underdog to Republican Gov. Bob Ehrlich in November. If there’s a Democratic wave on election day, this oceanside state will get wet first.

March 27, 2006 Update:

The Crystal Ball still gives Gov. Bob Ehrlich the slightest edge, but this is going to be a true test for the Democratic drift of 2006. Ehrlich will have to work very hard to defeat the eventual Democratic nominee, probably Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley. Maryland is deeply Democratic and 2006 will be at least marginally a Democratic year.

Update:

The big news in the race for the governor’s mansion in Maryland has been the resignation of Gene Raynor from his post on the Baltimore Board of Elections. Democrats are trying to capitalize on Raynor’s resignation by linking Governor Bob Ehrlich to Raynor and last week’s problems at the primaries. Raynor’s ties to Ehrlich date back to his support for Ehrlich in his 2002 gubernatorial bid. For that reason, Raynor’s appointment earlier this year drew criticism from Democrats who said his management might favor Ehrlich. However, his appointment and subsequent resignation may be turn out to be beneficial for democrats. Yesterday, for example, the state Democratic Party characterized Raynor as Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.’s “elections puppet” and said that “his inability to manage a smooth primary election brought him under fire and unable to defend his performance.” In a statement on 9/21, Democratic challenger Martin O’Malley “said Ehrlich should take responsibility for the problems,” and characterized the problems as an example of “dysfunction from the state government.”

Another headache for Governor Ehrlich is the criticism he has drawn by calling for voters to stay home and vote via absentee ballot. O’Malley has accused Ehrlich of using scare tactics to keep voters away from the polls. These two issues combined may very well solidify or even increase the current O’Malley lead.

Alexander Covington, Crystal Ball Mid-Atlantic Regional Correspondent


Background

A battle royal is brewing in Maryland, where first-term Governor Bob Ehrlich will have to fight hard to secure a second term. Narrowly elected over unpopular Democratic Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend in 2002, Ehrlich has stayed true to his conservative congressional roots. But, Maryland is a liberal, Democratic state. Ehrlich’s maximum vote share is probably around 53 percent, if all goes well for him.

Much will depend on the level of nastiness in the Democratic primary face-off between Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley and Montgomery County executive Doug Duncan. While O’Malley is the unquestioned early leader, it is unclear which one will finally emerge to challenge Ehrlich, who has made powerful enemies at the Baltimore Sun and the Washington Post. These papers will join forces with the Democrats in a tooth-and-nail struggle to oust Governor Ehrlich.

Candidates

Bob Ehrlich (I) – Republican – current Governor and former U.S. Congressman
Website

Martin O’Malley – Democrat – current mayor of Baltimore
Website

Maine

Outlook: Leans Democratic


June 14, 2006 Update:

It is becoming increasingly obvious that Governor John Baldacci is having some problems. The polls show it, and his primary showed it, when a very minor, unknown candidate named Chris Miller secured a quarter of the primary vote on June 13. But Baldacci scored a landslide compared to the very close Republican contest, when state senator Chandler Woodcock emerged the winner with roughly 39 percent of the vote; his closest opponent, fellow state senator Peter Mills was close behind with 35 percent.

There are also a few independents on the ballot for governor in the Pine Tree State, and since Jim Longley won the Maine governorship in the 1970s and Angus King did so twice in the 1990s, Independents cannot be counted out. They include David John Jones, Barbara Merrill, John Michael and Phillip Morris NaPier. Baldacci starts out as the frontrunner for reelection, but he is a shaky frontrunner. Election watchers will want to keep an eye on this one, at least for a while.

March 27, 2006 Update:

Everybody and his brother and sister is running for governor in Maine, which doesn’t surprise anyone familiar with the state’s politics. After all, this is a state that has elected two independents who served for 12 years in the governor’s mansion since the mid-1970s. The divided opposition actually helps incumbent Democrat John Baldacci though, and he is still a slight–though unenthusiastic–favorite for reelection.

Update:

Governor John Baldacci is almost certain to receive well under 50 percent of the vote, but he appears to have been helped by the selection of Chandler Woodcock as the GOP nominee. Woodcock is considered conservative in the Maine context, and this is not a conservative state by any means. At the same time, the Green party candidate may take some votes from the Democratic column. We sense that Baldacci has an edge, but Mainers are unenthusiastic about him. Still, we cannot measure torque in the voting booth, and it simply doesn’t matter how vigorously pull the level for a candidate; a vote is a vote is a vote.


Background

It may not matter whom the Republicans nominate for governor, since this formerly rock-ribbed state is usually Democratic these days. Incumbent Democrat John Baldacci, a former congressman, has had a somewhat controversial first term, and his ratings are not as high as one would expect for a Democratic chief executive in the state. Nonetheless, Baldacci will probably be able to win reelection.

Maine is willing to elect the occasional Independent or moderate Republican (such as its two U.S. Senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins), but the state’s voters are likely to leave the governorship in Baldacci’s hands.

Candidates

John Baldacci (I) – Democrat – current Governor and former U.S. Congressman
Website

Chandler Woodcock – Republican – current state senator, former teacher, Vietnam War veteran
Website

Alex Hammer – Independent – former publishing executive, resident of Bangor
Website

Barbara Merrill – Independent – current Maine state legislator, former lawyer and lobbyist
Website

Bruce Fleming – Independent – publisher, running a write-in campaign
Website

David John Jones – Independent – inventor, restorationist and community activist
Website

John Michael – Independent – former state representative
Website

Pat LaMarche – Independent – radio talk show host, ’04 Green Party VP nominee
Website

Phillip Morris NaPier – Independent – USAF Veteran & Felons United Founder
Website

Michigan

Outlook: Leans Democratic


November 8, 2006 Update:

Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) won reelection over Dick Devos (R) with 56% of the vote.

Latest Update:

Some recent surveys have suggested that Gov. Jennifer Granholm is benefiting from the Democratic breeze in the country, and perhaps has a slight lead over Republican Dick DeVos. But, no one is counting DeVos out, and this continues to be one of the Democratic Party’s most significant gubernatorial challenges in the nation.

August 2, 2006 Update:

In every year with a strong trend there are a few races moving in the opposite direction. The Michigan gubernatorial contest is one, due to the very poor Michigan economy. Governor Jennifer Granholm was once bright star in the Democratic Party’s constellation, but she is now in a life and death struggle with Republican Dick DeVos. In some polls he leads him narrowly, and in other polls he leads her narrowly, but it is obvious that this will go down to the wire. The factor working in Granholm’s favor is not incumbency–that is working against her–but rather that she has a “D” next to her name in a “D” state, in a “D” year.

June 1, 2006 Update:

Remarkably, Republican Dick DeVos has been leading Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm in some polls. The economy in The Wolverine State has not been good, and this has hurt Granholm–along with DeVos deep pockets. All we can do is monitor this race. We originally believed that Granholm would pull out a second term, and in truth we still do; but we cannot ignore the serious warning signs that keep emanating from Michigan.


Background

First-term Democrat Jennifer Granholm isn’t as popular as she once was, and it is no longer impossible that she could be upset. At the same time, is difficult to see any of the Republicans currently mentioned for the nomination depriving her of a second term. This may change, as the GOP develops a candidacy. Currently, Dick DeVos appears to be the leading Republican candidate.

Incidentally, were she not a native of Canada, she would be mentioned frequently for the 2008 Democratic ticket. Michigan is normally in the Democratic presidential column, but not by landslide margins.

Candidates

Jennifer Granholm (I) – Democrat – current Governor and former state attorney general
Website

Dick DeVos – Republican – former president of Amway, husband of former state GOP chairwoman Betsy DeVos
Website

Minnesota

Outlook: Leans Republican


November 8, 2006 Update:

Gov.Tim Pawlenty (R) won reelection over Mike Hatch (D) with 47% of the vote.

June 1, 2006 Update:

Governor Tim Pawlenty is one of several Midwestern governors who is having a bumpy road to reelection. This may be a Democratic year nationally and in Minnesota, and so Pawlenty’s reelection is certainly not a sure thing. We are too far away from November to know how much trouble he may be in, but it is already clear that he will have to run a very good race to win a second term.

Update:

The Crystal Ball is watching the Minnesota governor’s race carefully. In another, more Republican year Governor Tim Pawlenty would be in good shape, and we continue to list him as a slight favorite. But, our sources in Minnesota stress to us that people appear to be in a mood to vote Democratic in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. As a result, Attorney General Mike Hatch will be a formidable opponent for Pawlenty.


Background

Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty has had a reasonably successful first term, in part because he is business-like and he succeeded the irascible, chaotic, controversial independent, Jesse Ventura. The contrast has helped him to a solid position as frontrunner for a second term in ’06. There aren’t many major Democrats running against him right now, but two who have thrown their hats into the ring are Attorney General Mike Hatch and three-term state senator Steve Kelley.

Candidates

Tim Pawlenty (I) – Republican – current Governor and former state house majority leader
Website

Mike Hatch – Democrat – current state Attorney General and former state commerce commissioner
Website

Peter Hutchinson – Independent – former state commissioner of finance and superintendent of Minneapolis public schools
Website

Nebraska

Outlook: Solid Republican


November 8, 2006 Update:

Gov. Dave Heineman (R) won reelection over David Hahn (D) with 74% of the vote.

May 31, 2006 Update:

As we suggested for a full year before the Republican primary, Governor Dave Heineman had a real chance to upset the heavy favorite, Congressman Tom Osborne, and indeed he did so in the May primary. Heineman is guaranteed his first full elected term against Democrat David Hahn, a publishing executive.

March 27, 2006 Update:

Our Nebraska sources continue to tell us that the Republican primary race between Gov. Dave Heineman and Congressman Tom Osborne is getting very close. This is good news for Heineman, though it does not guarantee his victory against the legendary Cornhusker football coach.

Update:

Dave Heineman will coast to an easy victory November’s electoral contest. His greatest roadblock to reelection was the primary challenge by popular Nebraska football coach, Tom Osborne.

Meredith Ramsey, Crystal Ball Midwestern Regional Correspondent


Background

The Republican Party will decide the next governor in this heavily GOP state. Governor Mike Johanns left office early to become President Bush’s new Agriculture Secretary, and Lt. Gov. Dave Heineman succeeded Johanns.

The Crystal Ball was returning from a trip to Nebraska on the very day that GOP Congressman Tom Osborne, the famous former U of N football coach, announced that he had decided to challenge Heineman in the Republican primary. While in the Cornhusker state, we were able to survey a variety of politically knowledgeable people. Almost all expect Osborne to win the primary easily, and yet…every single one said Heineman was a competent, fairly impressive governor, who is doing an energetic job. As such, some wondered whether the much older Osborne would impress people on the campaign trail and in the debates.

The Crystal Ball believes that there is some chance–though less than 50 percent–that Heineman will upset Osborne. Usually, voters must have a strong reason to oust an incumbent, even one who has not been elected to the office. But, these are not the usual circumstances. We actually heard Heineman supporters, many of whom are concentrated in the Nebraska business community, suggest that Heineman should step down and run for lieutenant governor for a term under Osborne, and then, after Osborne retires, Heineman could seek a full term as governor. Indeed, Osborne has strongly hinted that he would probably serve only one four-year term. Of course, he could also change his mind, and Heineman–who has worked his entire life to get to the governor’s office–could be in servitude for a seemingly eternal period.

Even though Nebraska can already be safely put in the Republican column (publishing executive David Hahn is the only Democrat to have declared his candidacy), this primary will be one of the most fascinating in the country. This is an odd situation with few precedents anywhere, but football really matters in Nebraska (as it does in Texas).

Candidates

Dave Heineman (I) – Republican – current Governor and former Lt. Governor
Website

David Hahn – Democrat – publishing executive
Website

New Hampshire

Outlook: Solid Democratic


Update:

Recent polls have shown Gov. John Lynch with a healthy lead over Republican state Representative Jim Coburn, further demonstrating his position as the clear frontrunner.


Background

Democratic Governor John Lynch is a hit, and he compares very favorably to the one-term Republican, Gov. Craig Benson, that the Granite State happily ousted in 2004 in a close election.

Candidates

John Lynch (I) – Democrat – current Governor and former businessman
Website

Jim Coburn – Republican – state Representative
Website

New Mexico

Outlook: Solid Democratic


November 8, 2006 Update:

As the Crystal Ball predicted, Gov. Bill Richardson (D) won reelection over John Dendahl (R) with 69% of the vote.

Update:

Physician J.R. Damron withdrew for personal reasons as the GOP’s nominee against Gov. Bill Richardson on June 17. Former state GOP Chairman John Dendahl was picked as the substitute by the state Republican Central Committee. It won’t make the slightest bit of difference. It’s still Richardson for reelection in a walk.


Background

Governor Bill Richardson (D) is still the favorite to win his second term, but he has had some problems recently, not least the controversy over his frequent traveling and the decision to buy a new, expensive state jet. Possible Republican nominees have been hard to come by so far, but it’s still early.

Our bet stays with Richardson, but it matters how well and easily he wins, if he intends to be a serious 2008 Democratic presidential candidate.

Candidates

Bill Richardson (I) – Democrat – former Energy Secretary, U.N. Ambassador and U.S. Congressman
Website

John Dendahl – Republican – Former state Republican Party Chairman
Website

Nevada (Open Seat)

Outlook: Leans Republican


November 8, 2006 Update:

As the Crystal Ball predicted, Congressman Jim Gibbons (R) defeated Dina Titus (D) with 48% of the vote.

August 2, 2006 Update:

The focus in this state is not the governor’s race, but rather the mysterious death of state controller Kathy Augustine, who was running for state treasurer. We won’t get into the gory details, but our guess is that political races will be secondary to this investigation for at least a few weeks.

As for the governorship, right now the race appears static, with Congressman Jim Gibbons remaining the favorite to win in the fall. But if Mayor Jim Gibson manages to upset state Senator Dina Titus, this race could become quite competitive. Titus is still considered the Democratic frontrunner, however.

June 1, 2006 Update:

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman is not running, and Republican Congressman Jim Gibbons still leads the field for the primary and the general.

March 27, 2006 Update:

Our Democratic sources in Nevada reluctantly concede that Republican Congressman Jim Gibbons is at least a slight favorite to succeed his nemesis, fellow GOPer Kenny Guinn. Many Democrats seem to believe that Dina Titus, the likely Democratic nominee, is too liberal to win in the general election. We’ll see, and Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman continues to tantalize with a possible candidacy.

Update:

Just as the Crystal Ball has consistently predicted for a year, Congressman Jim Gibbons (R) and State Senate Majority Leader Dina Titus (D) emerged from the Nevada primaries on August 15 with their respective party’s nominations for Governor. Both won comfortably over multi-candidate fields, Gibbons with 48 percent and Titus with 54 percent. To be blunt, neither one is viewed enthusiastically by many in their own parties. Also, both are closer to the ideological poles than Nevada voters generally prefer–Gibbons to the right and Titus to the left. At the starting gate, we give Gibbons the edge, but Nevada has become a more competitive state recently so Gibbons will have to work for his victory.


Background

With two-term GOP Governor Kenny Guinn term-limited, the focus has shifted to his likely successor, Republican Congressman Jim Gibbons. Only Gibbons can defeat Gibbons, but the congressman’s loose tongue makes that a reasonable bet for the roulette table in Las Vegas.

It is already clear that Governor Guinn does not like Congressman Gibbons at all. In fact, it was Guinn who encouraged Lt. Governor Lorraine Hunt to run against Gibbons for the Republican nomination. Though Gibbons remains the clear favorite, stay tuned to see how this intra-party scuffle shapes the campaign.

The Democrats are likely to pick state senator Dina Titus as their nominee, though current Henderson mayor Jim Gibson could give her a run for her money. Some people have mentioned Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman for the Democratic nomination as well, and were he to run, he would be a very serious candidate.

At the moment, Gibbons is the most likely next governor, but it is early and this race is more unsettled than expected.

Candidates

Dina Titus – Democrat – current state senator since 1989, state senate minority floor leader since 1993
Website

Jim Gibbons – Republican – current U.S. Congressman
Website

Christopher Hansen – Independent – IAP state party chair, frequent candidate, affiliated with the Independent American Party
Website

New York (Open Seat)

Outlook: Solid Democratic


June 1, 2006 Update:

It’s going to be an even more massive landslide for Eliot Spitzer than observers had earlier believed. It is no longer a question of whether he will top 60 percent, but how much further he will go. It doesn’t matter much whether the GOP nominee is John Faso or Bill Weld, the result will be the same. Republicans are badly split, and their time is up in the Empire State for now.

March 27, 2006 Update:

Start getting used to saying “Governor Eliot Spitzer,” even though he still has a primary challenge from Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi. Spitzer is all but certain to be the Democratic nominee, and equally certain to be the next governor of the Empire State; a big Democratic year is building in New York.

Update:

Former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld recognized the obvious–that he was not going to get the GOP nomination–and he has withdrawn in favor of former state assembly minority leader John Faso. It really doesn’t matter; Faso will be defeated in a landslide by Democratic nominee and current Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. The current betting is that Spitzer will easily top 60 pecrent of the vote.


Background

The twelve-year reign of the Cuomo-killer, Republican Governor George Pataki, is now coming to a close. Even had Pataki decided to run for a fourth term, he was likely to lose, as he has fallen into a deep pit of unpopularity.

Democrats will almost certainly nominate state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, the Slayer of Wall Street Greed (or so the image suggests). Additionally, New York has become among the bluest of the Democratic Blue states. Democratic Governor Mario Cuomo served three terms, and so has Pataki. Time’s up. We’ll bet on a Spitzer victory.

The Republicans are in terrible shape in New York and they appear unlikely to nominate New York Secretary of State Randy Daniels, an African American Republican, who would like the nomination. One prominent Republican who has stepped forward is former Massachusetts Governor William Weld, however, we wonder whether Empire State pride would permit a Bay State retread to get its top job. Sam Houston did it in the nineteenth century, governing (at different times) both Tennessee and Texas, but Bill Weld doesn’t strike us as the second Sam Houston–not yet, anyway.

Candidates

Eliot Spitzer – Democrat – current New York Attorney General
Website

Thomas Suozzi – Democrat – Nassau County Executive

John Faso – Republican – practicing attorney, former minority leader in NY state legislature
Website

Ohio (Open Seat)

Outlook: Likely Democratic


August 27, 2006 Update:

At this point, it appears to be less a matter of whether Democrat Ted Strickland will win, than by what kind of margin he will triumph. Will he win by enough to also carry in liberal Democrat Sherrod Brown for the U.S. Senate? Will he be able to generate coattails for some of the Democratic House candidates in an exceptionally rough year for the GOP in Ohio? Republican nominee Ken Blackwell simply has too many burdens that are too heavy to prevail in this year, absent a miracle.

August 2, 2006 Update:

If Ted Strickland continues to do as well as he is doing, then we eventually expect to change this rating to Likely Democratic. Ever cautious, the Crystal Ball will keep it at Leans Democratic for now.

June 1, 2006 Update:

Ken Blackwell won the Republican nomination, as we expected, but he is an underdog to Democrat Ted Strickland. However, Strickland does have to worry about Blackwell’s potential attraction to African-American voters. Assuming Strickland can solidify the normally heavily Democratic black vote, he should have no trouble winning in November, given the enormous troubles of the state and national GOP.

Update:

The September 20th debate does not seem to have benefited either party, as both are being criticized by the media for offering few specifics on the feasibility of their plans. Although Congressman Ted Strickland (D) characterized charter schools as a “rip off of the public tax dollar,” he could only offer what many see as poorly defined ideas. At this point Strickland has been able to keep Secretary of State Ken Blackwell (R) at a safe distance by simply pointing out his political luggage. In a recent attack ad, for example, Strickland points out a link between Blackwell and disgraced coin dealer Thomas W. Noe. Although both parties are on the attack, nothing seems to be happening to change the course of the race.

Alexander Covington, Crystal Ball Mid-Atlantic Regional Correspondent


Background

Republicans so dominate the statewide picture in 2004’s ultimate Presidential toss-up state that an analyst is tempted to call the 2006 Governor’s race for the GOP right now. And that would be foolish. Governor Bob Taft has now been found guilty of ethics violations and some are even talking about impeachment–although it is unlikely to happen. The Republicans who control the state legislature are unlikely to do it, and the Democrats in the legislature want the weakened Taft to continue in office.

True enough, Republicans have three strong candidates in Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell (an African-American), state Auditor Betty Montgomery, and state Attorney General Jim Petro. On the other side, Democratic Congressman Ted Strickland has decided to run for the gubernatorial nomination. He is the clear frontrunner, especially now that Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman has dropped out of the race. (former Congressman and state Senator Eric Fingerhut will also be making a run at the Democratic nomination, though Strickland should defeat him easily.) Strickland, a psychologist by training and an energetic, bright House member, represents a moderate, rural-suburban district that has taught him how to win swing voters. Strickland’s entry is good news for the Democrats. He is exactly the kind of Democrat who might be able to win statewide. If he can do so, his victory will have clear, positive effects for national Democrats as they try to push the Buckeye State into their column for President in 2008.

Consider these factors: (1) After a lengthy period of GOP dominance, it may be the proverbial “time for a change;” (2) Incumbent GOP Governor Taft is now perhaps the most unpopular incumbent governor in the country, which feeds the desire for change; (3) The Republicans could have a nasty primary.

So, in conclusion, Ohio could potentially be the headline of 2006, if it abandons Republican leanings, votes Democratic for governor, and even perhaps for U.S. Senator. Republicans could lose one or more of their U.S. House seats, too. Every early indication is that the Mother of Modern Presidents will be critical again in the next presidential contest, and, as such, Ohio may be “ground zero” for the politics of 2006 and 2008.

Candidates

Ted Strickland – Democrat – current U.S. Congressman, former psychologist and university professor
Website

Ken Blackwell – Republican – current Ohio Secretary of State
Website

Bill Peirce – Independent – retired professor, economist, affiliated with the Libertarian party
Website

Bob Fitrakis – Independent – attorney, journalist, affiliated with the Green party
Website

Oklahoma

Outlook: Solid Democratic


November 8, 2006 Update:

Election Results

As the Crystal Ball predicted, Democrat Brad Henry won re-election over Republican Ernest Istook with 67% of the vote.

June 1, 2006 Update:

Governor Brad Henry is leading Congressman Ernest Istook by a mile, and should be reelected handily.

March 27, 2006 Update:

Every good source we have in Oklahoma, including some very prominent Republicans who have held or do hold public office there, tell us that Gov. Brad Henry, is practically unbeatable by Congressman Ernest Istook. We must admit that we are surprised by these sentiments, since the Sooner State is so fundamentally Republican, but they know Oklahoma politics a lot better than we do. We’ll go with Henry.


Background

Governor Brad Henry, the rare successful Democrat in this deeply Red state, ought to be in good shape for his reelection bid in ’06. Henry has been a mainly conservative, cautious Governor, and appears generally popular. However, a strong Republican nominee has emerged; Congressman Ernest Istook has decided to run, and in Oklahoma any legitimate GOP candidate must be taken very seriously.

Henry was barely elected with just 43 percent in a three-way race in ’02, but he has governed well. Two other impressive Republican candidates, former Congressman J.C. Watts and Lt. Gov. Mary Fallin, both decided not to run, but Istook cannot be ignored.

Candidates

Brad Henry (I) – Democrat – current Governor and former state senator
Website

Ernest Istook – Republican – U.S. Congressman from Oklahoma’s 5th district
Website

Oregon

Outlook: Toss-up


November 8, 2006 Update:

As the Crystal Ball predicted, Gov. Ted Kulongoski (D) won reelection over Ron Saxton (R) with 51% of the vote.

June 1, 2006 Update:

Independent Ben Westlund dropped out of the Governor’s race on August 10, citing his inability to win. Oregon political observers believe this will help embattled Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski. Republican Ron Saxton might have benefited from a split vote, with Westlund attracting the ballots of some disgruntled Democrats.

May 31, 2006 Update:

Governor Ted Kulongoski won an unimpressive victory over his Democratic opponents in the May primary, with just 54 percent of the vote. He has a very tough opponent in Republican Ron Saxton, who is a relative moderate and is in a decent position to upset Kulongoski in the fall. Saxton has been able to secure the backing of both of his defeated GOP opponents, 2002 nominee Kevin Mannix and State Senator Jason Atkinson. Kulongoski is one of the 2 or 3 most endangered Democratic governors in the country.

March 27, 2006 Update:

Democrat Gov. Ted Kulongoski has got to be one of the most unpopular incumbents seeking reelection in the country, and yet there is no overriding reason why. He just hasn’t taken hold in the state. Nonetheless, the old saying “possession is nine tenths of the law” often holds true in politics, and he may well be able to hold on. But we are waiting to see the results of the GOP primary. The level of divisiveness in the outcome really matters in this case. On the other side, Kulongoski is expected to win his party’s nomination fairly handily, however.

Update:

Challenger Ron Saxton is proving a formidable opponent to Democratic Governor Ted Kulongoski. Saxton has set new records for candidate fundraising in the state-he has raised more than $6 million to date, which surpasses the 2002 race record of $4.1 million spent by Kevin Mannix. Additionally, Rudy Giuliani and other prominent Republicans plan on making appearances to further the fundraising effort. Those funds are resulting in dividends among voters. The latest Rasmussen poll taken on September 27 has Kulongoski with a slight 5 point advantage over Saxton, but the most recent Zogby Interactive poll from September 25 reflects a much closer race with the incumbent holding on to a 2 point lead. With just under five weeks to go before the general election, Saxton is banking on his campaign funds and advertising to gain an edge.

Brenan Richards, Crystal Ball Pacific Regional Correspondent


Background

The Oregon gubernatorial picture is very unsettled. It is entirely possible that Oregonians could see a rematch of their 2002 battle between Democrat Ted Kulongoski and Republican Kevin Mannix, which Kulongoski won by three percentage points. On the other hand, there seems to be a general dissatisfaction with Kulongoski that may cost him in either the Democratic primary or the general election. Yes, Oregon is still a competitive state, with a slight Democratic edge. But of the West Coast states, it is the most open to Republican statewide candidates.

There are still-developing primary challenges to both Kulongoski and Mannix, and if they materialize fully, they could have a dramatic effect on the November race, depending on which party bleeds more profusely. Kulongoski will not be able to avoid a primary challenge, with Lane County Commissioner Pete Sorenson, a former state senator and assistant Democratic leader, already in the race and State Senator Vicki Walker considering it, but with no decision yet. Mannix will also face a primary battle since 2002 candidate Ron Saxton and State Senator Jason Atkinson are both bidding for the GOP nod.

There were even rumors that former Governor John Kitzhaber would challenge Kulongoski in the Democratic primary. Our sources tell us that he will not, though if he did, the Crystal ball would put a substantial bet on Kitzhaber winning both the nomination and the general election. On the Republican side, both Mannix and Atkinson are conservatives, with Saxton much more moderate and the choice of many of the GOP’s big contributors. It is possible that Mannix and Atkinson will split the conservative vote, enabling Saxton to be nominated. However, given the conservative nature of the Oregon Republican primary electorate, it is just as likely that one of the conservatives will emerge as the nominee.

Two other interesting notes in this race: the 2002 Libertarian nominee, Tom Cox, who received about five percent of the vote the last time around, has decided he will not run. If the Libertarians do not nominate an equally popular figure, then this may hurt the Democratic nominee in the general election, since Libertarians tend to take at least a few more votes from Republicans than Democrats. Also, Democrats have to be concerned that the Green Party, which did not field a candidate in 2002, may do so in 2006. Again, while the Greens draw voters to the polls who might not otherwise cast a ballot, it is probably true that the hurt the Democrats disproportionately. These are minor factors, but sometimes in a close race a minor factor becomes everything.

Candidates

Ted Kulongoski (I) – Democrat – current Governor and former state attorney general
Website

Ron Saxton – Republican – practicing attorney and former media commentator
Website

Ben Westlund – Independent – current state Senator
Website

Joe Keating – Independent – Pacific Green Party nominee; community activist and Vietnam veteran
Website

Pennsylvania

Outlook: Solid Democratic


August 2, 2006 Update:

Governor Ed Rendell is looking more solid for his second term. Republican Lynn Swann briefly tied or led Rendell in polls, and Rendell is not an absolute lock for November. Nonetheless, we can see the Rendell trend in the making, and if it continues we will change the status of this race after Labor Day.

June 29, 2006 Update:

A fascinating thing has happened in the Keystone State. Seventeen state legislators of both parties were defeated in the primaries on account of the botched “midnight pay hike,” and that result appears to have satisfied many of the voters deeply angry over the salary grab. By no means has all of the anger dissipated, and more incumbents could lose because of it in November. Yet voters no longer seem to be striking out at Gov. Ed Rendell for his secondary role in the disgraceful affair. Rendell’s approval rating is up, well over 50 percent, and it is becoming apparent that the GOP’s Lynn Swann will need a dump truck full of good luck and a side miracle to beat “Fast Eddie.”

June 1, 2006 Update:

Governor Ed Rendell is looking better in this contest, and he should be able to defeat Republican Lynn Swann if present trends continue.

March 27, 2006 Update:

Republican primary candidate Lynn Swann is doing very well in early polling, but no one who knows Democratic Governor Ed Rendell would ever count him out. We still consider him the likely winner, though he will have to work hard. He is depending on Swann’s lack of knowledge of state government, and indeed Swann has made a couple of gaffes already.

Update:

Governor Ed Rendell seems to have a stable lead over Republican challenger Lynn Swann, who has recently gone on the offensive over the controversial pay raises of July 2005. All incumbent legislators who supported the raises have since lost their seats, but the incumbent governor doesn’t seem to be budging. In fact, Rendell has surpassed Swann in central Pennsylvania, where anger over the pay raises was the most intense. Swann has also drawn criticism for not appealing to his base as much as he should or is necessary. He faces an opponent who in 2002 received a considerable amount of republican votes. Now in 2006, Rendell has around 30 percent of the republican vote. Although the pay raise issue will give Swann something to campaign on, he will probably need other issues to change the course of the race.

Alexander Covington, Crystal Ball Mid-Atlantic Regional Correspondent


Background

The GOP may try a Hail Mary pass to ex-Steelers star Lynn Swann, or they could choose former Lt. Gov. Bill Scranton III. Either would be an underdog to first-term Democratic Governor Ed Rendell; although Rendell is currently in a slump, and he will have to work hard to rebuild his popularity for 2006. The Keystone State can never be taken for granted by either party, in any contest. For now, the edge goes to Rendell, but this race is worth monitoring.

Gov. Rendell’s participation in the massively unpopular legislative pay hike has cost him dearly, even though the effort was strictly bipartisan.

Candidates

Ed Rendell (I) – Democrat – current Governor and former mayor of Philadelphia
Website

Lynn Swann – Republican – former star Pittsburgh Steelers player
Website

Rhode Island

Outlook: Leans Republican


June 1, 2006 Update:

In this heavily Democratic state, Republican Gov. Donald Carcieri has to be concerned about Democratic Lt. Gov. Charles Fogarty. Carcieri is still leading in public and private polls, but a Republican in Rhode Island simply cannot be a cinch in a difficult year for the GOP, such as 2006.

Update:

Governor Donald Carcieri is maintaining the slightest lead over Lt. Gov. Charles Fogarty. Carcieri’s only flaw is that he is a Republican in the most Democratic state in the Union. He may be able to pull it out, or he may be–like Gov. Bob Ehrlich in Maryland–an unintended victim of Presidnet Bush and the Iraq war.


Background

Much like Massachusetts, Rhode Island is not a state where one would expect to find many Republican governors. Much like Massachusetts, that expectation is wrong. The GOP elected businessman Donald Carcieri in 2002, succeeding another two-term Republican Governor, Lincoln Almond.

Carcieri is in reasonably good shape heading into his 2006 reelection bid, though the underlying Democratic nature of this mini-state should make for a highly competitive contest. Democrats might nominate Lt. Gov. Charles Fogarty to oppose Carcieri.

Candidates

Donald Carcieri (I) – Republican – current Governor and former businessman
Website

Charles Fogarty – Democrat – current Lt. Governor
Website

South Carolina

Outlook: Likely Republican


November 8, 2006 Update:

As the Crystal Ball predicted, Republican Mark Sanford won re-election over Democrat Tommy Moore with 55% of the vote.

July 15, 2006 Update:

Republican Governor Mark Sanford got a bit of a surprise when his little-know, lightly-funded challenger Oscar Lovelace received over 35 percent of the vote in the GOP primary. This was much less an endorsement of Lovelace, as it was a warning to Sanford to get focused and clean up his act–quite literally, since everyone remembers the governor bringing two pigs to the state capitol building to make a point about the legislature’s excessive spending. The problem for Sanford is that the legislature is controlled by his fellow Republicans.

The Democratic nominee for November will be state senator Tommy Moore, who defeated his two opponents in a landslide–securing close to two-thirds of the vote. Moore is a long shot, but not a long-long shot, and after Sanford’s weak primary performance Republicans must shore up their incumbent’s support before the fall.


Background

The Democratic Party is as bruised and battered in the Palmetto State as it is in any state in the union. So despite a mixed first term, Governor Mark Sanford (R) is a substantial favorite for reelection in 2006. Several state legislators were mentioned as possible Democratic contenders, and the main benefit to the nominee may well be increased name recognition for a future run at statewide office.

Some Democrats believed that retiring State Superintendent of Education Inez Tenenbaum, the 2004 U.S. Senate nominee, would surprise everyone and challenge Sanford, but it did not came to pass. As of the June 13 primary, the Democratic nominee is State Senator Tommy Moore, who won handily in a three-way race.

Candidates

Mark Sanford (I) – Republican – current Governor and former U.S. Congressman
Website

Tommy Moore – Democrat – current state senator, former state representative
Website

South Dakota

Outlook: Solid Republican


November 8, 2006 Update:

Gov.Mike Rounds (R) won reelection over Jack Billions (D) with 62% of the vote.

March 27, 2006 Update:

Republican Governor Mike Rounds signed the new strict anti-abortion law, of course, but this does not change the near-certainly of his reelection in November. It may actually strengthen it in this predominantly pro-life state.

Update:

Democrat Jack Billions won his party’s nomination for the right to be slaughtered by GOP Governor Mike Rounds. Seriously, folks, this one is long over.


Background

First-term Governor Mike Rounds (R) is a heavy favorite for reelection in this strongly Republican state. Rounds is well liked and seen as a serious chief executive, and the Democrats have no one with a chance to defeat him on the horizon.

Candidates

Mike Rounds (I) – Republican – current Governor and former state senator
Website

Jack Billion – Democrat – former SD state legislator, orthopedic surgeon and Air Force veteran
Website

Tennessee

Outlook: Solid Democratic


November 8, 2006 Update:

As the Crystal Ball predicted, Democrat Phil Bredesen won re-election over Republican Jim Bryson with 69% of the vote.

August 4, 2006 Update:

Freshman State Senator Jim Bryson handily captured the little-desired GOP nomination for Governor in an August 3rd primary. It will be his last victory of the year. Popular Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen is a solid favorite for a second term in November.


Background

The Volunteer State has been trending clearly Republican since the 1990s, but there is an exception to every rule. Tennessee’s exception is Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen, a solid bet for reelection in 2006.

It is quite revealing that several top-level Republicans are elbowing each other to get the GOP nomination for retiring Senator Bill Frist‘s seat, but no heavyweight or even middleweight is in the hunt for the slot opposing Bredesen.

Candidates

Phil Bredesen (I) – Democrat – current Governor and former mayor of Nashville
Website

Jim Bryson – Republican – current state senator, market research executive
Website

Texas

Outlook: Solid Republican


November 8, 2006 Update:

As the Crystal Ball predicted, Republican Rick Perry won re-election over Democrat Chris Bell with 39% of the vote.

September 25, 2006 Update:

Kinky Friedman is not a joke…at least not entirely. A recent article in the Dallas Morning News hints that gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman may stand a chance. Texas has a large population of eligible young voters and that is exactly who county-and-western performer and mystery novelist Kinky Friedman appeals to. While his outlandish comments upset some conservative Texans, they certainly seem to rouse much of the Texas youth. Friedman has even posted an amusing “top ten reasons he should be elected” list on his website. Is there a chance the Lone Star State is beginning to behave more like its eclectic capital? Friedman is a good match for the Austin scene, but we’re not sure he fits into the Texas big picture yet.

Erin Levin, Crystal Ball Southern Regional Correspondent

July 1, 2006 Update:

A recent trip to Texas convinced the Crystal Ball that if the opposition to Gov. Rick Perry wasn’t split, it might actually prevail. Few voters we encountered had a good word for Perry, with most saying he had overstayed his welcome–he’s been governor since 2000. But these voters were all over the map when asked their preference for Perry’s successor, and that’s the salvation for Perry. Public and private polls show that Perry has perhaps 40 percent support, a miserable showing for an incumbent governor. But his three foes, Democrat Chris Bell and Independents Carole Keeton Strayhorn and Kinky Friedman all hover just below 20 percent. Combined they get 60 percent, so were there a single Perry opponent named Kinky Carole Bell (sounds like a porn star, doesn’t it?), he or she might win. But there isn’t, and Perry is very lucky.

March 27, 2006 Update:

Former Congressmen Chris Bell has won the Democratic nomination, and it will be his last victory this year. Republican Gov. Rick Perry is probably destined for reelection, though from what we can tell, Texans are not terribly enthusiastic about the prospect. The two strong independents, Carole Keeton Strayhorn and Kinky Friedman, are terrific entertainment and we would pay to see them win if we thought they had any shot this year.


Background

Texas lost a great race when U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison decided against challenging incumbent Republican Gov. Rick “Good Hair” Perry for re-nomination in 2006. Perry has had the keys to the Governor’s Mansion since succeeding President-elect George W. Bush in late 2000, but he has never been close to Bush people or some other Republican powers in Texas. Still, Hutchison realized Perry had significant advantages as the incumbent, and she decided in mid-2005 to let Perry most likely win another term. Perry is still opposed by Republican state Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, but she is a substantial underdog. Perry has probably secured his second full term. He has also scored big in his handling of the evacuee crisis after Hurricane Katrina.

The Democrats will most likely nominate either former one-term Democratic Congressmen Chris Bell, who lost his seat in a 2004 primary, or former state Supreme Court judge Bob Gammage. But in Texas, the Democratic Party has become an embarrassing, pale shadow of its once dominant self, and neither is a threat to Perry in November. One wonders if the Democratic nominee can hold his own in the general election against sassy, brassy independent Kinky Friedman–who is a hoot, and cleaning up on national TV.

Candidates

Rick Perry (I) – Republican – current Governor and former Lt. Governor
Website

Chris Bell – Democrat – former U.S. Congressman
Website

Carole Keeton Strayhorn – Independent – current state comptroller
Website

Richard “Kinky” Friedman – Independent – humorist, musician, columnist and novelist
Website

Vermont

Outlook: Solid Republican


Two-term Governor Jim Douglas is one of those mild-mannered, eminently reasonable, Republican moderates that–like its maple syrup–Vermont used to be famous for. Now it’s better known for producing lefties like Howard Dean, and socialist Congressman Bernie Sanders, and liberals-for-all-causes Ben & Jerry, of ice cream fame.

Still, Douglas sits well with most Vermonters, and he has an incumbent’s edge for a third term. But there are no guarantees for any GOP candidate in this state anymore. Still, now that Douglas has decided not to run for the open U.S. Senate seat of retiring Independent-Democrat-former Republican Jim Jeffords, we suspect that Douglas will be relatively safe (former state senator Scudder Parker is the only Democrat to declare his candidacy at this point), with almost all of the money and attention in Green Mountain State politics being devoted to the Senate contest.

Candidates

Jim Douglas (I) – Republican – current Governor and former state treasurer
Website

Scudder Parker – Democrat – former state senator and former state Democratic chairman
Website

Wisconsin

Outlook: Leans Democratic


November 8, 2006 Update:

Jim Doyle (D) won reelection over Mark Green (R) with 53% of the vote.

August 2, 2006 Update:

Governor Jim Doyle may now be the most endangered Democratic governor in the country, despite the Democratic nature of the year. The Doyle-Green race is going to go right down to the wire; it is simply unpredictable at the moment. The state would love to have Tommy Thompson back as governor, and eventually the resident here will accept it and move on. Doyle, Congressman Mark Green and others all appear inadequate by comparison

June 1, 2006 Update:

Governor Jim Doyle joins several other Midwestern governors–from both parties–on the endangered list. We give him a slight edge over the Republican nominee-to-be, Congressman Mark Green, who essentially inherited the nomination when Scott Walker withdrew. Doyle would have lost if former Governor Tommy Thompson had decided to run, but as expected he demurred. We will probably be watching this contest until November.

March 27, 2006 Update:

Here is yet another incumbent governor who has yet to succeed at achieving high popularity during his term, and as a consequence Gov. Jim Doyle is still very vulnerable to the eventual Republican nominee. But, he has the good fortune to be running in a moderately Democratic year, and this may be enough. Watch this one though.

Update:

When the Crystal Ball asks Democratic and Republican gubernatorial analysts to name their greatest hope or fear, almost all pick Wisconsin. This contest between Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle and Republican Congressman Mark Green continues to be extremely close, very expensive and hard-fought, and it could go either way. President George W. Bush was recently in Wisconsin to help Green, though other than the money, it is doubtful that Bush can pull many votes for him this year.


Background

Democrats finally elected a governor in the Badger State in 2002, state Attorney General Jim Doyle, after 14 years of Republican Governor Tommy Thompson. First elected in 1986, Thompson left in 2001 to join President Bush’s Cabinet as Secretary of Health and Human Services. Lt. Gov. Scott McCallum inherited the governorship, but couldn’t keep it, losing in a multi-candidate contest to Doyle, 42 percent to 45 percent.

In both 2000 and 2004, the presidential results could hardly have been closer (with Democrats edging Bush narrowly both times). This suggests the possibility of a competitive battle for Doyle as he bids for his second term in ’06. However, the only Republican who would be favored to beat Doyle would be–you guessed it–Tommy Thompson. It’s no secret that Thompson loved being governor, and it is not impossible that he would run again.

We’re going to bet that private life–which Thompson just assumed after eighteen years in high public office–will prove enticing enough to keep him out of the ’06 election. If so, Doyle has a much better chance to get a second term. However, it is entirely possible that Republican Congressman Mark Green (no, not the doctor from ER), who has now announced that he is running for governor, could make Doyle sweat. First, though, Green has to get by Milwaukee County executive Scott Walker in the GOP primary.

Candidates

Jim Doyle (I) – Democrat – current Governor and former state attorney general
Website

Mark Green – Republican – current U.S. Congressman
Website

Wyoming

Outlook: Solid Democratic


November 8, 2006 Update:

As the Crystal Ball predicted, Gov. Dave Freudenthal (D) won reelection over Ray Hunkins (R) with 70% of the vote.

Update:

Our very good contacts in the Equality State tell us that this race is all but over, and ironically the surprise is that a Democratic governor can not only get elected, but can win a second term. Governor Dave Freudenthal should win handily.


Background

Here’s a final, great example of why governorships are different. Wyoming is almost totally Republican, having given George W. Bush (and native son Dick Cheney) almost 70 percent in two presidential elections, and hosting a consistently all-GOP congressional delegation in recent times. Yet in 2002 the Cowboy State put a Democrat in the statehouse.

Governor Dave Freudenthal had served as the state’s U.S. attorney during the Clinton administration, but he was certainly not the favorite at the starting gate in 2002. The “time for a change” theme works even in near one-party states, at least for the governorship. Congress has become highly ideological, but governors deal more with nuts-and-bolts government, and ticket-splitting seems less “dangerous” for many voters casting ballots for the top state executive post (assuming the other-party nominee is not too liberal).

Given the state’s GOP character, a pro-Republican upset in 2006 cannot be dismissed out of hand. But early on, Freudenthal appears to be in good shape politically.

Candidates

Dave Freudenthal (I) – Democrat – current Governor and former U.S. Attorney for Wyoming
Website

Ray Hunkins – Republican – lawyer and rancher; former Marine and Special Assistant Attorney General
Website