Often times the trends set in the nation’s governors contests become a precursor to the national presidential elections. This year, four states are choosing chief executives and, if anything, the patterns associated with these races suggest a return to more normal voting behavior. In Louisiana, now becoming a staunch Republican state, Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) is seeking a second term. To date, and candidate filing closes today, he does not even have a major opponent. Jindal is virtually assured a second term.
Next door in Mississippi, Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant who easily won the Republican gubernatorial nomination to succeed two-term Gov. Haley Barbour (R), appears headed for a landslide victory in November over Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree (D). If successful, Bryant will deliver the fifth consecutive Mississippi gubernatorial election for his party. Kentucky, one of the most loyal of Republican states in the presidential election but a place that almost always elects a Democratic governor, is again falling into a familiar voting pattern. While President Obama trails the top GOP candidates here according to the latest polls, incumbent Gov. Steve Beshear (D) is headed toward an easy re-election this November.
West Virginia, however, is bucking the landslide trend. In a special election to be decided Oct. 4 because Joe Manchin left the governorship to succeed the late Robert Byrd in the US Senate, interim Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) suddenly finds himself in a tight contest against GOP businessman Bill Maloney. The latest Public Policy Polling survey (Sept. 1-4; 708 likely West Virginia voters) gives the Democrat only a 46-40 percent lead, down from his previous double-digit leads. But closer races are becoming a more usual voting pattern for West Virginia, as the state continues to trend more Republican. Expect the campaign to tighten even more as Election Day approaches.
Can these normal gubernatorial elections suggest a return to a more predictable vote in next year’s presidential contest? Quite possibly. If so, expect a much closer result than we witnessed in 2008.
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