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Monday, January 30, 2023
HomePollsMidterm Alert: AFL-CIO Puts Incumbent Republican Governor Races In Their Crosshairs

Midterm Alert: AFL-CIO Puts Incumbent Republican Governor Races In Their Crosshairs

The AFL-CIO will reportedly aim their political barrels at incumbent Republican governor races next election cycle. They will devote much of their time and financing to defeating Republican governors, rather than backing embattled Democrats in Congress.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Michael Podhorzer, who is the political director of the labor federation, “Our focus is really going to be at the state level because that’s where we think that our constituents – working-class families, middle-class families – are going to have the most at stake,” said Michael Podhorzer. That might be his honest assessment if not for the fact that approximately 38% of union households voted for Scott Walker in the failed union-backed recall election.

Mr. Podhorzer specifically pointed to Republican governors Tom Corbett in Pennsylvania, Paul LePage in Maine, John Kasich in Ohio, Rick Scott in Florida, Rick Snyder in Michigan and Scott Walker in Wisconsin. All six states have been top targets for organized labor since the Tea Party wave swept these governors into office in 2010. Unfortunately, for the unions anyway, some of these top targets are not very viable at the moment.

Gov. Kasich in Ohio is enjoying the highest approval rating and a majority of Ohio voters say he deserves reelection. He leads all of his potential Democratic opponents – Fitzgerald and Cordray – in the latest Quinnipiac survey by 14% and 11% respectively. I upgraded the race some weeks ago to “Likely Republican” and Larry Sabato and the guys at Crystal Ball upgraded the race late last week to the same rating.

Unions  made an unprecedented effort to oust Gov. Walker in a recall election after he ended collective bargaining for state employees, but they failed miserably. Gov. Walker was reelected by a larger margin than his first victory, in which he rode the initial Tea Party wave. Next election cycle will be their first opportunity to unseat the others, but Democrats have not benefited from their typical candidate recruiting advantage, especially in Wisconsin, where the last two cycles they ran the same failing candidate.

Since 2010, state-level elections have become the battlefield for organized labor against the right-to-work movement. Even though some Republican governors have lost their battles, such as Gov. Kasich in Ohio, Gov. Rick Snyder in Michigan achieved what was formerly thought impossible.

The AFL-CIO will have a serious challenge in the wake of the Detroit bankruptcy, where unions and progressivism have literally destroyed a once-great city Americans used to call the “Arsenal of Democracy”. The latest survey, which was conducted for Detroit News, shows Michigan voters statewide approve of Gov. Snyder’s decision. This clearly suggests that Gov. Snyder and the GOP are winning this messaging battle, as a poll conducted immediately after the news was markedly more negative for the governor. Even though he is below the magic 50% mark, Snyder leads his likely Democratic opponent, former U.S. Rep. Mark Schauer, by a rather healthy 43% to 37% margin.

governor races

One last note regarding Gov. Snyder, his polling numbers are as low as they are in large part due to his own base being unhappy with his decision to implement the Obamacare exchanges in the state. Thus, unless they stay home, the governor is looking as if his chances to put together a winning coalition is seriously credible.

Governors Tom Corbett in Pennsylvania, however, is another story entirely. Not only is his own base upset with him, but his approval poll numbers are abysmal all around. The same is true for Gov. LaPage in Maine and, in fact, I agree with Crystal Ball’s decision to recently downgrade his chances to “Leans Dem/Indie”. The entry of Rep. Mike Michaud (D) into the race is a real problem, because now the Democrats have a strong nominee with proven voter appeal to challenge Gov. Paul LePage. Furthermore, he won the 2010 three-way election with less than just 40% of the vote. LePage is ever-controversial and his poll numbers are terrible. Independent Eliot Cutler, who came within a couple of points of winning the governorship last time around, has not served to help his chances as some would have hoped.

And even when the AFL-CIO turns its attention to congressional races, Mr. Podhorzer has said that the federation will focus on states where its 12 million members are more concentrated. That excludes some top battlegrounds, such as Arkansas and Louisiana, where the group has a much smaller presence. “Our first priority is our members,” Mr. Podhorzer said. “That’s where we’re going to be putting the bulk of our resources.”

This certainly helps the GOP in Arkansas, but it is still a tough call, nonetheless. Very impressive fundraising efforts by former Rep. Mike Ross (D), as well as the decision by ex-Lt. Gov. Bill Halter to exit stage right from the Democratic primary, clearly underscores that the former congressman is a strong contender to succeed term-limited Gov. Mike Beebe (D). The Republican Party, however, appears likely to nominate ex-Rep. Asa Hutchinson. He is well-known statewide, but not in a good way necessary. He has lost three statewide campaigns already (1986 for U.S. Senate, 1990 for state attorney general and 2006 for governor).

Still, unlike other strategists have done, I am not ready to change my inclination that this race is still “Leans Republican”. Arkansas has become so strongly Republican in the age of Obama that I have a very hard time swallowing the possibility that Ross can pull this off in the end. I concede the potential for a split between the governor and Senate races, but state fundamentals make it likely that both will go to the GOP.

Not much can be said for the race in my home state of Florida, because it is simply too early. Gov. Rick Scott has polling trouble, to be sure his base is also to blame, but the Democrats have recruiting issues and may have to again look to twice-failed candidate, Alex Sink. It will get interesting if former Gov. Charlie Christ enters the race, despite his early polling lead over the incumbent. He had also enjoyed an enormous polling lead over now-Senator Rubio. Besides, he is a turncoat, and no one likes a turncoat, period. The ads will be interesting, and Charlie has proven his seemingly innate ability to self-implode on the campaign trail. Ex-state Sen. Minority Leader Rich is another potential candidate, but not a strong one as of yet.

In his remarks Tuesday morning, the AFL-CIO political director did cautioned the small group of reporters present from assuming the 2014 electorate will look as it did in 2010, even though he admitted both will likely be older and more conservative than the voters who turned out in 2008 or 2012, when the presidency was at the top of the ticket.

Mr. Podhorzer cited, as every other Democrat has, supposed decreases in support for the GOP among older voters, people who make less than $50,000 annually and white voters who did not attend college. One poll conducted by Democracy Corps, a Democratic polling company, showed such a drop in support for the Republican Party among all three demographic groups, but even they found Republicans to be leading in the Generic Congressional Ballot.

The AFL-CIO’s top political strategist was confident that Democrats would hold the Senate – and honestly doubted they could win the House. That is a wise assumption, but he also said Democrats face challenges in some of the more conservative states the party is trying to defend – states where the his federation isn’t as well represented.

“There’s no question that a lot of these Senate races in red states, especially with the recruitment, are going to be challenging for the Democrats,” he said. Things could change, as they often do in political landscapes, but I think Mr. Podhorzer said what he was supposed to say, and it paints a rosier electoral picture for the Democrats than the actual reality reflects.

Below I have placed a ratings table with all of the gubernatorial races upcoming and, as usual, you can click on contact here to request additional information on a specific race if you would like me to provide it. Fill out the form and select “other” in the drop-down menu, then state which race you are requesting the information for. I will attempt to justify my rating for you.

Ratings For Incumbent Governor Races

State Incumbent Possible Primary Challengers Major Party Opposition Third party Party Rating
AK Sean Parnell
– 2010 candidate Bill Walker – 2010 nominee Ethan Berkowitz?
– State Sen. Bill Wielechowski?
Safe R
AL Robert Bentley
– Former Morgan Co. Commis. Stacy Lee George
– State school board member Mary Scott Hunter?
Safe R
AR Mike Beebe
– Ex-Rep. Mike Ross
– Ex-LG Bill Halter
– Ex-Rep. Asa Hutchinson
-Businessman Curtis Coleman
– State Rep. Debra Hobbs
Leans R
AZ Jan Brewer
– Sec. of State Ken Bennett?
– Ex-Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman
– Treasurer Doug Ducey?
– State Sen. Al Melvin
– Mesa Mayor Scott Smith?
– 2010 AG candidate Andrew Thomas
– Ex-State Board of Regents Pres. Fred DuVal
– State House Min. Leader Chad Campbell?
Leans R
CA Jerry Brown
– Ex-LG Abel Maldonado
– Asm. Tim Donnelly
– Former Treasury Dept. official Neel Kashkari?
Safe D
CO John Hickenlooper
– Secretary of State Scott Gessler?
– Ex-Rep. Tom Tancredo
– State Sen. Greg Brophy?
– Ex-Rep. Bob Beauprez?
– Ex-Rep. Bob Schaffer?
Leans D
CT Dan Malloy
– 2010 nominee Tom Foley
– State House Min. Leader Lawrence Cafero?
– State Sen. Min. Leader John McKinney?
– Danberry Mayor Mark Boughton?
– Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti?
FL Rick Scott
– State Agriculture Sec. Adam Putnam? – Ex-Gov. Charlie Crist?
– 2010 nominee Alex Sink?
– Ex-state Sen. Min. Leader Nan Rich
GA Nathan Deal
– Dalton Mayor David Pennington? – State Sen. Jason Carter?
– State Rep. Scott Holcomb?
– State Rep. Stacy Abrams?
Safe R
HI Neil Abercrombie
– Ex-Rep. Charles Djou?
– 2010 nominee Duke Aiona?
Likely D
IA Terry Branstad
– Ex-Gov. Chet Culver?
– State Sen. Majority Leader Mike Gronstal?
– State Sen. Pres. Pam Jochum?
– State Sen. Jack Hatch?
– State Sen. Rob Hogg?
– State Rep. Tyler Olson?
– Ex-state Rep. Bob Krause
Likely R
ID Butch Otter
– Rep. Raúl Labrador?
– LG Brad Little?
Safe R
IL Pat Quinn
– AG Lisa Madigan?
– Ex-White House CoS William Daley
– Treasurer Dan Rutherford
– 2010 nominee Bill Brady
– 2010 candidate Kirk Dillard
– Venture capitalist Bruce Rauner
Leans D
KS Sam Brownback
Safe R
MA Deval Patrick
– Treasurer Steve Grossman?
– Rep. Michael Capuano?
– Ex-federal health care official Donald Berwick
– State Senate President Therese Murray?
– Biotech exec. Joe Avellone
– Ex-Sen. Scott Brown?
– 2010 nominee Charlie Baker?
MD Martin O’Malley
– LG Anthony Brown
– AG Doug Gansler?
– Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger?
– State Del. Heather Mizeur?
– Harford Co. Executive David Craig
– Delegate Ron George
– Former RNC chairman Michael Steele?
– Ex-Ehrlich Cabinet secretary Larry Hogan?
– Frederick Co. Board of Commissioners Pres. Blaine Young?
– 2010 House candidate Charles Lollar
Leans D
ME Paul LePage
– Rep. Mike Michaud?
– Ex-Gov. John Baldacci?
– Outgoing SBA Admin. Karen Mills?
– Ex-state House Speaker Hannah Pingree?
– State House Speaker Mark Eves?
– Yarmouth Town Councilor Steve Woods
– 2010 independent candidate Eliot Cutler Leans Dem/Indie
MI Rick Snyder
– Ex-Rep. Mark Schauer Toss-up
MN Mark Dayton
– Hennepin Co. Commissioner Jeff Johnson
– 2010 candidate Marty Seifert?
– State Rep. Kurt Zellers
– State Sen. Min. Leader David Hann?
– State Sen. Dave Thompson?
– Businessman Scott Honour
Likely D
NE Dave Heineman
– State Sen. Charlie Janssen
– State Sen. Beau McCoy?
– Auditor Mike Foley?
– Treasurer Don Stenberg?
– State Sen. Tom Carlson?
– Cattle rancher Charles Herbster?
– Center for Rural Affairs Executive Director Chuck Hassebrook
– State Sen. Steve Lathrop?
– Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler?
Likely R
NH Maggie Hassan
– 2012 candidate Kevin Smith?
– Executive Councilor Chris Sununu?
– Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas?
– State Sen. Andy Sanborn?
– State Rep. George Lambert?
Likely D
NJ (2013) Chris Christie
– State Sen. Barbara Buono Safe R
NM Susana Martinez
– AG Gary King
– State Senator Linda Lopez
– State Sen. Joe Cervantes?
– State Sen. Howie Morales?
– State Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez?
– 2010 LG nominee Brian Colon?
Likely R
NV Brian Sandoval
– Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak? Likely R
NY Andrew Cuomo
– Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin? Safe D
OH John Kasich
– Cuyahoga Co. Executive Ed FitzGerald Likely R
OK Mary Fallin
Safe R
OR John Kitzhaber
– Businessman Jon Justesen Safe D
PA Tom Corbett
– Rep. Allyson Schwartz
– Treasurer Rob McCord
– Ex-head of PA Dept. of Env. Protection John Hanger
– Ex-head of PA Dept. of Env. Protection Kathleen McGinty
– Ex-Revenue Sec. Tom Wolf
– Lebanon County Commissioner Jo Ellen Litz
– Pastor Max Myers
Leans D
RI Lincoln Chafee
– Treasurer Gina Raimondo?
– Providence Mayor Angel Taveras?
– Cranston Mayor Allan Fung?
– Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian?
– 2012 Moderate Party nominee Ken Block Likely D
SC Nikki Haley
– 2010 nominee Vincent Sheheen Leans R
SD Dennis Daugaard
Safe R
TN Bill Haslam
– State House Min. Leader Craig Fitzhugh? Safe R
TX Rick Perry
– AG Greg Abbott?
– Former state party chair Tom Pauken
General:Safe R
VA (2013) Bob McDonnell
– AG Ken Cuccinelli – 2009 candidate Terry McAuliffe Toss-up
VT Peter Shumlin
Safe D
WI Scott Walker
– Assembly Min. Leader Peter Barca?
– Businessman Kevin Conroy?
– 2012 Recall LG nominee Mahlon Mitchell?
Likely R
WY Matt Mead
– Sup’dent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill
– Retired surgeon Taylor Haynes?
Safe R

Written by
Data Journalism Editor

Rich, the People's Pundit, is the Data Journalism Editor at PPD and Director of the PPD Election Projection Model. He is also the Director of Big Data Poll, and author of "Our Virtuous Republic: The Forgotten Clause in the American Social Contract."

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