Why governors could be in for historic losses

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • Focus so far has been on senators, but don’t miss what could happen with governors
  • The list of governors’ losses back to 1960
  • Three reasons why a record number of governors could lose
  • Pot politics… in Louisiana

Record losses possible for governors: Our friends over at First Read noted Tuesday that as many as 11 governors are in jeopardy of losing, in addition to Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who lost in the primary. We dug a little further to see where this could rank historically. In fact, if 12 incumbents lose, including Abercrombie, that would be the most since at least 1960. The most incumbent governors to lose in the last 54 years was 11 in 1962, according to data compiled by the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. Since 1996, just 12 governors have lost TOTAL. Imagine just how big it would be if even HALF of those governors lost. In the last 20 years, an average of less than two governors have lost per cycle. The most incumbent gubernatorial losses in the past 20 years were four each in 1994 — the year of the Contract with America and the Republican Revolution in the House — and 2002. Here’s a full list back to 1960:

Number of incumbent governors who lost bid for reelection:
2012 – 0
2010 – 2
2008 – 0
2006 – 1
2004 – 2
2002 – 4
2000 – 1
1998 – 2
1996 – 0
1994 – 4
1992 – 0
1990 – 6
1988 – 1
1986 – 2
1984 – 2
1982 – 5
1980 – 3
1978 – 5
1976 – 2
1974 – 5
1972 – 2
1970 – 7
1968 – 4
1966 – 7
1964 – 2
1962 – 11
1960 – 6

What accounts for this — ideology, economy, and sheer numbers: There are a few possible factors for what we’re seeing with governors: (1) Ideology. Being a governor has, in the past, been a good launching pad for the presidency, because they are seen as people who get things done, not ideological crusaders. But in many places, ideology matching the national parties has crept into state politics. When that happens, governors are more susceptible to being tied to the national mood. And there is a national climate of dissatisfaction. In the latest polls, about two-thirds of people said the country is off on the wrong track or they are dissatisfied with the direction of the country. In many instances this cycle, there are governors who have governed ideologically and find themselves vulnerable — Sam Brownback in Kansas, Tom Corbett in Pennsylvania, Paul LePage in Maine, Scott Walker in Wisconsin, Rick Scott in Florida (though he, of late, has tried to move to the center on some issues). That will be another Election Night story — it will be something of a referendum on tea party governance…

The economy in many of the states is not great, and there’s a record number of governors running for reelection: (2) It’s the economy… Pocketbook issues often drive voter disenchantment, and in six of the 11 states, the state unemployment rate is higher than the national average; (3) The numbers: Most governors running in the past half century. There are 28 governors seeking reelection. That’s the most since AT LEAST 1960. Of the 28 seeking reelection, 22 are freshmen, first-term governors elected in 2010. It’s hard to oust an incumbent, but even harder to beat one who’s been around a while. Like senators and House members, governors are traditionally reelected at high rates — at an average of 75 percent since 1960, and in the past 20 years, at a whopping 88 percent clip.

Surprising answers on medical marijuana in Louisiana Watching the Louisiana Senate debate Tuesday night, NewsHour’s Lisa Desjardins reports: Big buildup. Sky-high stakes. But in Louisiana last night, the state’s first Senate debate of the cycle managed to make startlingly little news. All three candidates — Democratic incumbent Senator Mary Landrieu, Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy and Republican Rob Maness — devoted their energies to avoiding mistakes and restating their main campaign phrases. But it was worth waiting until the end for an unexpected set of answers to a yes-or-no question. Moderator and Louisiana Public Broadcasting President Beth Courtney asked if the candidates would support legalizing medical marijuana. Republican Cassidy, who is also a medical doctor, paused and responded “Yes.” Maness, known for his Tea Party support, answered, “No.” Then from the left, Democrat Landrieu gave her answer: “No.” In a closely watched, toss-up race, Cassidy and Landrieu each moved across the middle and against party stereotype on medical marijuana.


  • Three weeks before Election Day, President Obama is hitting the campaign trail — mostly for gubernatorial candidates and Michigan Senate candidate Gary Peters.

  • The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has gone off the air in Kentucky, pulling its ads for Alison Lundergan Grimes. This is the time of the cycle when both sides decide when and where is worth the investment. The DSCC has just made a $1 million buy in Georgia.

  • Grimes will get a boost from Hillary Clinton in Kentucky Wednesday.

  • The National Republican Senatorial Committee has launched its first ad in the newly competitive race in South Dakota. The ad tries to tie Democrat Rick Weiland and Independent Larry Pressler to each other.

  • A Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday shows Iowa Republican Joni Ernst’s lead over Democrat Bruce Braley has narrowed to 2 percentage points (47 to 45 percent), down from a six-point spread a month ago. The pollsters note that Independents have shifted toward Braley.

  • From hog castration to biscuits. Ernst is up with a new ad Wednesday. “When I was working fast food,” she says, “I learned the key to a great biscuit is lots of fat. Problem is, Washington thinks the same thing about our budget.”

  • Republicans have an edge among likely voters heading into the November midterms with voters saying they prefer Republicans over Democrats for Congress 46-44 percent, according an NBC/WSJ poll.

  • In Colorado’s Senate race, GOP Rep. Cory Gardner leads Sen. Mark Udall 50 percent to 46 percent in a CNN/ORC poll of likely voters released Wednesday.

  • House Speaker John Boehner is expected to report record fundraising numbers Wednesday — nearly $8 million in the third quarter of this year, which would bring his total for the cycle to about $98 million.

  • The Libertarian running in Iowa’s Senate race died in a plane crash Tuesday.

  • Dan Balz looks at Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s influence on his party.

  • Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and GOP candidate Bruce Rauner sparred over the African American vote in their second debate Tuesday night.

  • The Supreme Court Tuesday night blocked a Texas law that had significantly cut the number of abortion clinics in the state.

  • A second health worker in Texas has tested positive for Ebola. As fear spreads, Republicans like Scott Brown and Thom Tillis have been drawing a link between Ebola and America’s unsecured borders.

  • Is the U.S. prepared for Ebola? What you believe depends on your political stripes.

  • Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news throughout the day, our home page for show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.


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Questions or comments? Email Domenico Montanaro at dmontanaro-at-newshour-dot-org or Rachel Wellford at rwellford-at-newshour-dot-org.

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