Republicans hope for a red wave in governor’s races for 2022, after a big win in blue Virginia and an almost upset in bluer New Jersey, looking mostly in Midwestern states for potential pickups.
Historically, a president’s party takes a beating in midterm elections and the President has a low approval rating. But the Republicans are facing two departures from incumbent governors in blue states, and as former President Trump will also likely play a big role in the midterm election, multiple incumbents are facing primaries.
Miles Coleman, an associate editor for the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, which ranks political contests said that, even though Biden won the state decisively in 2020, a win in Virginia by Republican Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin is one template to consider.
“Nevada, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan are all states where Biden won but performed worse than he performed in Virginia,” Coleman said.
Democrat-held governorships have been moved by each Center for Politics and the Cook Political Report from either likely Democrat or lean Democrat to tossups.
While Democrats are keen about their chances in flipping the governor’s mansions in Arizona, Georgia, Maryland and Massachusetts, the states with Democratic governors that are tossup races Republicans hope to win are Kansas, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
A little more competitive, though still favoring Democrats, states are Minnesota, Maine, Oregon and New Mexico.
Republican Governors Association spokeswoman Joanna Rodriguez spoked how they are aware that those races are competitive: “We have felt those races are competitive for a while because Steve Sisolak, Gretchen Whitmer and Tony Evers are vulnerable not only for their refusal to stand up to the Biden administration but the challenges to their COVID-19 response.”
She added that the business-as-usual politics is failing their states. She said that Kansas is extremely vulnerable because Laura Kelly had been silent on vaccine mandates and the border, continuing: “Biden is failing and his numbers are plummeting. More Americans will see that Republican governors can preserve freedom and opportunity in their states.”
David Turner, spokesman for the Democratic Governors Association said that Democratic governors could be somewhat insulated, even if the widely predicted red wave occurs for congressional races.
“We think that Democrats have strong records to run on regarding the issues people care about in their states. We always believe that governors run outside the national trends. We’ve seen our candidates win in states such as Louisiana and Kentucky where Trump won big,” Turner said.
According to the Center for Politics, in the 19 midterm elections since the end of World War II, the president’s party has lost a net of four governorships per election, so the governors aren’t hit as badly by the national waves that affect members of Congress.
“We are optimistic about Massachusetts, Maryland and Georgia for different reasons. In Georgia, the party is united around Stacey Abrams and whichever Republican emerges from the primary is going to be deeply wounded,” Turner said.
Coleman noted that he thinks that Biden and Trump could have a distinctive impact on the 2022 gubernatorial campaigns that will vary by state: “We do have cases where governors’ races are overwhelmingly decided by the national environment, but sometimes they are decided entirely by state issues.”
“A big criticism was that Terry McAuliffe wouldn’t shut up about Trump in Virginia. But in 2021, Trump wasn’t as visible. It might be an effective strategy if Trump is more visible. On the other hand, for Republicans in Michigan and Wisconsin, states Trump won in 2016, Trump could actually be helpful to candidates there,” Coleman added.
David Perdue, a former U.S. senator, is a notable name endorsed by Trump for gubernatorial candidates nationally, who will challenge Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp in the state’s Republican primary. The winner of the primary will likely face Democrat Stacey Abrams, a former Georgia legislator.
Democrats took losses in November, but more could certainly be on the way.