Sabatos Crystal Ball


Who will win more governors’ races in 2014?

Larry J. Sabato, Director, U.Va. Center for Politics June 12th, 2014

U.Va. Center for Politics Director Larry J. Sabato is contributing a regular column to Politico Magazine. After taking a look at the Senate landscape a few weeks ago, this week he reviews the 36 gubernatorial contests up for grabs in 2014. One note: As part of this column, we have slightly altered our Crystal Ball Outlook for the governors races, tweaking our current projection from a Democratic gain of one to three seats to a gain of just one to two. The column helps explain why. — The Editors

By the looks of the press coverage so far, you’d think the U.S. Senate was the center of the 2014 universe. Of course, we’re all interested in which party wins control of the upper chamber of Congress. But does it matter that much? The 34 states electing senators are simply determining how much more gridlocked Washington will become during the last two years of President Obama’s term.

For a refreshing change of pace, let’s take a look at some contests that actually make a big difference in the lives of many Americans: the 36 elections for governor. It’s not that political polarization isn’t affecting the states, too. There is plenty of gridlock in some states — take a look at the budget and Medicaid deadlock in Virginia, for example. But the more common situation is one-party rule. In 36 states, the same party controls the entire statehouse — the governorship and both houses of the legislature (discounting Nebraska, which has a unique, nonpartisan and unicameral legislature). Most observers would agree that Washington’s toxic level of nastiness and inability to compromise has not yet fully poisoned most state capitols.

I’ve long thought that governor is the best job in American politics. The presidency has been called a “splendid misery,” but the governorship in most places is just splendid. Ask some governors-turned-senators to compare their former and current offices sometime; you’ll see what I mean: Sen. Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat and former governor, wants to be “excited to go to work again,” and apparently is considering leaving his current job for his old one. Sen. Mark Warner, the Virginia Democrat and former governor, contemplated the same thing last year before deciding to run for reelection this year.

To read the rest of the column, please click here.