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I promised it earlier and I’ll try to deliver.  About a month ago, I took a VERY early look at the 2014 Senate elections and all the jockeying that’s going around.  Yes, we are about 17 months away from November of 2014 but I find it relevant to take an early pulse of the races to see what needs to happen.

As you know however, there are TWO races that are happening in only five short months so we will begin our ultra-early preview of 2014 with a look at 2013.  Makes sense, right?

Here’s the guide we will use for this (and future updates):

  • REPUBLICAN LOCK – 100% chance of GOP retention
  • LIKELY REPUBLICAN – Republican is heavily favored to retain seat
  • LEAN REPUBLICAN – Republican is slightly favored.
  • TOSSUP – 50/50 shot at predicting who wins.
  • LEAN DEMOCRAT – Democrat is slightly favored.
  • LIKELY DEMOCRAT – Democrat is heavily favored to retain seat
  • DEMOCRATIC LOCK – 100% chance of Democratic retention

2013 Gubernatorial Races

New Jersey – LIKELY REPUBLICAN

  • Republican incumbent Chris Christie is basically a lock for re-election against state Sen. Barbara Buono.  Buono has to deal with Democratic infighting and going up against someone as popular as Christie.  Christie’s approvals remain very high and he is still enjoying the glow that he earned following the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.  The one key that Buono would have is that Democrats have a 700,000 voter registration advantage over Republicans and if by somehow, Democrats can get the special election for Senate to occur on the same date as the general, well….there’s a 1% chance, right?

VIRGINIA – TOSSUP

  • This is a weird race.  Really, really weird.  In most races, the presence of E.W. Jackson anywhere near the ticket would be the sole “highlight”.  While Jackson does take the cake in terms of media headlines, this race between Republican AG Ken Cuccinelli and former DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe is a pure tossup.  Why is it a tossup?  Even though McAuliffe leads a PPP poll on the race, he is kind of an unlikable candidate thanks to his ties with big money and just being hard to like.  But McAuliffe isn’t controversial in his ideas, unlike the Tea Party firebrand Cucinnelli and with E.W. Jackson just below Cooch; its going to be hard.  Still pure tossup as both candidates seem to be fighting on “who is the lesser evil”.

2014 Gubernatorial Races

ALABAMA – REPUBLICAN LOCK

  • Incumbent Robert Bentley might face a primary from the right (somehow there is a right to Bentley), but the lack of a Democratic bench makes this a practical lock for the Republican Party.

ALASKA – REPUBLICAN LOCK

  • Incumbent Sean Parnell inherited the seat after the resignation of Sarah Palin and again, could face a primary.  The Democratic bench slightly exists in Alaska, surprisingly, but I don’t see either Ethan Berkowitz or Scott McAdams being able to knock off a generic Republican.

ARIZONA – LIKELY REPUBLICAN

  • Jan Brewer is term-limited and Republicans hold a registration edge, still with an unknown candidate in a purplish state (Democrats are settled on Fred Duval, former Arizona Board of Regents chairman) makes this a likely Republican hold.

ARKANSAS – LEAN REPUBLICAN

  • Republicans might settle on former Rep. Asa Hutchinson who was the party nominee in 2006 and Democrats are looking at former LG Bill Halter (who most recently unsuccessfully challenged then-Sen. Blanche Lincoln in a primary in 2010) or former Rep. Mike Ross.  Ross is a credible challenger in Arkansas while Halter will be more of a fan amongst those on the netroots.  Still, lean Republican for now.

CALIFORNIA – DEMOCRATIC LOCK

  • Incumbent Jerry Brown hasn’t aired his intentions on whether or not to run for reelection but even if its him, AG Kamala Harris or LG Gavin Newsom as the Democratic nominee, they have this seat on lockdown.  The Republican Party bench in California is nothing less than laughable at this point.

COLORADO – LIKELY DEMOCRAT

  • Incumbent Governor John Hickenlooper is pretty popular in Colorado though I’m waiting to see if his stance on gun reform will lead to a better challenger than Tom Tancredo.  If Tancredo is the Republican nominee, than this seat gets upgraded to a lock and if someone else comes up, I’ll re-evaluate.  Still likely Hick’s seat.

CONNECTICUT – LIKELY DEMOCRAT

  • Incumbent Dan Malloy is in a blue state with a small Republican bench and as of now, I don’t see a path to victory for Republicans.  That could be subject to change but as of now, nothing yet.  If Tom Foley couldn’t win the seat in the Republican wave year of 2010, I doubt it happens in 2014.

FLORIDA – LEAN DEMOCRAT 

  • There are two seats that I think will Democrats will gain back in 2014 and Florida is one of them.  Incumbent Rick Scott is unpopular and unlikely to redeem himself in the next 17 months and he will have to be an underdog against 2010 challenger Alex Sink, former Governor (and now Democrat) Charlie Crist or even Sen. Bill Nelson.  This will be hard for Republicans to hold though if Scott “retires” than it could be a tossup.

GEORGIA – LIKELY REPUBLICAN

  • This is almost the same scenario as Connecticut with only an inverse of the parties.  It’ll be for the Democrats to find a challenger from their weak (but young) bench to go into a race in which they will likely lose to incumbent Nathan Deal.

HAWAII – DEMOCRATIC LOCK

  • If you thought the Republican bench in California was miserable, than you haven’t seen Hawaii.  Hawaii is essentially a one-party state and even if its not incumbent Neil Abercrombie as the Democratic nominee; the Democrat will win.

IDAHO – REPUBLICAN LOCK

  • There is no Democratic bench in Idaho.  Its one of the most Republican states in the nation and whether its incumbent Butch Otter or someone else, this seat is safely red.

ILLINOIS – LEAN DEMOCRAT

  • Illinois is a safely blue seat but incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn is highly unpopular and if AG Lisa Madigan doesn’t mount a primary challenge (or loses), than this race gets mighty interesting unless Joe Walsh wins the Republican primary; than it’ll be ugly.

IOWA – LIKELY REPUBLICAN

  • Terry Branstad is in the midst of his fifth nonconsecutive term as Governor and the top Democratic challengers are not running (Bruce Braley and Tom Vilsack) against him.  If Branstad decides he’s tired of being Governor, we’ll re-evaluate but all signs show that he’s going to go for term #6.

KANSAS – REPUBLICAN LOCK

  • See, Idaho.

MAINE – TOSSUP

  • Governor Paul LePage is a Tea Party sympathizer and doesn’t fit in well in the purple state of Maine.  However, Independent challenger Eliot Cutler (who narrowly missed out on the governorship in 2010) is running again and Democrats have yet to endorse him as a candidate.  There will likely be another fractured vote in which it’ll be a coin toss between LePage or Cutler.  If Democrats get behind Cutler, than it’s the rare “Likely Independent”.

MARYLAND – DEMOCRATIC LOCK

  • Martin O’Malley is term-limited but Maryland is one of the safest Democratic states in the nation and has one of the weakest Republican benches too.  LG Anthony Brown is running for the Democrats and a likely cinch to win it all.

MASSACHUSETTS – LIKELY DEMOCRAT

  • Massachusetts is very blue and the flirtation that Scott Brown is having about running for Senator in New Hampshire could ruin the top Republican prospect’s image in the state.  However, Deval Patrick isn’t running for reelection and Massachusetts has been open to having “moderate” Republican Governors.

MICHIGAN – TOSSUP

  • Incumbent Governor Rick Snyder has not had a smooth going as Governor and the Democratic Party of Michigan is settled on former Rep. Mark Schauer as its nominee. I’m going to wait on this a little bit longer but this is one of the states that Democrats should be able to turn blue.  It’ll be hard for Snyder to recover.  Tossup for now.

MINNESOTA – DEMOCRATIC LOCK

  • There are few Republicans that could mount a statewide challenge in Minnesota and the ones that can are not running (Tim Pawlenty, Norm Coleman, Erik Paulsen).  Mark Dayton should coast to reelection.

NEBRASKA – REPUBLICAN LOCK

  • It’s Nebraska after all but there could be an interesting Republican primary here, but Nebraska doesn’t look like the state that voted for Democrats such as Bob Kerrey and Ben Nelson anymore.

NEVADA – LIKELY REPUBLICAN

  • Governor Brian Sandoval is fairly uncontroversial but Nevada is trending blue.  Still, I don’t expect the Democrats to find a challenger to knock off Sandoval as of yet; but its not a longshot.

NEW HAMPSHIRE – LIKELY DEMOCRAT

  • The Republican bench in New Hampshire is stronger than some other Northeastern states but its unlikely they find a suitable challenger to knock off incumbent Maggie Hassan.  Expect Democrats to easily coast into this seat.

NEW MEXICO – LIKELY REPUBLICAN

  • See, Nevada.  Governor Susana Martinez is talked about as a possible national candidate in 2016 but New Mexico is turning blue fast.

NEW YORK – DEMOCRATIC LOCK

  • Governor Andrew Cuomo will likely be a national candidate in 2016 and New York is equal to California in terms of the barrenness of the Republican bench.

OHIO – LEAN REPUBLICAN

  • Governor John Kasich has rebounded a tad from his low points in the beginning of his term but given Ohio’s swing state status; nothing is certain.  Democrats are running Ed FitzGerald and he has the establishment support.  It might not be able to happen but expect Democrats to run a tough campaign in Ohio.

OKLAHOMA – REPUBLICAN LOCK

  • See Idaho, Kansas.

OREGON – DEMOCRATIC LOCK

  • See, Minnesota.

PENNSYLVANIA – LEAN DEMOCRAT

  • If the Democrats cannot beat Tom Corbett in 2014, than they will have serious problems that November.  Corbett is doggedly unpopular and has likely brought the state GOP down with him.  The attacks on public education, the Penn State scandal and other missteps have made Corbett grossly unpopular in a still-blue seat.  Expect Rep. Allyson Schwartz to be the first female Governor in Pennsylvania history.

RHODE ISLAND – TOSSUP

  • Lincoln Chafee, who has now registered with the Democratic Party after governing as  an Independent; is unpopular and will have a tough go at being reelected (that is if he doesn’t get ousted in a primary first).  Still, Rhode Island is very blue so Chafee has that in his favor.  This race is subject to change.

SOUTH CAROLINA – LEAN REPUBLICAN

  • South Carolina is very red but Nikki Haley is not too popular and likely Democratic nominee Vincent Shaheen almost pulled off the upset in 2010 of all years.  Don’t sleep on this race that is guaranteed to get ugly.

SOUTH DAKOTA – REPUBLICAN LOCK

  • See Idaho, Kansas, Oklahoma.

TENNESSEE – REPUBLICAN LOCK

  • See Idaho, Kansas, Oklahoma, South Dakota.

TEXAS – REPUBLICAN LOCK

  • This will actually get a bit of writeup because there’s a shot of some weird things happening.  Rick Perry has been the Governor since 2000 and is eligible to run again in which I expect him to.  However, Perry has slowly made himself pretty unpopular in Texas after his disastrous presidential campaign.  The two Democratic rising stars in the state in Julian Castro and Wendy Davis aren’t running regardless so it makes it a Republican lock but its a race worth watching.

VERMONT – DEMOCRATIC LOCK

  • See Minnesota, Oregon.

WISCONSIN – LIKELY REPUBLICAN

  • Scott Walker survived a recall attempt and even though Wisconsin is blue, most of the top-tier challengers appear to be staying away.  Scott Walker’s popularity has stayed at around 50% so its going to be tough but I expect them to drop down a little bit.  Still, likely Republican.

WYOMING – REPUBLICAN LOCK

  • See, Idaho, Kansas, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee.
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