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    Ron Faucheux: To know where national politics is going, watch these gubernatorial elections | Opinions and Editorials

    When my oldest son was a young lad, I explained to him about presidents and governors. He concluded, “Oh, I see — governors are little presidents.”

    Both governors and presidents are chief executives and have to deal with legislative bodies that are both unpredictable and headstrong. Of course, job size differs. Governors worry about a single state, while presidents govern all 50, along with foreign affairs.

    Even though pundits tend to focus on congressional elections, governors have a bigger impact on life in each state — from schools, health care and highways to economic development, the environment and law enforcement. They often become national figures (Huey Long, Jerry Brown, Nelson Rockefeller) and even presidents (Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton).

    Currently, there are 27 Republican and 23 Democratic governorships. This November, 36 of them will be on the ballot. Eight are open seats without incumbents and the other 28 are incumbents seeking another term.

    There are seven races of note. Not only are they interesting in their own right, but outcomes could have national significance.

    The first is Florida. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is seeking a second term and is heavily favored, even though recent polls show his lead is modest (3 to 5 points). He’s already raised $172 million for his campaign, which is eleven times more than his Democratic challenger, former Gov. and U.S. Rep. (and onetime Republican) Charlie Crist.

    DeSantis is a machine. He dominates his state’s politics and has strong appeal among conservatives nationwide. If reelected, he may seek the White House in 2024. Without Donald Trump in the race, polls show DeSantis is the top contender for the Republican nomination.

    A smart political tactician who doesn’t shy away from controversy, DeSantis needs a solid victory to cement his Florida base and national standing. A closer-than-expected win this November could take off some of the shine.

    The gubernatorial contest in Michigan is worth watching. Polls show Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer with an average lead of 8 points, but polls often jump around in this crucial swing state.

    Michigan has voted with the winner in the four last presidential elections. It was a critical piece of Trump’s 2016 coalition and was equally vital to Joe Biden’s victory in 2020. If Whitmer loses, it would presage rough times for Democrats; if she wins big, it would be a disturbing sign for Republicans. Whitmer may be a future prospect for national office.

    Pennsylvania is another large swing state. Observers are betting on state Attorney General Josh Shapiro to keep the governorship in the Democratic column. That’s mostly because his Republican opponent, state Sen. Doug Mastriano, holds far-right, pro-Trump views that are seen as too extreme. The average of recent polls puts Shapiro ahead by 8 points.

    Wisconsin went with Trump in 2016 and Biden in 2020. Incumbent Gov. Tony Evers, who defeated Republican Gov. Scott Walker four years ago, has a tough fight on his hands. GOP rival Tim Michels, a businessman, won his party’s nod with Trump’s help. Polling shows a tight contest.

    Nevada voted Democratic in four of the last six presidential elections, but the state is struggling with its partisan identity along with a population influx. Gov. Steve Sisolak, Nevada’s first Democratic governor in two decades, has his hands full. He faces Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, an off-road racer and former Las Vegas police chief, in a state where crime is a big issue.

    Arizona, long Republican-leaning, voted for Biden by a thin margin in 2020. It’s now a key battleground. The gubernatorial race pits Democrat Katie Hobbs, Arizona’s secretary of state, against Republican Kari Lake, a television news anchor who has Trump’s endorsement.

    There is a rematch in Georgia, which also has its share of close elections. Republican Gov. Brian Kemp faces Stacey Abrams, the Democrat he defeated in 2018 by 55,000 votes out of nearly four million cast.

    Abrams claimed her loss in the last gubernatorial election was caused by Republican-sponsored voting rules that discouraged her supporters from casting ballots; she’s since raised millions of dollars to register new voters. Kemp, who was viciously attacked by Trump for not overturning Georgia’s presidential results, has an average polling lead of 5 points.

    Governors may be “little presidents,” but there’s nothing little about these seven campaigns now underway.

    Ron Faucheux is a nonpartisan political analyst based in New Orleans. He publishes, a free nationwide newsletter on public opinion.



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