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State Election Analysis

With less than two weeks to go until the November 8 elections, the stakes are higher than ever. These last two weeks will be absolutely crucial for gubernatorial candidates to win over undecided voters, and campaigns and outside groups are pouring money into these extremely competitive statewide races. Here is our update on the governors races in the twelve states holding gubernatorial elections, complete with update poll numbers, new advertisements from the candidates, and our predictions on which way the races are leaning. 

To view polls and ads from the candidates, click the links in the content below. 
 
Update: Governors Races

Delaware: U.S. Rep. John Carney (D) and State Senator Colin Bonini (R) are squaring off to become Delaware's next governor, as popular Gov. Jack Markell (D) is term-limited and cannot seek re-election. Delaware has been under Democratic trifecta control since 2009 and the state's electoral votes have gone to the Democratic presidential candidate every year since 1992. A Republican has not represented Delaware in the U.S. Senate since in 2001. A recent poll from the University of Delaware Center for Political Communication gives Carney 57% and Bonini 25%.
Our rating: Safe Democrat

Indiana: Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) faces former Speaker of the House John Gregg (D), after Gov. Mike Pence (R) joined the Republican ticket as Trump’s vice presidential candidate. Holcomb is familiar to many Hoosiers because of his current position as Lt. Governor, but Gregg is also well known, having been defeated by Mike Pence in the 2012 gubernatorial election. Though Holcomb has been involved in Indiana politics for almost two decades, he has never been elected to office. As such, his ads reference his time working for popular former Gov. Mitch Daniels, small business and the economy, and Second Amendment rights. Gregg has attacked Holcomb for his affiliation with the Pence administration, which received criticism for its support of the 2015 Religious Freedom Reformation Act. Some of Gregg's ads focus on education and the economy, specifically with regards to the outsourcing of jobs to other countries. The most recent public poll from Gravis shows Gregg leading with 42% to Holcomb’s 38%, with a high number of uncertain voters. The last two weeks will be especially critical, as the Indiana TV, radio, and mobile markets will be flooded with campaign advertisments from both sides.
Our rating: Toss-Up


Missouri: Chris Koster (D) has received endorsements from the National Rifle Association and the Missouri Farm Bureau, which have predominantly endorsed Republicans over Democrats in the past. His opponent, newcomer Eric Greitens (R), has been endorsed by Dr. Ben Carson and numerous Republican State Reps, including Jay Barnes, Kirk Mathews, Nate Walker, and Bill White. A new pro-Koster ad emphasizes these endorsements, promising to protect Second Amendment rights and to invest in rural education. Koster is trying to appeal to Republicans and independents by presenting himself as a moderate. Conversely, a new Greitens ad attacks Koster for supporting Obamacare expansion. Missouri does not have early voting and has strict restrictions on absentee voting, which studies have shown to be heavily utilized by minority voters where available. Recent polling gives Koster a 3 point lead over Greitens, though at this point it is impossible to tell which side will pull off the victory.
Our rating: Toss-Up


Montana: Incumbent Gov. Steve Bullock (D) faces challenger Greg Gianforte (R), in a race to hold the Governor's Mansion. A recent ad from Gianforte emphasizes his experience as a successful entrepreneur and businessman, not a career politician, and focuses on protecting jobs and growing small businesses. As a Democrat in typically-red Montana, Bullock has to appeal to right-leaning voters in order to get re-elected. As such, a new Bullock ad mentions Bullock's record of balancing the budget, cutting taxes and regulations, and supporting small businesses, which are typically buzzwords used by Republican candidates. A poll by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research after a October 10 debate shows incumbent Democrat Steve Bullock ahead of Republican challenger Greg Gianforte, a Bozeman tech entrepreneur, 47% to 45%. We forsee this race only getting closer, as Gianforte's ability to self-fund his campaign means he can afford heavy advertising over these last two weeks, allowing him to make strides with undecided and independent voters.
Our rating: Toss-Up


New Hampshire: Two members of New Hampshire's five-person Executive Council, Colin Van Ostern (D) and Chris Sununu (R) are in a race to become the Granite State's next governor. A pro-Van Ostern ad talks about clean energy and jobs, expressing a positive outlook on the future. An ad from the Sununu campaign shows qualities that will appeal to Republicans, Democrats, and independent voters, discussing Sununu's experience as the CEO of Waterville Valley Resort, a commitment to the environment as a former environmental engineer, and a promise to provide bipartisan leadership. Sununu is leading Van Ostern in favorability and in voter recognition, likely due to the Sununu family’s involvement in New Hampshire politics. A recent poll from NBC/WSJ/Marist  shows Van Ostern with a one point lead, and other polls also show the race in a dead heat. What's interesting about New Hampshire is that the governor's race is very much tied to the presidential results. Polls show Clinton with anywhere from a 3-point to a 15-point lead. If Clinton beats Trump by 10 points or more, we think Van Ostern is all but guaranteed to win. However, if Trump closes the gap by just a few points on Clinton, Sununu has a great shot at becoming the next governor.
Our rating: Toss-Up


North Carolina: Incumbent Gov. Pat McCrory (R) is in a contentious battle for his re-election with State Attorney General Roy Cooper (D). North Carolina faced consequences after losing major state-wide attractions such as the NBA All-Star game when McCrory signed HB2, the "bathroom bill". A Cooper ad specifically mentioned those incidents while advocating for education, families, and children. In this pro-McCrory ad, McCrory talks about the dire state of the North Carolina economy when he took office, and how it is growing fast and doing much better under his tenure as governor. North Carolina is a highly competitve state, and outside groups are pouring lots of money into this race. Notably, the North Carolina Environmental Partnership has spent $1,600,000 on ads against Pat McCrory, and the Democratic Governors Association and Republican Governors Association are also funding advertisements supporting their candidates. Recent polls from Monmouth and NY Times/Siena show McCrory with a one-point lead and Cooper with a six-point lead, respectively. This race is razor-thin, and additional TV and radio advertisements will make a major difference over the next two weeks.
Our rating: Toss-Up


North Dakota: In their respective primary elections for governor and lieutenant governor, Doug Burgum (R) received 68,042 votes, whereas Marvin Nelson (D) received only 17,278 votes. Burgum has received endorsements from former North Dakota Governor Ed Schafer, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, and former Mayor of Dickinson Dennis Johnson. Burgum's most recent ad promises to balance the budget and fix the North Dakota economy, touting his business experience as the former CEO of RightNow Technologies. Nelson, a member of the North Dakota legislature, faces a tough challenge considering the state hasn't had a Democratic governor in almost 25 years. Doug Burgum should win this race handily, and will be the next governor of North Dakota.
Our rating: Safe Republican


Oregon: Current Governor Kate Brown (D) will try to keep her job, as she faces physician Bud Pierce (R) in a special election to finish out the term of Gov. John Kitzhaber (D), who resigned eighteen months ago. This recently released ad for Kate Brown advocates for better wages and leave programs for families, and lays out some of the endorsement she has received. On the other hand, this anti-Brown ad from Bud Pierce's campaign claims her support of a massive tax hike is detrimental to the people of Oregon. A poll from September shows Gov. Brown with a 17 point lead over Bud Pierce. Although Pierce will likely close the gap somewhat, we see Brown winning this race and carrying out the last two years of the Governor's term in this special election.
Our rating: Safe Democrat


Utah: Incumbent Governor Gary Herbert (R) assumed office in 2008 following Governor Jon Huntsman's (R) mid-term resignation. If re-elected, Herbert, who has high approval ratings among all registered voters in the state, will become Utah's longest-serving governor. Herbert will therefore face Mike Weinholtz (D), a businessman in the healthcare industry and newcomer on the political scene. Weinholtz has begun buying up TV advertising time, but it won't be enough to unseat the popular Republican governor. Recent polls show Herbert with an almost 40-point lead over Weinholtz, making this race a shoo-in for Gov. Herbert. 
Our rating: Safe Republican


Vermont: Lt. Gov. Phil Scott (R) faces Sue Minter (D), the former Vermont Secretary of Transportation. Two of Scott's most recent ads feature women voicing their support for Phil Scott, one is a former Planned Parenthood volunteer and board member, and the other is a Democrat. Vermont is a typically blue state, and these ads appeal to that demographic by presenting Scott as a pro-choice moderate. After holding out, Senator Bernie Sanders endorsed Sue Minter two weeks ago, and the two done a few campaign events together. Bernie is very popular in Vermont, though Minter is dragged down by her ties to current Governor Peter Shumlin, who has one of the lowest approval ratings in the country. To counteract this, Minter has released ads showing Democrats like President Obama and Sen. Sanders supporting her. A recent public poll from Vermont Public Radio gives Scott a lead of one point, and another from WCAX shows him leading Minter 47% to 40%. This will be a race to watch over the next two weeks, but at this point, we give the edge to Phil Scott.
Our rating: Leans Republican


Washington: Incumbent Gov. Jay Inslee (D) is seeking re-election against challenger Bill Bryant (R). Recent polls give Inslee a solid lead over Bryant, and it is unlikely that a Republican will win the governorship, as Democrats have held the position for the past thirty years. Inslee has received key endorsements from the Washington Conservation Voters, Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii, and League of Education Voters. Key endorsements for Bill Bryant include Associated General Contractors of Washington, National Electrical Contractors Association, Washington Farm Bureau, Washington Retail Association, U.S. Congressman Dave Reichert, U.S. Congressman Dan Newhouse, and Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoelster.  
Our rating: Safe Democrat


West Virginia: With current Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) term-limited and unable to seek re-election, billionaire Jim Justice (D) and State Senate President Bill Cole (R) are left to contend for the seat. West Virginia is interesting because both candidates are trying to associate themselves with Trump, who is extremely popular within the state. In an ad from Bill Cole, Cole links himself to Trump and associates Justice with Clinton and Obama, who are very much disliked by most West Virginians. Another Cole ad links Cole to Clinton and Obama, and attacks Justice for not paying taxes and fines. A new ad from the Justice campaign is an appeal to Trump supporters, making remarks that "nobody can buy Jim Justice", which is an obvious parallel to the way Trump markets himself. In the past few weeks, NPR released an article stating Jim Justice’s companies owed $15 million in taxes and penalties, which casts doubt on his ability to self-fund his campaign. If Cole is able to spend more on advertising than Justice, West Virginia will be a Republican pickup.
Our rating: Leans Republican

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