Wisconsin is rising and North Carolina is in free fall in POLITICO?s final 2011 gubernatorial rankings of the year.
In the top eight races, Republicans hold distinct advantages in four contests, while Democrats can only be fairly considered a favorite in Missouri. The top three on the list ? West Virginia, Wisconsin and Montana ? are genuine toss-ups.Continue Reading
1. West Virginia
Earl Ray Tomblin earned his first significant policy victory as an elected governor with the passage of the Marcellus Shale drilling bill ? an issue that had stymied lawmakers. Tomblin won plaudits for deftly ?laying the groundwork, negotiating and ultimately, finding the votes.? He?ll need that cachet next year, facing a likely rematch with Bill Maloney, who came within 3 percentage points of Tomblin in the October special and has already filed his 2012 paperwork.
Who won the year: Tomblin
No recent public polling
2. Wisconsin (Up 2 spots)
Even Scott Walker?s allies concede it?s exceeding likely the first-term Republican governor will be on the ballot next year. Recall petitioners have already netted more than a half a million signatures ? and still have until Jan. 17 to net the required 540,208. Walker has shifted into campaign mode, airing multiple television ads, raising $5 million since July and attempting to cast a cloud over the ?unusual? process. But ousting him won?t be as easy as initiating the recall. Democrats privately admit Walker isn?t as radioactive as Ohio?s John Kasich or Florida?s Rick Scott and there?s no consensus yet on the best candidate to upend him.
Who won the year: Wisconsin Democrats
No recent public polling
3. Montana (Down 1 spot)
A Republican poll released this week underscores the main challenge facing the front-runners in both parties: They?re largely unknown and undefined. A plurality of voters haven?t formed an opinion on state Attorney General Steve Bullock or former Rep. Rick Hill. But retired Navy SEAL Cmdr. Neil Livingstone reminded Hill this week that he first must steer through a muddled 10-person GOP primary. Hill, Livingstone said, has had ?two years to put it away and hasn?t done it.? That?s music to Bullock?s ears.
Who won the year: Bullock
Latest poll: Hill 39 percent, Bullock 38 percent (Public Policy Polling, 1,625 voters, Nov. 28-30)
4. Washington (Up 1 spot)
The Evergreen State?s gubernatorial contest once topped the list, but has tumbled from ?most competitive? status due to the strength of Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna?s campaign. Rep. Jay Inslee is shouldering two distinct burdens: discontent with outgoing Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire and the trappings of Washington. Inslee, who has never waged a statewide campaign, has trailed in every recent poll and faces an opponent with a genuine moderate sheen that fits the state and the moment. Another telling indicator that Inslee?s behind: He was first to raise the debate question, calling for a half a dozen showdowns next year.
Who won the year: McKenna
Latest poll: McKenna 44 percent, Inslee 38 percent (SurveyUSA, 549 likely voters, Nov. 21-23)