The conventional wisdom about 2010 can be summarized as follows; Republicans will pick up some seats in the House, maybe a few in the Senate, and Democrats will retain control. More and more, though, that CW is turning to the governor's races as the most consequential. I think the CW is right. Nearly 80 percent of Americans will choose their state leaders on the eve of the first and only congressional redistricting of the Obama era. Democrats have the chance to consolidate gains at the state legislature level, and Republicans have the chance to prevent the Democrats from exploiting the national/natural demographic drift toward the Democrats. Including New Jersey and Virginia, Democrats will be trying to hold onto 22 seats; Republicans will try to keep 16 seats.
Races in New York, California, Florida and Texas will be -- already are! -- competitive. In Texas and California, the media will be riveted by intense and potentially clarifying primaries on the Republican side. At least six races
are absolute tossups: California, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Michigan, Arizona and Nevada. Republicans see pick-up opportunities in Arizona, in Colorado, in Ohio, in Pennsylvania and in Kansas, where former Sen. Sam Brownback plans a run and where the Democratic incumbent doesn't want to run for a full term.
Democrats are targeting Minnesota and California, among other states, although why anyone would want that job right now is beyond me. Florida's going to be a great race to watch: the likely Democratic nominee, Alex Sink, and the likely Republican nominee, Bill McCollum, are both known commodities and both quirky campaigners. The partisan tides are evenly balanced, as are the party organizations.
Races in both Pennsylvania and Colorado will test the degree to which recent Democratic gains in both of those states are ephemeral. In Michigan, the most recession-battered state in the union, a half dozen Republicans are gearing for the primary; no big name Democrat has yet declared.
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is a senior fellow at the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership and Policy.