Even more strikingly, Democrats are also running well for the Rust Belt governorships, including the four now held by Republicans. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, the lone Democratic incumbent, has led comfortably in surveys there. In Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer leads Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette in the contest to succeed outgoing Republican Governor Rick Snyder.
In the other three GOP-held seats, Democrats are running step for step, or better. In Wisconsin, most surveys give the Democrat Tony Evers a small edge over battle-tested Republican Governor Scott Walker. In Iowa, polls show the Democrat Fred Hubbell holding an even narrower advantage over the Republican incumbent, Kim Reynolds. In Ohio, surveys indicate a jump ball between the Democrat Richard Cordray and the Republican Mike DeWine, who are vying to replace outgoing Republican Governor John Kasich.
In the House, Democrats are strongly positioned to gain as many as two seats in both Iowa and Michigan, and perhaps four in Pennsylvania (where they’ve benefited from a new congressional-district map imposed by the state Supreme Court). In Wisconsin and Ohio, Democrats have competitive opportunities but face longer odds.
Across these races, Democrats are benefiting from the same suburban recoil from Trump that’s lifting their prospects elsewhere. Recent NBC/Marist polling in Ohio found Brown leading among white women with a college degree by more than two to one and more narrowly among college-educated white men; in the governor’s race, Cordray led slightly among both groups as well. In Wisconsin, the latest Marquette University Law School poll showed Baldwin and Evers each winning more than three-fifths of college-educated white women; college-educated white men broke narrowly for Evers and split evenly over Baldwin.
But perhaps even more encouraging for Democrats are the sprouts of recovery among working-class white voters—or at least working-class white women. In general, midwestern blue-collar white men still overwhelmingly favor Republicans in this fall’s contests. But in Ohio, the NBC/Marist poll showed Brown leading among non-college-educated white women by double digits, and Cordray trailing only slightly. In Wisconsin, those women prefer Evers narrowly and Baldwin by a 17-point margin. Abby Finkenauer and Cindy Axne, who are forcefully challenging Republican incumbents in two Iowa districts, posted stronger results among non-college-educated whites than almost any other Democrats in the recent House polls conducted by Siena College and The New York Times.
The big question for Democrats is how much of this nascent recovery represents genuine disillusion with Trump among white working-class voters in the Rust Belt. It could be, instead, that there’s a lack of enthusiasm for more traditional Republicans among the blue-collar whites who surged to the polls for the president in 2016. Michael Podhorzer, the political director of the AFL-CIO, says the union federation’s research shows some working-class white women have clearly soured on Trump, largely because of his effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act.