Read: The biggest story of the midterms is one the Democrats aren’t telling
“It’s a signal that Donald Trump has been a disaster as president, that he’s a failure as president, and the people of the Midwest are rising up in a big blue wave against him. That’s going to be disaster for his reelection,” said J. B. Pritzker, who’s widely expected to win the race in Illinois and move the biggest state currently under GOP control back to the Democrats.
Pritzker has put millions of his own fortune up against Bruce Rauner, the self-funding Republican who won the state in the 2014 red wave. “Think about the power of these large states and the ability to set standards for the nation,” Pritzker said. “That’s a great place for the Democratic Party to have rebuilt.”
Jay Inslee, the governor of Washington and the chair of the Democratic Governors Association, said that he’d like to see more than half the American population under Democratic governors after the midterms, which is very much in reach given the polls in currently Republican-held big states, including Michigan and Illinois. Through that, he said, Democrats will move further into what has effectively been an antifederalist stance that they’ve adopted since Trump took office, splitting from the federal government when they’ve disagreed with his policies.
Read: Even Scott Walker says he’s ‘at risk’ in Wisconsin
“People are thinking about health care, and they know their health care can be protected by governors, and they know that effectively Donald Trump cannot stop governors from providing health care for people in their states. And they know that Donald Trump cannot stop governors from fighting climate change and creating clean-energy jobs. And they know that Donald Trump can’t stop Democratic governors from building roads and bridges and public transit,” Inslee said Saturday, between campaign stops for Andrew Gillum in Florida. “He can’t stop us. He can create anxiety and tweets.”
Right now, just 16 states have Democratic governors; two of the bluest—Maryland and Massachusetts—have Republican governors who are the two most popular in the country, and both easily expected to win their own reelections. Most of the other Democrats are in other prime Democratic territories. But there’s been movement on the ground, backed up by quiet investment from Democrats in Washington, in places where Democrats don’t usually have a shot. Kansas, South Dakota, and Oklahoma all have candidates within the margin of error in polls, and leading in “favorability” ratings among voters asked whom they have a better opinion of. They are looking strong in New Mexico and Maine, and hoping for wins by Gillum in Florida and Stacey Abrams in Georgia. Their races, both in big southern states, are seen as toss-ups.
There are just two currently Democratic-held states where Republicans appear to be in striking distance, though both are themselves deep blue: Connecticut and Oregon. Democrats already eyeing the national political potential of a new class of local stars, from Gillum, a 39-year-old African American progressive, to Gretchen Whitmer, the mother of high-school students who’s on track for a lay-up win in Michigan off a campaign where she’s repeated her “Fix the Damn Roads” slogan endlessly in her tight midwestern accent.