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Republicans Confident about Prospects in Gubernatorial Races

WASHINGTON – The Republican Governors Association (RGA) says it plans to spend $100 million in the final 100 days before the November elections.

The committee, led by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, began this month with $70 million in the bank. It also raised $26 million in the second quarter, which has put the organization in a “strong financial position,” RGA executive director Phil Cox told reporters.

He said the RGA continues to outraise its Democratic counterpart “two to one.”

The RGA has spent $25 million in the first half of the year in states such as South Carolina, Iowa, and New Mexico.

“The goal of the early money was to narrow the defensive map,” Cox said.

Cox’s comments came at a briefing Wednesday in the Capitol Hill Club, alongside the top officials of all the other leading Republican Party committees.

He said the early buys have allowed Republican incumbents to push their leads into double-digit territory in these three states.

Cox said early spending in Iowa, South Carolina, and New Mexico will let the RGA spend money in other states currently held by Democrats.

These states include Colorado, where the latest Quinnipiac poll shows former Rep. Bob Beauprez in a statistical tie with Gov. John Hickenlooper; Massachusetts, where a recent Boston Globe poll shows Republican Charlie Baker trailing by only 5 points; and Hawaii, where Cox said that a three-way race and the state’s “disastrous implementation of Obamacare” makes Gov. Neil Abercrombie vulnerable.

Republicans are defending GOP-held offices in 22 of the 36 contests for governor up for grabs on the Nov. 4 elections. Eighteen of the 19 Republican incumbents are either tied or currently lead in these races. Some of them are in states that Obama carried in both 2008 and 2012, such as Michigan, as well as Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Florida, Maine, Nevada, and New Mexico.

Cox said there are nine states that are the “most competitive.” These include six states that Obama carried twice and where Republican governors face re-election. The three other states, which Cox described as “tremendous pick up opportunities,” are Arkansas, where Gov. Mike Beebee is retiring; Connecticut, where Gov. Daniel Malloy faces a rematch with the Republican candidate he hardly beat in 2010; and Illinois, where Gov. Pat Quinn’s approval numbers are in the low 30s.

Cox said Senate candidates across the map are benefiting from strong gubernatorial candidates in their states, and they will likely “reinforce one another” on messaging and their ground game.

“Of the 36 governors’ races, we have 25 U.S. Senate races,” Cox said. “Unlike in 2012, in states like Missouri and Indiana, where our governors were distancing themselves from our candidates for the U.S. Senate, we have a great crop of U.S. Senate candidate this year and a great crop of gubernatorial candidates.”

There are four states where governors are running ahead of Senate candidates – Iowa, Michigan, Georgia and North Carolina – and Cox thinks this will help the Senate candidates.

Polling shows Republican Govs. Terry Branstad, Rick Snyder, Nathan Deal, and Pat McCrory doing better with voters than Senate candidates Joni Ernst (Iowa), Terri Lynn Land (Michigan), the two potential challengers to Michelle Nunn in Georgia, and Thom Tillis (N.C.).

The RGA sees Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett and Maine Gov. Paul LePage as its most vulnerable. Nevertheless, Cox said the RGA is “fully committed” to the races in these states.

He highlighted the cases of Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who have turned around negative poll numbers over the past two years.

“Our governors are getting results and their states are moving in the right direction,” Cox said. “They’ve turned deficits into surpluses. They’ve reformed their education, tax…and regulatory regimes. And voters are giving them credit for the reforms they’ve made and for the improving conditions in their states.”

(For complete 2014 midterm coverage, get your campaign fix on The Grid.)

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