If we wanted to give an alternate title to the Power Rankings this month ("back to school", from a calendar perspective, made the most sense), we could have selected from two worthy options.
This could have been:
Daily Kos Elections Power Rankings: The Governors (Revenge of the Primary Effect)Or, perhaps it could have been:
Daily Kos Elections Power Rankings: The Governors (Everyone in the Pool!)That's because, unlike the Senate Power Rankings, the late-developing primaries did play a small amount of Hell with the gubernatorial list this month, including launching a new #1 race that, one has to believe, won't be in the top spot come November.
Also, for the first time in the history of the Power Rankings, every single race on the gubernatorial roster scored at least single points, meaning they were either polled (which is precisely what happened) or merited a mention in our DKE daily digests.
So, with the primaries garnering attention, and everyone getting on the board, how did the monthly top ten shake out? Head past the jump to find out.
(As always, for those curious about the criteria for determining these power rankings, feel free to jump to the end of the piece to peruse the methodology.)
As a reminder, don't forget that the Power Rankings for any given month are based on activity from the previous month. Therefore, when I say that the primaries impacted the placement of a state like, say, Hawaii, we aren't hallucinating: we are well aware that said primary was three weeks ago. But since the August Power Rankings are based on what happened in July, the upsurge in interest in the Democratic primary in Hawaii (with good reason, as it turned out) is one of the primary factors that drove the Aloha State into the Power Rankings for the first time.
That said, pretty much half the field owes their placement in the rankings, in whole or in part, to primaries that either culminated in July, or were in their latter stages. That includes the new occupant of the top step on the ladder: Massachusetts.
Massachusetts earns its place atop the pyramid, in no small part, thanks to the Boston Globe. Despite the fact that the Democratic primary in Massachusetts has long been considered a sleepy affair (though business has definitely picked up as of late), and despite the fact that the general election battle is arguably a second-tier pickup chance for the GOP, the Globe commissioned a pollster to conduct primary and general election polling every single week. They have done so now for nearly two months, and the net result is that Massachusetts, for July (and most likely for August, as well) is the most-polled gubernatorial race in the nation.
Contrast that with Florida, which has been either first or second in all four editions of the gubernatorial Power Rankings to date. Florida had a contested primary, as well, but because it was viewed as one-sided, it went virtually unpolled. Therefore, despite the greater interest in Florida, it was polled less than half as much.
Attention bestowed on primary races also had at least some impact on the placement of Kansas (though, as we'll discuss, that one may have some staying power), Connecticut, and Arizona in the top ten, as well.
Despite the influence of the primary schedule, some stalwarts are starting to appear. Florida is the behemoth of the field, but Michigan, Colorado, and Illinois are now fairly consistently in the top tier, as well.
As mentioned earlier, the whole field gets mentioned in the rundown of the "also rans." One that just missed the cut for the top ten was a stunner: Wisconsin. A bold prediction—it might not be there now, it might not be there in September, but it will be there at crunch time. It looks so competitive that it is hard to conceive of a situation, short of a "game changer," where it doesn't get a ton of polling come October.
So, in addition to Wisconsin, which came in 11th place with 30 points, here is the rest of the also-rans, in order: Georgia (Deal—30 points); New Mexico (Martinez—27 points); South Carolina (Haley—23 points); Maine (LePage—22 points); Pennsylvania (Corbett—21 points); Ohio (Kasich—21 points); Iowa (Branstad—19 points); Maryland (OPEN SEAT—down from 2nd place!—15 points); Rhode Island (OPEN SEAT—14 points); New York (Cuomo—14 points); Oklahoma (Fallin—14 points); Alaska (Parnell—14 points); Minnesota (Dayton—14 points); California (Brown—13 points); New Hampshire (Hassan—13 points); Texas (OPEN SEAT—12 points); Nebraska (OPEN SEAT—9 points); Oregon (Kitzhaber—9 points); Nevada (Sandoval—8 points); Alabama (Bentley—4 points); Idaho (Otter—4 points); South Dakota (Daugaard—4 points); Tennessee (Haslam—4 points); Vermont (Shumlin—4 points); Wyoming (Mead—4 points).
Thanks to the CBS/YouGov collaboration, every single state earned at least one point this month, because in late July they polled every gubernatorial race. Amusingly, they'll have to alter their polling this month, because three of the people they polled (Hawaii Gov. Neal Abercrombie, GOP contender Marty Seifert in Minnesota, and Tennessee Democrat John McKamey) failed to earn their party's nominations, rendering their polling moot (none were all that close to winning their general elections, as it happened).
As for the races that do continue on to November, here is the (late) August edition of the Daily Kos Power Rankings for the gubernatorial elections of 2014.
#10—KANSAS (31 points)—DKE Rating: Tossup
(Last month: NR)
It's a little hard to believe that, in what could best be described as a neutral to slightly challenging climate for Democrats, we here at DK Elections just moved the gubernatorial race in a very red state to tossup status. But that's just what happened, as incumbent Republican Gov. Sam Brownback just seems unable to get out of his own way in Kansas. What's more: it looks like state Democrats are planning to go on the offensive on health care, blasting Brownback for refusing Medicaid expansion in a state where that refusal meant a denial of access to roughly 100,000 Kansas residents. Want an even clearer sign that Brownback is screwed? He's releasing internal polling that shows him leading...by one point. And sitting at 43 percent! All this has to leave national Republicans grumbling about what's the matter in Kansas.
#9—ARKANSAS (31 points)—DKE Rating: Leans Republican
(Last month: 9)
A less celebratory ratings change for Democrats has also happened in the past month, where DK Elections decided to downgrade the prospects for Democrats in Arkansas, where the battle to replace outgoing Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe is being waged between two former members of the House: Democrat Mike Ross and Republican Asa Hutchinson. Other than a recent poll for the Arkansas Democratic Party (which had the race deadlocked at 44), you have to go back to April to find a poll that has Ross in the lead. It's hard to find someone that thinks Hutchinson is comfortably ahead, but it's hard to dispute that he probably has a modest lead at this point.
#8—HAWAII (31 points)—DKE Rating: Leans Democratic
(Last month: Not Ranked)
Well, that was interesting. Hawaii makes its inaugural appearance in the Power Rankings, and the race looks very different than it did six months ago. You have to be quite the electoral historian to find an incumbent who was defeated by a more resounding margin than Neal Abercrombie did in Hawaii, losing to state legislator David Ige by a better than two-to-one margin. What happened? Our own Skaje offered an excellent take, and the ability of Sen. Brian Schatz to survive showed it was not a universal "throw the bums out" sentiment. Now Ige squares off with Republican Duke Aiona, the former lt. governor who is probably as solid a candidate as the GOP could field here. Aiona actually has led in most polls, but that is almost certainly attributed to Ige's virtually nonexistent name recognition. It's awfully tough for a Republican to win in Hawaii, when all is said and done ... but not impossible.
#7—CONNECTICUT (32 points)—DKE Rating: Tossup
(Last month: NR)
Another race that is becoming more perilous for the Democrats is the re-election bid for incumbent Democrat Dan Malloy in Connecticut. Earlier in the month, Republicans nominated 2010 candidate Tom Foley (who, it must be said, won his primary in underwhelming fashion). Foley has a soft underbelly, in the form of a colossal gaffe in late July where he blamed workers at a plant closure for their plight. That said, Malloy's poll numbers suck mightily, which necessitated the move to tossup status. However, Malloy did catch a pretty big break this past week, when there was a third-party candidate double whammy in his favor. Not only did a tea partier (Joe Visconti) qualify for the November ballot, but it appears as if a former state legislator running to Malloy's left (education activist Jonathan Pelto) did not qualify for the ballot.
#6—ILLINOIS (39 points)—DKE Rating: Leans Republican
(Last month: 10)
Illinois is another state that switched designations in the past month, also in the direction of the GOP. Here, the writing has been on the wall for a while. Two things kept the race at tossup status: the fact that virtually all of the polling was sponsored by Republican allies and affiliates, and the natural bluish terrain in Illinois. However, in July, Democrats polled there twice in July, and had Quinn trailing both times. Granted, in both polls he was within striking distance. But, as was the case for Brownback, when even your own sponsored polls have you trailing, that is, as they would say in poker, a tell.
#5—COLORADO (40 points)—DKE Rating: Leans Democratic
(Last month: 8)
While this race is labelled as "leans Democratic" in our rankings, recent polling gives every indication that it could be really close when all is said and done. Republican nominee Bob Beauprez is only trailing by an average of around 2 points in the past half-dozen polls here (though, oddly, the race has been unpolled now for over three weeks). Mischievious Democrats might've had their hopes elevated late in July, when it looked like Tom Tancredo might toss a turd in the punch bowl (he was demanding that Chris Christie admit that the RGA had interfered in Colorado's GOP primary on Beauprez's behalf). One might've even speculated that Tancredo would become a persistent thorn in Beauprez's side. Alas, he seems more interested in being a thorn in Christie's side: he recently declared in an MSNBC interview that his goal in life is to keep Christie from getting the GOP presidential nomination. Even if it means running. For reals.
#4—MICHIGAN (48 points)—DKE Rating: Tossup
(Last month: 4)
At one point in the spring, scolds might have scoffed at DKE's decision to label this race a tossup. After all, from March through May, incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Snyder had an average lead of nearly seven points over Democrat Mark Schauer. But, as spring lapsed into summer, this became a real race. In the dozen polls since, Snyder's lead has slid to about half of that margin, and the most recent poll there actually puts Schauer into a lead, albeit by a small margin. Is this poll a fluke? We'll know when more data gets thrown on the pile. But the recent flooding in Detroit led to a ginormous shit the bed moment by Governor Snyder, so there is ample reason to think it is legit.
#3—ARIZONA (48 points)—DKE Rating: Leans Republican
(Last month: 3)
Finally, after one of the longer and more competitive primary elections on the board, the general election battle is joined, as state treasurer and former Cold Stone Creamery CEO Doug Ducey handily won the Republican nomination for governor. He will now face Democrat Fred DuVal (a former state chairman) in a race that PPP sees, at the outset, as a coin flip. Here, however, terrain probably favors the GOP. Wisely, DuVal is trying to broaden his appeal, having former Republican state Attorney General Grant Woods appear in an early DuVal general election ad. Ducey, with resources aplenty and a nominally red state, might start off as the favorite, but this might be a state that hangs out in the Power Rankings, even after the primary election dust has settled.
#2—FLORIDA (49 points)—DKE Rating: Tossup
(Last month: 1)
Florida also dispensed with its primary elections this week, but unlike Arizona there was absolutely zero intrigue in Florida's gubernatorial primary results. Incumbent Gov. Rick Scott and Democrat Charlie Crist sailed through their primaries, and head into what will be the most watched (and presumably, most expensive) gubernatorial election in the nation this fall. One could argue that Crist's primary win was the more significant of the two. There were some whispers in the political conversation that even though Nan Rich was a huge underdog, she could get a sizable symbolic vote from Democrats who hadn't quite bought Crist's conversion to the Democratic Party. After all, it was not long ago that Crist was, of course, the Republican governor of the state. However, that symbolic thumbing of the nose simply never materialized, and Crist heads to November with a whale of a battle on his hands. Scott's poll numbers are weak, but a deluge of tough volleys directed at Crist have also softened the challenger's numbers badly. At this point, it seems to have become a question of whether this election will be a referendum on Scott, or on Crist.
#1—MASSACHUSETTS (63 points)—DKE Rating: Likely Democratic
(Last month: 6)
As stated earlier, the unceasing barrage of data in this race is what, based on the rubric for the Power Rankings, propels it to the top spot on the pyramid. There are some legitimate reasons for interest, and to the credit of the Globe, we might not have seen it coming without their weekly poll drops. Slowly, but quite surely, the Democratic primary here has become a real race. State Treasurer Steve Grossman has been closing on the longtime frontrunner (Attorney General Martha Coakley), with the most recent survey there showing Coakley's lead has evaporated down to around a dozen points. Debates between the two (as well as third candidate Don Berwick) have been feisty, to say the least. Should Coakley hold on, she will almost certainly face 2010 GOP nominee Charlie Baker, who seems in little danger of losing his nomination fight to tea party favorite Mark Fisher. That primary comes on the final night of the 2014 primary schedule (not counting the non-primary in Louisiana, of course): Tuesday, September 9th.
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With the rankings in the books, here, as promised for those interested, is the statement about the rubric for determining the power rankings:
THE RUBRIC: Three criteria were used to generate our top 10 list.
One is competitiveness. This was done rather easily, utilizing our DKE Gubernatorial race ratings. If a race had been designated by the Daily Kos Elections crew as a "toss-up," that netted that race 15 points. If the race was designated as a "lean" D/R race, it was worth 10 points. If the race was designated as a "likely" D/R contest, it was worth five points.
The second criteria is newsworthiness. Some races, for lack of a more elegant way of putting it, have more going on than others. The criteria here was also objective: a gubernatorial race received a single point for every day in the past month in which it was mentioned in a Daily Kos Elections Daily Digest. For those who are curious, top spot during this month went to Arizona, where a flurry of campaign ads (among other factors) meant that race was mentioned in our digests a total of 14 times.
The final criteria is "pollworthiness". Media outlets, campaigns, and polling firms are not going to poll a race for nothing. The more intriguing races are going to get more data points, typically. So, four points were awarded for each poll conducted (primary or general) in a given state's gubernatorial race, as logged in our comprehensive DKE polling database. As mentioned in the piece, Massachusetts rocketed up to the top of the charts, propelled by (gulp!) thirteen general election and primary election polls.
The "tiebreaker," when races have the same number of points accumulated, is as follows: 1) The first tie-breaker is the number of mentions in the month ("newsworthiness"); 2) The second tie-breaker, should their number of mentions also be equal, is that the state that was lower in the rankings in the previous month gets the higher of the rankings among the tied races. If last month was also a tie, it goes back to previous months until the tie is broken.