A GOP Governor Takeover?

Congressional campaigns have dominated 2010 election coverage, given the Democrats’ precarious grip on majorities in both Houses. But the New York Times explains how much is at stake beyond Capitol Hill. Both parties have poured millions of dollars into governors’ races across the country, given the redrawing of congressional and state legislative districts that will happen in every state next year. Redistricting happens only every ten years after the US Census is taken, but the process—which is supposed to adjust districts according to demographic changes—has historically been subject to intense politicking and gerrymandering by the party in power.

Governors typically play a key role in overseeing the redistricting process, along with state legislatures—which is partly why the Republican Governors Association has already dumped $11 million into gubernatorial bids. Their Democratic counterpart has pledged to spend $40 million overall in races this year, three times the amount they’ve spent in the past. And there’s even more that’s at stake in this particular election cycle, the Times adds:

The results in the Midwest will also help to define crucial party organizing efforts leading up to the 2012 presidential campaign in some of the most coveted, up-for-grab states — like Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. A governor, the thinking goes, can open fund-raising doors, get-out-the-vote operations and volunteer lists for his or her party’s presidential candidate.

Unfortunately for the Democrats, the same factors that have dampened the party’s prospects in Congressional races extend to the state-level races as well. Moreover, state budget woes have already taken a toll on social services and other immediate, concrete benefits that voters receive. Such fiscal woes are largely due to the poor economy, compounded by Republican obstructionism that held up the extension of aid to state governments. But it will be much harder for Democratic gubernatorial contenders to make that argument convincingly to voters who may be quick to blame the party in power. Certainly, some Democratic gubernatorial contenders in hotly contested states—like Bill White, the Democratic candidate in Texas—are working to distance themselves as much as possible from their Washington counterparts.