Some of the most exciting races of the 2010 election cycle are taking place in the states. California, Texas, New York, and Ohio all feature important statewide races that will have repercussions in 2012 and beyond. A Republican victory in any one of these states is certain to launch a new GOP celebrity. And since the Democrats suffer from a weak bench, they're looking to the big states to highlight some new faces of their own. John Heilemann has a roundup of the campaigns here. Democrats lead in two, Republicans in one, and the other is a tossup.
Let's look at each.
California. Republicans Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner are fighting to take on Democrat and former governor Jerry Brown. Whitman leads the primary, but Brown has a slight edge in the general. Governor Moonbeam is a familiar face to Californians and hard to pin down ideologically. Read Christopher Caldwell's recent column on Brown here. A Brown victory may enthuse California Democrats, but it wouldn't excite the national party. The 71-year-old Brown is a local figure whose moment in the national spotlight passed decades ago.
Texas. Incumbent governor Rick Perry will face Houston mayor Bill White in a Texas showdown. Polls show Perry has a narrow but solid lead. In this week's issue, Fred Barnes writes that "a Perry-for-President bandwagon is all but inevitable, assuming he trounces White." Perry will try to tie White to Barack Obama and the national Democrats while White will argue that Perry is an entrenched incumbent who's got to go. My guess is the "Don't Mess with Texas" spirit will triumph in the end and Perry wins.
New York. The New York state Democratic party is melting down, but the NY GOP is so weak it has yet to capitalize on the Democrats' mistakes. The match up will be Attorney General Andrew Cuomo versus Republican stalwart Rick Lazio. Why Lazio, who lost a Senate election to Hillary Clinton in 2000, always ends up fighting Quixotic campaigns against dynastic Democrats is beyond me. Absent a major scandal or game-changing event, expect Cuomo to dominate. He has a huge lead in the polls. And a successful governorship - - this would be a New York political miracle -- would make Cuomo a likely prospect for the presidency in 2016 or beyond.
Ohio. Republican Revolutionary John Kasich will challenge incumbent Democrat Ted Strickland in the state that decided the 2004 election. The polls are split. A February Quinnipiac survey had Strickland in the lead, but a more recent Rassmussen survey and the Real Clear Politics Average say Kasich has the edge. A key factor: Obama's job approval is at 44 percent in Ohio. If it stays there or falls lower, Kasich wins.
All these candidates will be at the top of a ticket that also includes races for U.S. House and Senate, and the state legislatures. These latter elections are particularly important because the legislatures will draw the new congressional district maps after the 2010 census is complete. The congressional midterms will determine the future of the liberal Democratic majority and Barack Obama's presidency. Take the long view, however, and the elections in the states could end up determining a lot more.