While the biggest election news for Republicans is the party's takeover of the House of Representatives, the GOP had a great showing in governor's and state legislature races. Republicans won a total of 23 governorships on Tuesday, nearly double the number of Democratic wins (the New York Times has not officially called Minnesota, Illinois, and Connecticut). Additionally, 9 of those 23 gubernatorial victories were in states Obama carried in 2008: Florida, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Likewise, Democrats only won one governship in a McCain state with Arkansas reelecting popular governor Mike Beebe.
Many of these victories were pickups for Republicans. The governor will switch to the GOP in 12 states (Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and Florida from independent Charlie Crist), while only five Democrats will succeed Republicans--in California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Minnesota, and Vermont. In Rhode Island, Republican-turned-independent Lincoln Chafee will be the new governor.
Coupled with the 2009 victories in New Jersey and Virginia, this means the GOP will have 30 governorships in 2011. Looking well into the future, this widens the pool for potential Republican presidential candidates. Remember, the last three two-term presidents had previously been governors, and two of them were Republicans.
Moreover, Republicans have majorities in both houses of the state legislatures in 25 states after having won control of both Houses in 11 states on November 2. As Jay Cost points out this morning, GOP control of these legislatures will have long-lasting implications for state and national politics, particularly during a redistricting year.
The victories around the country are in no small part due to the Republican Governors Association and its chair, Mississippi governor Haley Barbour. The RGA reportedly spent $102 million this cycle.