Sep 17, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Blue states receptive to (non-MAGA) Republican governors

Illustration of a check in a checkbox that shifts from red to blue.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Republicans are competitive in several governors' races in blue states, even as they struggle in some of the typical battleground contests like Michigan and Pennsylvania.

The big picture: If Republicans make inroads on Biden-friendly turf in November, it would be a sign that moderation still sells.

Driving the news: Republicans have put the gubernatorial races in Nevada, New Mexico and Oregon in play.

  • The Cook Political Report with Amy Walter has moved the Oregon governor's race into toss-up territory, reflecting the strength of Republican Christine Drazan's candidacy. Oregon Democrats are divided between progressive Democratic nominee Tina Kotek and Betsy Johnson, a more moderate candidate running as an independent. Oregon hasn't elected a Republican governor since 1982.
  • A new Emerson College poll of the Nevada governor's race shows Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) tied with his Republican opponent, Joe Lombardo, at 40%. Some Republican officials now view Nevada as their best opportunity to flip a Democratic-held statehouse.
  • And in New Mexico, an Emerson College poll finds Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham only holding a five-point lead over Republican Mark Ronchetti in a Democratic-friendly state. As Axios reported last month, Lujan Grisham has been beset with low approval ratings, staff upheaval and charges of hypocrisy.

Why it matters: Candidate quality matters. Trump-endorsed gubernatorial candidates are losing badly in Pennsylvania and Michigan, states that are more GOP-friendly than the aforementioned battlegrounds.

  • Gov. Doug Ducey carried Arizona by 14 points in the Democratic wave year of 2018, while Trump loyalist Kari Lake is tied in polls despite facing a more favorable political environment.

What we're watching: Blue-state victories for moderate Republicans could help boost the national prospects of Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin.

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