All eyes on New Hampshire in 2012 governors races

at 06:50 PM ET, 09/10/2011

As Republican gubernatorial candidates in Kentucky and Missouri have utterly fizzled, the GOP’s attention has turned to other states like West Virginia and Washington looking for opportunities to grow their nationwide majority of governorships.

The latest potential Republican opportunity? New Hampshire with a big “if”. That “if”? If Democratic Gov. John Lynch (D) decides to retire.

If the popular Lynch runs for reelection, the GOP can probably forget any chance of picking up the seat. If he doesn’t, however, it’s likely to be a very competitive race.

So, will he or won’t he?

There are plenty of reasons to believe Lynch won’t seek reelection.

First, Lynch is in his fourth two-year term, and no other governor in the state’s history has served more than three terms. (New Hampshire and Vermont have two-year gubernatorial terms.) Having to campaign so frequently isn’t exactly fun.

Second, he just came off an election in which his party sustained historic losses in the state legislature, seeing Republicans go from minorities in both chambers to near three-to-one majorities in both. That means Republicans can easily override any veto Lynch makes.

Considering those two factors, the conventional wisdom since the 2010 election has been that Lynch will probably step aside. And we still wouldn’t be surprised if he does.

But not everyone is convinced he’s going to call it quits.

“I think, as time has progressed, with what the Republican tea party majority has done to the state, I believe just like many of the voters and activists, elected officials have recommitted their efforts to fight back,” New Hampshire Democratic Party chairman Ray Buckley told The Fix.

Still the race is beginning to form. Former state senator Maggie Hassan is expected to run if Lynch doesn’t, and 2010 GOP Senate candidate Ovide Lamontagne is taking the first steps toward running.

For now, we’re putting this race as the fifth most likely to switch parties on the Line. If Lynch retires, it will quickly move near the top. If he says he’s seeking reelection, it will drop off the list entirely.

The number one ranked race on the Line is considered the most likely to switch parties. Agree or disagree? The comments section awaits.

To the Line!

Off the Line: Missouri

Onto the Line: New Hampshire

5. New Hampshire (Democratic-controlled, 2012): Besides Hassan and Lamontagne, other potential candidates include former state legislator Kevin Smith (R), 2010 GOP gubernatorial nominee John Stephen, former Bureau of Securities Regulation director Mark Connolly (D) and Portsmouth Mayor Steve Marchand (D). (Previous ranking: N/A)

4. Washington (D, 2012): State Attorney General Rob McKenna (R) continues to get a few bad headlines, with the latest being his use of a car subsidized by an auto dealer. (He is responsible for regulating the auto industry.) This is nothing major of course — many lawmakers get money from people they may regulate — but does show that Democrats are ready for this race. Rep. Jay Inslee (D) is getting his campaign off the ground (Previous ranking: 3)

3. West Virginia (D, 2011): Polling suggests Republican Bill Maloney is gaining on Earl Ray Tomblin as the Oct. 4 special election nears. But the acting governor has racked up endorsements from unions — including those that attacked him in the primaryand the state Chamber of Commerce. That’s an unusual — and potent — combination. Right now, Tomblin’s middle-of-road approach appears to be working in the conservative-minded state. (Previous ranking: 4)

2. Montana (D, 2012): Attorney General Steve Bullock has finally announced that he’s running, so Democrats can breathe a sigh of relief. More good news for Democrats is that the Republican primary is crowded although former congressman Rick Hill is the clear frontrunner for now. No matter what though, this race will likely be very close, and Republicans have wasted no time in defining Bullock. (Previous ranking: 2)

1. North Carolina (D, 2012): Former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory (R) is inching, literally, toward a rematch against Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue in 2012. The latest McCrory development is a new website that has the look and feel of a campaign but isn’t one yet. Make no mistake: McCrory is running and Perdue remains the most vulnerable governor in the country. (Previous ranking: 1)

Chris Cillizza and Rachel Weiner contributed to this post.

 
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