Midwest: ‘Most Important’ Battleground in 2010

E-newsletter Issue #53 | August 19, 2010

In an election year that will determine who draws the nation’s political maps and also will serve as the first indicator of President Barack Obama’s re-election chances, no region of the country matters more than the Midwest, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Broder said during an Aug. 10 speech at the Midwestern Legislative Conference Annual Meeting.

“It is the most important and significant battleground of them all,” he told MLC attendees.

All signs point to some significant gains by the Republican Party, Broder said.

For example, six of the nine governors’ races in the Midwest involve offices currently held by Democrats, and the GOP appears to have a chance of winning all six contests. In contrast, Broder said, Democrats have a realistic chance of wresting gubernatorial control away from Republicans in only one state, Minnesota.

Broder’s views on the fall elections are in line with August polling results from the Rasmussen Report’s “Election 2010 Gubernatorial Scorecard.” Rasmussen found that in the races for governor, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota were all “solid GOP” states, meaning a Republican victory is likely.

In addition, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin—states that Obama won handily and that currently have Democratic governors—“lean GOP.” In all three states, the Republican gubernatorial candidates are leading by eight points or more, according to Rasmussen. The race for governor in Ohio is considered a “tossup”; in Minnesota, Democrat Mark Dayton has a nine-point edge over Republican Tom Emmer.

Broder said much less is known about the region’s state legislative races, which are particularly important this year because they will determine which parties control the redistricting process.

Three states to watch are Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin. In Indiana and Ohio, Republicans are three and four seats away, respectively, from gaining control of the lower chamber—and, likely, the entire legislature. In Wisconsin, a state “leaning GOP” in the race for governor, Democrats hold small majorities in both legislative chambers. Iowa and Michigan are two other Midwestern states where partisan control of the legislature appears to be up for grabs.

But beyond concerns about which parties control statehouses and governor's offices, Broder said state legislators also should take advantage of the unique chance they will have in the next year to influence their federal counterparts.

“You will be sitting there with the pencils and computers that draw their district lines,” he said. “Don’t let that leverage be squandered. ... Now is the chance to talk seriously with them about state agendas and about what you need from them.”

CSG Resources


Election 2010: Rasmussen Scorecard, Rasmussen Reports, Aug. 16, 2010