This passage (from a Froma Harrop article on, apparently, why partisan Republicans shouldn’t read anything into the NJ and VA wins from last year) is right, for the wrong reason:
Professional partisans see every race as a mark on their team’s scoreboard. But these activists err in treating the win of a state governorship and U.S. Senate seat as similar victories.
Indeed, they do. Governorships are in many ways more important.
Governorships are important – and in this cycle, vitally important – for three reasons:
- Redistricting. This can’t be emphasized enough: the 2010 Census results will reshuffle seats in all but the smallest states. Even the ones not winning or losing seats are likely to review their district maps; and the only way to stop the Democrats from playing games with annoying Republican Members of Congress is to have oversight over the process. That means governorships and state legislatures.
- Governors are the parties’ farm team for President. It’s no accident that four out of the last six Presidents were governors first. And it’s also not a coincidence that the current President is currently demonstrating his utter lack of prior executive experience. And it’s definitely no accident that pretty much every viable, potential GOP candidate for President in 2012 has been a governor. Senators mostly talk; governors have to do.
- Top of the ticket. A good governor or candidate for governor helps with enthusiasm in House races and any Senate races (the converse is true too, of course). This is likely to be specifically important in states like Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Illinois. For that matter, gubernatorial GOTV drives and the RGA is certainly doing them this year) will also bring more partisan voters to the polls.
So that’s why activists need to care about governorships. It’s all part of maintaining the infrastructure.