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Limited Presidential Coattails in Governors' Races Limited Presidential Coattails in Governors' Races

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Limited Presidential Coattails in Governors' Races


Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., right, at a rally with Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.,, left, and then-Sen. Hillary Clinton, center,(Jeff T. Green/Getty Images)

Our friends over at Smart Politics at the University of Minnesota noted last November after the midterm elections: An analysis of 550 statewide presidential election results dating back to 1968 finds there to be no correlation between states won by Democratic and Republican presidential nominees and the partisan control of the governor's mansion. In 2011, new Republican governors in Ohio and Florida have received poor approval ratings so far, which worries some Republicans in both states and is seen as an opportunity in the eyes of some Democrats. It's early, and if history is an indicator, there is no clear takeaway for the presidential contest in those states. For McKenna, an important variable will be his performance in populous King County, which includes Seattle. To compete statewide, past history has shown a Republican candidate needs to get about 40 percent of the vote in the county. Having Obama at the top of the ticket will likely boost turnout for Democrats in King County: Obama dominated in King County in 2008, winning over 70 percent of the vote. But drawing too close of a correlation between the governor's race and the presidential race would be a mistake. McKenna ran ahead of Obama in the state in 2008 - winning 59 percent to Obama's 58 percent -- and the former King County Councilman performed well in the county, wining almost 60 percent of the vote, no small feat for a Republican. But running in a gubernatorial race against Inslee -- whose district includes the northwest part of King County -- is a different animal. And overall, Washington remains a blue state, especially in the population centers west of the Cascades. Bottom line: McKenna certainly faces a challenging climate in 2012, but the fact that Obama is on the top of the ticket in 2012 should not give Democrats total comfort.

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