Late-breaking polls are showing a rising Republican tide in the weeks before voters head to the polls in midterm election contests across the country, the head of the GOP’s gubernatorial campaign arm said in an interview Friday.
“Voters are breaking towards Republicans. I think we have an opportunity for an historic national wave election year,” Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) told Pluribus News.
Ducey, the co-chairman of the Republican Governors Association, said he expects his party’s candidates to perform well against Democratic incumbents in states like Wisconsin, Nevada and even New Mexico, though he acknowledged that a wave of money spent on behalf of those Democratic candidates is crashing onto television sets across the nation.
“The left has the teacher’s union, George Soros, Tom Steyer, Mike Bloomberg, ActBlue, EMILY’s List, NARAL. The list goes on and on, there’s an incredible river of resources that the left is able to tap into,” Ducey said, citing three billionaires who have spent freely of their own money on Democratic candidates and causes in recent years.
While most Republican candidates are spending their money on television advertising that highlights crime, inflation and rising economic anxiety, Ducey said lingering anger over lockdowns and health measures taken during the coronavirus pandemic would also play a role.
“Through Covid, [voters] saw two different governing styles. They saw one that was top-down, authoritarian, one-size-fits-all. It stopped small businesses, it shut schools, it mandated masks and vaccines,” he said. “Republican leadership across the country prioritized lives, livelihoods and individual liberties.”
“Parents know that their kids fell behind in these states where schools were shut down at the state level by these governors,” Ducey said. “Parents don’t ever want to be trapped like that again.”
Democrats counter that Republican gubernatorial nominees follow more in the tradition of former President Donald Trump than in the mold of a more prototypically conservative candidate, like Ducey.
“The MAGA takeover of their party mean Democrats, independents, and even some Republicans are repulsed by [the GOP’s] anti-democratic, extreme platform. Implementing a national abortion ban via the states turns out to be incredibly unpopular, and on the wrong side of voters,” said David Turner, a spokesman for the Democratic Governors Association.
For Ducey, success on Nov. 8 starts with holding the party’s most vulnerable governorships.
He said Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) is running “probably our best campaign” in the country against former state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (D). In the race to replace Ducey in Arizona, he downplayed his opposition to Kari Lake (R) in the primary and called Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) “possibly the weakest Democrat nominee in the nation.”
In Oklahoma, where the RGA is spending money to aid Gov. Kevin Stitt (R), Ducey said internal GOP polling still shows Stitt “comfortably” ahead — despite public polls showing a close contest with his Democratic rival — “but we’re also measuring twice.”
The party is unlikely to hold open governorships in Maryland and Massachusetts.
“We really believe we’re going to protect all of our incumbents, we’re going to keep our red states red,” Ducey said. “What’s unique about this cycle is how the map is populated with opportunities in blue states for us to go on offense.”
Oregon, which hasn’t elected a Republican governor since 1982, is the most unlikely of those opportunities. Ducey called former state House Minority Leader Christine Drazan (R), his party’s gubernatorial nominee, “one of the most pleasant surprises of the cycle.”
The GOP is also targeting Democratic incumbents in the presidential blue states New Mexico and Nevada, swing states Michigan and Wisconsin, and Kansas, a ruby-red state where Gov. Laura Kelly (D) is seeking a second term. Ducey said the RGA is keeping its eye on Pennsylvania, where state Sen. Doug Mastriano (R) has failed to keep pace with his Democratic rival.
“There’s only been five Democrat governorships flipped in the last 20 years,” Ducey said. That Republicans are running so close to Democratic incumbents is a sign that “there’s all kinds of additional success on what’s already going to be a very successful cycle.”