As members-elect of Congress shuffle in and out of the halls of Capitol Hill learning how to "stack" votes, caucus with their parties, and receive the all-important results of the infamous "office lottery," the mainstream media appears to have overlooked three of the most important Republican victories in the 2010 elections—and they didn't send people to or from Washington.
Republicans captured the governorships of Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. All three races were considered toss-ups on Election Day, and the wins demonstrated not only the GOP’s national momentum but also the prowess of the Republican Governors' Association—led by the indefatigable Haley Barbour.
The victories are important for two primary reasons, and both of them likely spell trouble for President Obama and his Democratic colleagues. Foremost, with new GOP governors at the helms of each of these states, redistricting following the 2010 U.S. Census should significantly bolster and/or augment the way in which the electoral districts are drawn. Because two of the three states (Florida and Ohio) contain more congressional districts than almost any other state—save California and New York—one can only surmise these GOP governors will work to draw Republican-leaning districts. The end result could mean a Republican majority in the House for the foreseeable future.
The second, and likely more salient national, point is that political science data indicates that states with governors that share the political affiliation of presidential candidates hold, on average, a 3 point generic advantage toward that governor's party nominee. One only needs to look to both the 2000 and the 2004 electoral maps to recall the importance of these pivotal states. Florida delivered George Bush the presidency in 2000 and had John Kerry won Ohio, he would all but likely be serving a second term as president right now. Pennsylvania, which James Carville once artfully described as "Philadelphia on one side, Pittsburgh on the other, and Alabama in the middle," has also proved an important presidential swing state.
With the presidential electoral map initially favoring Democrats due to California and New York—electoral college-rich states Obama will almost certainly carry in 2012—Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida suddenly appear all the more important to President Obama and whomever becomes his Republican opponent. For good measure, remember that Republicans also captured the governorship of Virginia last year in an off-year cycle. While “The Commonwealth” was once a reliable Red spot on the big map, recall that Obama captured it as well in his 2008 victory—thereby transforming it too into a pivotal swing state.
Do the election of these three governors mean that Obama is unelectable in 2012? Not by themselves. But they will make Axelrod and Plouffe’s task that much more daunting as they begin to plot their re-election strategy.