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How to use CNN's new tool: The Forecast
01:57 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

Much of the attention on Election Night will be on the battle for control in Congress, but there will also be 36 governors’ races across the country.

Republicans currently control 26 of these seats compared to Democrats’ nine and one independent. If the polling is correct, there will be a major reversal of fortune.

Democrats look favored to win many governorships they don’t currently hold. Indeed, the best estimate is that Republicans will end up with just 19 of the governorships up for grabs on Tuesday to the Democrats’ 17. Perhaps more importantly, Democrats are in a position to control the top position in potentially nine of the 10 most populated states.

Now you may be wondering why governors’ races matter. Let me give you one reason.

In a number of states, the strong Democratic performance in governor’s races will help them when it comes to the next round of redistricting after the 2020 Census. In the last decade, Republican governors helped draw lines that were more favorable to Republicans. The result was that more Republicans were able to win House races that they might not otherwise been able to.

Next decade, it may be easier for Democrats win the House. They won’t have to win the House popular vote by 5 or more points in order just to get a majority of seats.

Democratic candidates hold at least a 10-point advantage in California (most populated), New York (fourth most populated), Pennsylvania (fifth most populated) and Illinois (sixth most populated). The last of this group, Illinois, would be a flip to the Democrats. Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner has approval ratings lower than the Chicago White Sox’ winning percentage in 2018 (38%).

Now, it shouldn’t be too surprising that Illinois will change its governor. It’s a blue state in a blue-leaning environment. The fact that Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania is cruising to re-election (two high quality polls out in the last week had him up over 20 points) in a state President Donald Trump won is something else altogether.

Michigan (10th most populated) is another state that Trump flipped into his column in 2016 that looks to be going the other way in 2018. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder is retiring, and Democrat Gretchen Whitmer has been up in pretty much every poll of the race. Polls over the last weeks have had her up by anywhere from 4 to 13 points.

The next most likely pickup for Democrats is in the state of Florida (third most populated). Democrat Andrew Gillum has held a lead over Republican Ron DeSantis since the primary. My forecast is for him to win by 3 points. That’s close enough that a DeSantis win is within the margin of error, but Gillum looks more likely than not to become only the third African-American elected governor in US history.

Put another way, Democrats are clearly favored to win six of the 10 most populated states on Tuesdays. In addition to North Carolina (ninth most populated), which elects in governors in presidential years, Democrats are probably going to control seven of the 10 most populated states by next year.

In contrast, the Republicans are only favored to win Texas (the second most populated) on Tuesday. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott is a heavy favorite to defeat Democrat Lupe Valdez.

Much of the exciting action in the governors’ races on Tuesday will be in the swing state of Ohio and in Georgia. Both of those races meet the definition of too close.

In Ohio (seventh most populated), Democrat Richard Cordray seems to have late momentum over Republican Mike DeWine. An average of the most recent polls in the race has Cordray ahead by 3 points. If Cordray does, in fact, win, it could be part of a Midwestern sweep for Democrats of winning the governorship in every state that Barack Obama carried both times and Trump won in 2016.

Georgia (eighth most populated) could something else altogether. Looking at the latest polling and allocating undecided voters, Republican Brian Kemp is forecasted to end up with 49.3% of the vote to Democrat Stacey Abrams’ 48.3% to Libertarian Ted Metz’s 2.4%. If that forecast is exactly right, no one will have received a majority. That means a runoff would be needed in early December between Kemp and Abrams to determine the winner.

Kemp would probably be favored in such a runoff, though it would be no sure thing.

Even if Republicans are ultimately able to win Georgia, Democrats executives will still be in charge of the vast majority of the most populated states in the country.