GOP set to take record number of governorships?

So far, the midterms look to be a good year for Republicans in Congressional elections, which have caught most of the media attention.  However, as Eric Ostermeier argues at Smart Politics, it looks as though the Republican Governors Association may have a banner year for new membership as well.  The University of Minnesota scholar believes that the GOP may win more elections on this level than any time in the past 90 years:

As Democrats brace for a Republican pullback in the 2010 election cycle, the question on the minds of officeholders, party leaders, and D.C prognosticators is not whether the GOP will gain seats in the midterm elections across state and federal legislative and executive offices, but how many.

While the Republican Revolution of 1994 is perhaps most remembered for the tremendous gains the GOP made to take back the U.S. House (+54 seats), Republicans also won 24 of 36 gubernatorial races that year.

But in light of the current political environment and the latest horserace polls, political reporters may need to come up with a new term in 2010 that is even more grandiose than ‘revolution’ to describe the Republican advantage this November.

A Smart Politics analysis of nearly 1,800 gubernatorial elections since the beginning of the 20th Century finds that Republicans are poised to win more gubernatorial seats in 2010 than they have in any election cycle over the past 90 years.

How many does Ostermeier believe the GOP can capture?  Thirty-seven states will elect new chief executives, and current polling shows Republicans leading in 28 of them.  Democrats only lead in seven.  Larry Sabato sees much the same, with 19 states in the leaning or safely Republican column, compared to only five in those positions for Democrats.  Ostermeier notes that Republicans lead the polling in nine of Sabato’s twelve tossups:

Of the 12 remaining ‘toss-up’ states, Republicans lead in the most recent horserace polls for nine of them: Illinois (+11, Rasmussen, June 7), Ohio (+7, Rasmussen, June 29), Maine (+7, Rasmussen, June 10), Vermont (+7, Rasmussen, June 17), Georgia (+4, Rasmussen, May 20), Colorado (+4, SurveyUSA, June 15-17), Connecticut (+2, Rasmussen, June 1), New Mexico (+2, Rasmussen, June 3), and Oregon (+2, Rasmussen, June 17).

Republicans would only have to win half of these 12 toss-up states, coupled with the 19 states in which they are favored, for their best showing since 1920.

The GOP had its best statistical decade in gubernatorial elections a century ago, when they won 60% of those contests.  Last decade, they lost more than they won, with a success rate of 47.9%, following a decade with a 54% success rate.

Why is this important on a national scale?  Next year, state legislatures will begin drafting redistricting plans in accordance with new Census data from this year.  Republican governors can ensure that Democratic legislatures don’t gerrymander the GOP out of competitiveness in key states.  Winning the midterms in Congress is critical to stopping the Obama agenda; winning the redistricting battles will mean that Democrats can’t stack the deck in 2012 to get it restarted.