Governors also have far more electoral impact on their states than do distant, often-absent senators and congressmen. Since 1994, Republicans have won 26 Senate seats previously held by Democrats. Twenty of those pickups were in states with an incumbent Republican governor or a GOP gubernatorial candidate who won that same day. Governors matter even more when it comes to picking a president. When George W. Bush won the White House in 2000, there were GOP chief executives in nearly every important battleground, helping move swing states like West Virginia, Tennessee and Arkansas into his column. By comparison, the only major swing-state the GOP controlled in 2008 was Florida.
The GOP wave is so strong right now that Republicans could simultaneously win the governorships in the critical Great Lake battlegrounds of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan and Illinois. And the GOP is likely to win the governorship in other presidential battlegrounds like Iowa, Nevada, New Mexico and Oregon.