Louis Jacobson at US News:
JUST A FEW MONTHS AGO, governors seemed to be a declining force in American politics. Governorships were once a feeder for the presidency – that's how Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush got to the White House – but the governors and former governors who ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020 faded early in the contest.
However, with the emergence of the coronavirus, all of that changed. Suddenly, governors were on the front lines of the fight, and they attracted attention not just in their own state but in many cases nationwide. In New York, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo held closely watched daily press conferences as his state was experiencing the worst of the virus. His cool manner led some to suggest he be tapped as a vice presidential candidate for Joe Biden. Other governors who'd previously had little national profile, such as Republicans Mike DeWine of Ohio and Larry Hogan of Maryland and Democrats Jared Polis of Colorado and J.B. Pritzker of Illinois, also received positive attention for their coronavirus responses.
For the most part, gubernatorial approval ratings soared, including those for many of the incumbents who are running for reelection in 2020.
This year, 11 gubernatorial offices are being contested. In nine of them, an incumbent is seeking another term: Delaware, Indiana, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia. The other two – Montana and Utah – have open seats.
In general, the party that currently controls the governorship has an edge, except in Montana, a red state that currently has a Democratic governor and that we are rating as a pure toss-up.
Beyond Montana, the only three states we see as competitive between the parties at this point are the Democratic-held seat in North Carolina, the Republican-held seat in New Hampshire and the Republican-held seat in Missouri, which is the only race we're moving to a different category since our previous update last October. In these new rankings, we're moving Missouri from likely Republican to lean Republican.