Gubernatorial Primaries: Four States Choose Nominees

May 9, 2012 · 12:57 PM EDT

Voters in all four states chose nominees for governor last night, but the most competitive general election will likely take place next month in Wisconsin.

Last night, Democrats in the Badger State chose Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett to be their nominee against Gov. Scott Walker (R) in the June 5 recall election. The mayor won the primary with 58 percent over Kathleen Falk (35 percent) and three other candidates.

Walker defeated Barrett, 52 percent to 46 percent in 2010, but the governor’s subsequent moves to curb collective bargaining turned him into a polarizing figure nationwide.

Brace yourself. With the Republican presidential primary decided and the November elections still six months away, the race between Walker and Barrett, will likely become the focal point of political news coverage for the next month.

Analysts and cable news commentators will over-analyze the race and extrapolate the results onto the presidential contest. But it’s best to take a deep breath.

The results will likely show that Wisconsin is extremely polarized and is likely to continue to be a presidential battleground and host a competitive, open seat race for the U.S. Senate. But each of those races will have unique candidates and dynamics.

We have the gubernatorial race rated as a Pure Toss-Up as both parties will spend millions of dollars reaching out to the 3 percent of the electorate that hasn’t made up their mind yet. It looks like this race is going to be very close.

Voters in West Virginia will also choose between two familiar candidates. Then-Acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) defeated GOP businessman Bill Maloney, 50 percent to 47 percent, in a 2011 special election. Both men easily won their primaries last night and will face off again in November in the race for a full term.

President Obama is likely to get demolished in West Virginia in November, particularly since an incarcerated felon received 40 percent of the vote against him in last night’s Democratic presidential primary. The inmate is scheduled to be released next June.

Maloney and Republicans were able to close a considerable gap against Tomblin the first time around by tying him to Obama. We currently have the race rated as Leaning toward Tomblin, but it’s worth keeping an eye on to see if the President becomes an anvil around the governor’s neck.

In North Carolina, Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton won the Democratic primary for governor outright, taking over 45 percent to former Rep. Bob Etheridge’s 38 percent in the six-way field.

Even though Democrats could do slightly better this fall without unpopular Gov. Bev Perdue, who declined earlier this year to run for a second term, atop the ticket, Dalton will still have an uphill battle against former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, who easily won the GOP primary and is heavily favored to win the general. Dalton was seen by national Democrats as the stronger nominee over the former congressman, who lost his 2010 reelection bid after a confrontation with a GOP tracker. However, Republicans are eager to tie Dalton to Perdue and her embattled administration. We currently rate the race as Lean Republican.

In Indiana, Rep. Mike Pence (R) and former state House Speaker John Gregg (D) ran unopposed in their primaries and will face off in November in the race to replace Gov. Mitch Daniels (R). Democrats are eager to tie Pence to Washington and try to saddle him with some of the same residency issues that plagued Lugar, but even though Indiana went for Obama in 2008, it’s a state primed to snap back to the GOP column in November.