Republicans reach post-2000 high among state governors

The one unalloyed bit of good news for Republicans on Tuesday night was that they’ve increased their representation among state governors, with a particularly momentous victory by Pat McCrory, former mayor of Charlotte, in North Carolina.  That makes him the first Republican governor of his state in 20 years, and only the third Republican to hold the office in a century.  He’s also coming back after a loss to Democrat Beverly Purdue in 2008… a decision North Carolina voters came to regret.

Bloomberg News tallies up the rest of the victories:

The party also held off re-election challenges in Utah and North Dakota, and retained the corner office in Indiana, where Republican Mitch Daniels stepped down because of term limits. Democrats previously controlled the governor???s offices in eight of the 11 states voting for their chief executives yesterday.

The Republican victories build on gains made two years ago, when the party???s candidates rode a wave of economic discontent to capture 11 governor???s offices from Democrats and reclaim a majority it lost in 2006. Its winners this year pledged to cut taxes and spur economic growth. There were 29 Republicans in governors??? seats heading into yesterday???s election, compared with 20 held by Democrats and one filled by an independent.

???The story is Republicans did well elsewhere, so it wasn???t a wholesale repudiation of the party,??? even with a loss by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, said Jennifer Duffy, a senior editor with the Cook Political Report in Washington. ???It provides them with plenty of bragging rights.???

They’re not just Republican-In-Name-Only candidates, either.  Former Rep. Mike Pence, now the governor of Indiana, is as solid and articulate a conservative as you could ask for.

It’s interesting to view this in light of another dynamic mentioned by the Bloomberg News report: it was generally a pretty good night for incumbent governors, as state electorates don’t seem to hold them accountable for the national economy.  (Of course, they didn’t hold Barack Obama accountable for it, either.)  That may have ramifications for the increasingly intense struggle between state governments and Washington, which has already seen some very spectacular clashes in battlegrounds like South Carolina.  As I’ve written elsewhere, I expect the governors will lose many of these battles, but they may well win the war.  Much of the power of federalism comes from the way it introduces competition between governments, and competition with Washington counts, too.