Two Blue States Could Flip Red As Last-Minute Momentum Boosts GOP Gubernatorial Candidates

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Mary Rooke Commentary and Analysis Writer
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As candidates prepare for victory Tuesday, a gust of last-minute momentum seems to be pushing two unlikely Republican gubernatorial candidates over the line in deep blue states.

The same polling firm that shows the Republican party is poised to take significant gains (possibly even control) in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate is predicting that Michigan Republican gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon and New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin will win their election bids.

The last midterm poll from the Trafalgar Group conducted from Nov. 5-7 found that slightly more likely general election voters were planning on voting for Dixon over the incumbent, Democratic Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, in Michigan’s gubernatorial race. Although the polling had over 54.5% of respondents identify as Democrats and only 37.1% as Republicans, if the election were held today, 48.5% of likely voters said they would vote for Dixon. In comparison, 48.2% said they would vote to reelect Whitmer, the Trafalgar Group reported.

Dixon began rising in the polls after hitting Whitmer during the first October debate on the prolonged and strict lockdowns enforced by her administration during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their final meetup covered important election issues for Michigan voters, including the economy and school safety. After hitting Whitmer on critical race theory and gender or sexual ideology in the public school curriculum at their Oct. 13 debate, Dixon accused the Democratic governor of being “silent on the issue” of there being “sexual content and pornography in schools.”

During the clash, Whitmer jabbed Dixon over her push to end extra liberal ideology in schools, asking her if she felt books were more dangerous than guns. Dixon responded by saying that she “stands with parents” and that “there are dangers all over” for children.

“I don’t rank one as different than the other,” responded Dixon. “I want to make sure our kids are safe no matter what.” (RELATED: Michigan’s Democratic Governor Is Rapidly Losing Ground To Her GOP Opponent: POLL)

Inflation, a top concern among voters going into the midterms, was a hot topic during the debate, with Dixon accusing Whitmer of making the issue worse for Michiganders after she vetoed several tax reductions by the GOP-controlled Michigan state legislature and planned to raise the gas tax by 45 cents.

“She’s actually vetoed quite a bit of opportunity: the child tax credit, an income tax reduction, and reduction of levies on retirement income,” Dixon said of Whitmer.

Dixon was also recently endorsed by former Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard, who announced she was leaving the Democratic party Oct. 11.

Both candidates stopped in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to make last-minute pleas for support from voters, according to Fox17.

“We want to make sure that your kids are going to get a world-class education and that your family is going to be able to thrive in the state of Michigan. We want to make sure that businesses have a partner in state government,” Dixon promised. “It’s so crucial right now with the way that they’ve been treated by this government to make a change, and we’re going to bring Michigan back.”

While Dixon focused on education and the economy, Whitmer’s comments to voters painted Dixon as an anti-abortion extremist.

“My opponent wants to take us backwards on all those fronts. I don’t think that’s the Michigan that we want or deserve. We need to continue to stay focused, solve problems and move this state forward,” Whitmer said.

New York’s gubernatorial race between Republican Lee Zeldin and Democratic New York Gov. Kathy Hochul is also set to be a close election, with the Republican coming out on top if Trafalgar Group is ultimately reflective of the final results. Of the 1,198 likely general election voters, 48.4% said they would vote for Zeldin for governor over the 47.6% who said the same for Hochul, the Trafalgar Group reported.

The number of Democrat respondents also outweighed the Republicans in this sampling by almost 30%, according to the poll.

Their debate rested heavily on the rising crime in New York after Hochul pushed progressive crime initiatives like cashless bail and supporting more soft-on-crime district attorneys, like New York District Attorney Alvin Bragg. On public safety, Hochul argued that the state should enact stricter gun laws to stop the rising crime. Zeldin disagreed, claiming that Hochul was ignoring the real issue. (RELATED: ‘Make Our Streets Safe Again’: Zeldin, Hochul Tackle Crime Policy In New York Governor Debate)

“Unfortunately, Kathy Hochul believes that the only crimes being committed are crimes with guns. You have people that are afraid of being pushed in front of oncoming subway cars. They are being stabbed, beaten to death with hammers on the streets,” Zeldin said.

A political consultant in New York, Chris Coffey, told WCBS Radio New York that voter turnout within New York City would determine the winner between Zeldin and Hochul.

“You want to look at the vote in New York City. Historically, for a Republican to have a chance, they need to be herding with 30% or higher of the New York City vote,” said Coffey.

“If the city turnout is strong, it probably is good news for Gov. Hochul. If the city turnout is light, it is probably bad news for Gov. Hochul,” he told WCBS. “Republicans are winning in Long Island or parts of upstate, and so they don’t need to win in New York City, but they need to not get blown out in New York City, and I think that’s the dynamic we’re seeing.”