WASHINGTON — Republicans on Tuesday captured governorships from Democrats in at least seven states, including some prime presidential battlegrounds, and hoped for even more statehouse gains.
The same tide sweeping Republicans into office in Congress was leaving its mark on governors' mansions as well, especially in the nation's industrial heartland.
The gubernatorial races were especially important this year. There are a record number of them on the ballot — more than two-thirds of the states. Governors will play important roles in 2012 presidential politics, especially in swing states, and governors next year will participate in redistricting of congressional and legislative seats to reflect the 2010 census.
Lost in the GOP onslaught: governorships now held by Democrats in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Kansas, Oklahoma and Wyoming.
Even so, there were a few bright spots for Democrats in the face of an anti-incumbent groundswell sweeping the nation, including key gubernatorial victories in New York, Massachusetts and Maryland.
New York Democrat Andrew Cuomo surged past tea party Republican Carl Paladino to win the governor's seat, the same post his father, Mario, had held two decades ago.
In Massachusetts, Gov. Deval Patrick, won a second term, defeating Republican Charles Baker and two other candidates. Patrick and Obama share Chicago roots and Harvard law degrees, and national Republicans tried hard to topple him.
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley withstood a hard-fought challenge from his predecessor, former Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich. And New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch and Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe, both Democrats, were also re-elected.
Denver's Democratic mayor, John Hickenlooper, was elected Colorado governor despite a challenge from both Republican challenger Dan Maes and immigration hard-liner Tom Tancredo, a former Republican House member. Hickenlooper replaces Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter, who did not run for re-election.
But most of the news for Democrats was gloomy, as the same wave that engulfed congressional Democrats took its toll on governor's mansions.
As Democratic gubernatorial and congressional casualties were piling up, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, head of the Republican Governors Association and a possible 2012 presidential contender, compared the GOP victories to 1994, when Republicans seized control of both House and Senate.
"The stakes in this election were so much higher," Barbour told a gathering of Republicans.
In Democratic-leaning Pennsylvania, Republican Tom Corbett defeated Democrat Dan Onorato to replace Pennsylvania Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell, who was term limited.
In Michigan, Republican businessman Rick Snyder, who vowed to turn around the state's devastated economy, defeated Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, a Democrat. The current Democratic governor, Jennifer Granholm, did not seek re-election.
In Wisconsin, a Democratic-leaning state, conservative Republican Scott Walker rode tax-cut promises to victory over Democrat Tom Barrett. Two-term Democratic incumbent Gov. Jim Doyle did not seek a third term.
In Oklahoma, U.S. Rep. Mary Fallin, a Republican, became the state's first female governor. She defeated Democratic Lt. Gov. Jari Askins to replace term-limited Democratic Gov. Brad Henry.
In Tennessee, Republican Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam defeated Democratic businessman Mike McWherter to win the state's open governorship. Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen was term-limited and could not run.
Democrats looked for some other consolation prizes, hoping for a win by Democrat Jerry Brown to get his old job back as governor of California.