There are lots of ways to get a sense, prior to Election Day, how a political party is going to fare. You can use polling data, fundraising figures, primary turnout, absentee ballot requests or, most accurately, time travel.
But one of the best ways to gauge how a party is going to do is to judge whether candidates seem ashamed of the party label. In 2002 and 2004, Democrats in the South appeared especially apprehensive about being identified with the national party (and, in 2004, the presidential ticket). Not coincidentally, Democratic candidates for governor and U.S. Senate were pummeled in the South in those years.
This isn't to say they would have won if they'd been prouder to be Democrats. Rather, their reluctance to do things like campaign with John Kerry reflected the distaste voters in their states had for Democrats and therefore foreshadowed their defeat.
In this context, I thought it would be interesting to see who's ashamed of their party label this year. I checked the Web site of every candidate for governor, looking at the main page and biography to see whether they mentioned the candidate's party.