We try to stay out of politics in our annual America's Top States for Business rankings, but in an election year, with 36 states choosing governors, that is next to impossible.
Within hours of our announcement that Georgia is America's Top State for Business in 2014, the Republican Governors Association issued a press release trumpeting the fact that each of our top five states has a GOP governor.
"Republican governors are cutting taxes, slashing spending, balancing budgets and transforming their states into engines of economic growth," the group crowed.
Democrats naturally had a different take.
The campaign of Georgia State Senator Jason Carter, who is challenging Republican Gov. Nathan Deal in November, put out a release saying that in "rankings that matter," Deal is leaving too many Georgians behind. The rankings that matter, according to the campaign, include our 32nd place rankings for Georgia's Education and Quality of Life. Meanwhile, a Progressive group backing Carter accused us—falsely—of relying on data supplied by Deal's allies.
Readers and viewers have also been quick to pick sides.
"Republican states are generally a much better place to do business," wrote one commenter on CNBC.com, to which another replied, "Then why is Silicon Valley located in California?"
Fortunately, our Top States study relies on hard data. And inside those numbers is news that is both good and bad for both Red States and Blue States.
While it is true that each of our top five states in 2014 has a Republican governor, look at the top ten states and the political makeup is more nuanced. Four of the top ten states—Minnesota (6th), Washington (7th) and Colorado and Virginia (tied for 8th) have Democratic governors.
The bottom of the rankings is evenly split as well. Five states between 40th and 50th place are run by Republicans. They include Louisiana (tied for 40th) and New Jersey (43rd)—states whose governors will likely tout their economic records should they run for President in 2016.
Looking at it another way, the average Red State ranked 23rd this year, while the average Blue State finished 30th. Advantage: Red.
Our study gives the most weight to Cost of Doing Business because that is the most frequently cited selling point by both Red and Blue states trying to attract and retain companies. In that category, worth 450 out of 2,500 points, Red States win hands down.
Each of America's least expensive states for business is GOP-controlled. In general, they get points for lower taxes, but also for paying lower wages.
Cost is not everything, however. We measure ten categories of competitiveness, and some are Blue through and through.
Eight of the top ten states for Technology and Innovation have Democratic governors. Only Texas and Pennsylvania make it into the upper echelons of the category, while Red States including North and South Dakota dominate the bottom. Same story for Education: all Blue with the exception of Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. This year's Bottom State for Education is Red State Arizona.
Which party does a better job managing state economies?
In our Economy category, the second-heaviest weighted in our study at 375 points, the top five is evenly split—five Red States, five Blue States.
The debate will continue until Election Day in November and well beyond, and this year's Top States study has given both sides plenty of ammunition.