The final results were still trickling in Wednesday, but Republicans had captured 10 previously Democratic governorships and lost two of their own, giving them a significant net gain of eight.
That figure slims to seven if you include Lincoln Chafee -- a former Republican who became the first independent candidate elected governor in the tiny northeastern state of Rhode Island.
Voter districts are re-apportioned every decade and crucially for Republicans the next re-jig is due in 2011 after the results of the 2010 census are published.
But more worryingly for President Barack Obama and the Democrats, big governor losses often represent a change in the landscape at state level that means one party's political machine has usurped another.
As they eye 2012, Republicans will be delighted that a Republican Rick Scott won out in the Florida, a crucial swing state they desperately need to prise back from the Democrats if they are to take the White House.
Scott, 57, a venture capitalist reported to have spent 73 million dollars of his own money on his campaign, benefited from a wave of anti-incumbent sentiment driven by the ultra-conservative Tea Party movement, which he had helped to finance.
The seat was not actually a Republican gain as it had been relinquished by Charlie Crist, another Republican who chose to run, unsuccessfully, for the Senate.
Other Republican winners included the first female Hispanic governor in New Mexico, Susana Martinez, and victories over Democrats in battleground states Ohio and Pennsylvania.
In South Carolina, Republican Nikki Haley, who is of Indian heritage, pulled out a win in a state synonymous just decades ago with racial segregation.
The 38-year-old daughter of Sikh immigrants who ran a clothing business, Haley rarely emphasized her roots and identified herself in campaign material as a Christian.
Her victory came as part of a coalition of female candidates in the ultra-conservative Tea Party movement endorsed by former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
Republican Governor Jan Brewer was easily re-elected in Arizona, despite her controversial support of a state law against illegal immigration that critics say targets Hispanics.
At 72, Brown becomes the oldest ever to take the job. He had already been the youngest California governor since the 1850s when he was first elected to the position at the age of 36 in 1974.
In New York, Democrats easily guarded their party's safe seat against erratic Republican and Tea Party candidate Carl Paladino, who gained notoriety for his extreme views on gay rights.
Obama though will be fearful after significant losses in states key to his chances of re-election, including Ohio and neighboring Pennsylvania, where Republicans John Kasich and Tom Corbett won respectively.
Races in Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Minnesota, and Oregon were still too close too call.
In all 37 states were up for grab as well as two overseas territories, Guam and American Samoa.
Source: AFP American Edition