The State Houses – What’s At Stake in 2010

Thirty-nine states will be electing a governor during the 2009-2010 election cycle. Of these, eighteen races will not include an incumbent and four incumbents who will be running were not elected to their current position. The recession and huge budget deficits threaten to undercut the power of incumbency for governors running for reelection.

The Current Line-Up


Archive for Endangered Incumbents

The RGA’s campaign to undercut the candidacy of independent guber wannabe Tim Cahill seems to be working, but the main beneficiary of his erosion in support isn’t Republican Charlie Baker. According the latest Rasmussen poll on the three-way contest shows Democratic Governor Deval Patrick making impressive gains while Baker remains in neutral.





Charlie Baker (R)





Deval Patrick (D)





Tim Cahill (I)





Not sure





The governor also sports a net positive favorable rating (53%-47%). In the current political climate that’s an impressive accomplishment.  The RGA’s goal of linking Cahill, a former Democrat and the current state Treasurer, to Patrick seems to have driven Massachusetts voters back home to the Democratic leanings rather than to the GOP choice.

Perhaps the contest, which had all the appearances of a nail-biter for Obama’s pal Patrick may not be as close as once expected. Baker, a former CEO of a large health insurer, isn’t as an attractive a candidate as GOP party bigwigs had anticipated. Rasmussen also tested little-known Grace Ross (who last I saw wasn’t sure she would have the necessary valid signatures as the election filing deadline approached) would actually be competitive if she were the Democratic nominee. In that hypothetical, Baker garners 32%, Ross 27%, Cahill 16% with 25% undecided.

Here is the RGA’s TeeVee assault on Cahill (which has been running for a few weeks now). Saw it myself yesterday, as I’m on the Cape enjoying the solitude before the crowds of summer arrive.

“Reckless” from Republican Governors Association on Vimeo.

As noted earlier, it’s primary day in Ohio. What better day for the incumbent Democratic governor to come out swinging hard at his general election challenger?

For months now, we’ve known the two Guber nominees.

For Team Blue, incumbent Ted Strickland is one of  a  trio of midwestern Democrats (along with Chet Culver in Iowa and Pat Quinn in Illinois) who are attempting to hang on during this anti-incumbent election cycle.

Team Red has opted to turn to an old stalwart from the GOP’s past, former Rep. John Kasich. The former FOX News talking head is hoping for a triumphant return to the political arena after spending time at FOX News and buffing up his populist credentials at Lehman Brothers.

Looks like Kasich’s resume may create a soft spot or two during this populist anti-Wall Street, anti-bailout, “where are the jobs?” political climate.

Strickland hits ‘em all in his first general election ad, asking, “Does Ohio really need a congressman from Wall Street for governor?”

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Tuesday’s Must-Reads

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California: After four months of steadily growing revenue, the April’s critical tax revenue in the nation’s largest state plummeted, coming in 30% below budget forecasts. The Los Angeles Times reports on the difficult choices facing the tarnished Golden State.

Illinois: The Chicago Tribune editorializes on the demise of redistricting reform in the state. Democrats, who control a super-majority in the state Senate and are one vote short in the House, barely failed in pushing through their plan that would have kept incumbents in charge of the once-a-decade reapportionment. According to the Trib, the Dems kept a competing GOP plan that would have taken the map-making out of lawmakers’ hands bottled up in committee. For anyone wishing for more competitive elections, a less-polarized legislative branch and a more civil discourse failing to reform redistricting is an unwelcome development.

New York: The New York Times had a fascinating article about how Andrew Cuomo’s still-undeclared guber candidacy might provide the opportunity for the son to finally step from the long shadow of his famous father.

Ohio: An Inspector General’s report concluding a criminal sting planned in the Governor’s Mansion . This is the type of story that takes on a life of it’s own and can tip a close campaign. The Plain Dealer envisions the general election “soft on crime” ads already.

BP Oil Slick and State Budgets: How might the expanding oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico adversely affect already hurting state budgets?

Third Party: In the aftermath of Charlie Crist’s decision to run as an independent in the Florida Senate race, Democratic pollster Doug Schoen writes over at Politico about the “topic du jour” (aside from oil slicks and Time Square car bombs, of course) — the (seeming) proliferation of Third Party candidacies and whether or not 2010 marks the beginning of a viable alternative to the duopoly of the Democratic and Republican Parties. While Crist is Exhibit A in the rise of the Third Party, Schoen says the anger of the Tea Party shows the potential power of this yet-to-be born party and reveals that “first on the agenda would be the addressing the fiscal crisis.” While I don’t disagree about the seething voter anger over fiscal irresponsibility in DC and state capitals, there are structural (read: Constitutional) barriers to the formation of a third political alternative. History simply tells us third party movements either rise up and replace one of the existing, calcified parties or one (or both) of the parties adapt and absorb the agenda of the rising political power. More on this in a later post.

GOP Civil War: In the closing months of the epic 2008 presidential campaign MSNBC’s Chuck Todd predicted that whichever party ended up on the losing end of that contest would be riven by internal divisions from which it might take years to recover. Well, he was right on one count. The losers have been divided and fighting an internal war for the heart and soul of the party. Would the vanquished Republicans move to the middle – rebuilding their “Big Tent” in an effort to regain relevance? Or would they swing further to the right, explaining their electoral defeat on a failure to adhere to conservative principles under the Bush Administration?  As the nation swings into full campaign mode for the first post-2008 elections, it looks like those the latter argument has won the first battles of the war. Will it reap long-term electoral rewards? The AP’s Charles Babbington explains how, even before the 2010 midterms, the GOP’s internal battles have affected the nation’s political direction.


Will Strickland Get Stung?

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Today is primary day in Ohio (and Indiana & North Carolina). Of the three, only Ohio has a 2010 gubernatorial contest, but the nominees have been a foregone conclusion for months. Former Rep and FOX News personality John Kasich will be challenging incumbent Ted Strickland for the office come the fall. Both are busy amassing huge war chests while the political news has been dominated by the Democratic primary contest.

As with ever incumbent running this fall, Strickland is facing a frustrated and angry electorate. To survive in this volatile political climate, leaders are going to have to avoid stories like this.

Avoiding political embarrassment to Gov. Ted Strickland was a key factor in the cancellation of a planned sting to catch a courier dropping off contraband at the Governor’s Residence for pickup by an inmate, the state’s watchdog concludes.

The operation was routine and state officials’ concerns over the safety of the governor, troopers and the public were a “pretext” for killing the plan, according to an investigation by the office of Ohio Inspector General Thomas P. Charles.

The report released today questioned the credibility of statements made by Public Safety Director Cathy Collins-Taylor and State Highway Patrol Superintendent David Dicken concerning the cancelation (sic) of the sting.

This is the type of story that takes on a life of it’s own and can tip a close campaign. The Plain Dealer envisions the general election “soft on crime” attack ads already

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Deval Enters the Lion’s Den

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Embattled Massachusetts Governor (what incumbent running for re-election isn’t endangered this year of the angry electorate?) Deval Patrick walked into the Right Wing echo chamber by appearing on conservative talk radio host Howie Carr’s Boston’s WRKO radio show.

Patrick, who is heard regularly on the Bay State’s radio airwaves with liberal hosts  Jim Braude and Margery Eagan and is facing a close three-way contest in November answered questions on removing toll booths on the Mass Pike and property tax relief, two pet concerns of frequent critic Carr.

Carr also opened with a frequent question he asks on the air and in his column in the Boston Herald: “Where’s my property tax cut?”

Patrick replied, “It’s coming.”

The governor noted he has tried many means to let cities and towns reduce their property tax burdens, including proposing to allow them to put their workers into the state insurance pool, letting them raise their meals and hotel taxes and proposing to give them a portion of the revenues from three casinos he proposed.

“The other tools we got; this one we didn’t,” he said, referring to the Legislature’s rejection of his casino plan.

Patrick, who’s got David Plouffe advising his re-elect effort probably won’t be alone in taking on critics as the campaign unfolds. Politico reports Patrick’s reelection is a top political priority for Team Obama.

the White House is looking to every weapon in its arsenal to help Patrick win a second term.

Patrick has been at the White House at least a half-dozen times in the past year, whether he’s lunching with senior adviser David Axelrod, dropping by the Oval Office for a chat or attending Obama’s first state dinner.

The Massachusetts governor is the only Democrat besides Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and party-switching Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) to get the president to headline a personal fundraiser for him more than a year before the November election. Obama’s former campaign manager, David Plouffe, has been consulting for Patrick’s 2010 bid since last spring, and Axelrod also has lent his expertise.

“We want to be as helpful as we can to him,” said Axelrod, who worked on the Massachusetts governor’s 2006 campaign.

Losing the governorship in the state on the vanguard of health care reform and the scene of this year’s most shocking political upset – the election of Scott Brown to Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat – could be a narrative-defining result heading into 2011.

The White House – with an eye on 2012 – will do anything to prevent another Bay State bombshell.


Gibbons Offers a Ticket to Ride

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Much has been made about how the Republican establishment might tap into the enthusiasm (or poutrage) pulsing through the Tea Party movement.  Over the past year, GOP officials have become increasingly enamored with the enraged right, hoping a midterm majority-creating tidal wave might be fueled by a potent tea brewing across the land. But boiling water scalds and blisters when spilled.  Just how close would GOP candidates get to this steaming teapot?

Endangered Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons’ reelection campaign has stepped up the  GOP’s courtship of the Tea Partiers by offering donors a ticket to ride on his campaign bus to a Tea Party event in southern Nevada. The first 10 donors who pony up $250 get a seat on the bus to Searchlight, Sen. Harry Reid’s hometown where Sarah Palin will be the headlining act.

Long one of the nation’s least popular governors Gibbons’ first term has been marked by a nasty and very public divorce (and 15 years of celibacy, apparently).  In a state struggling to regain it’s economic footing, Gibbons is facing a very credible primary challenge from former federal judge Brian Sandoval. He’s have trouble gaining traction and it’s widely assumed the only way he wins the nomination is by veering to the hard right.

Eric Herzik, political scientist at the University of Nevada, Reno, said Gibbons’ approach makes sense, given his underdog candidacy.

“Gibbons has very little money, and large donors certainly aren’t flocking to his cause,” Herzik said. “So he’s going after small donors. And the free media he’ll get out of this is worth as much as $250 he might get out of a small donor.

“This is less about money than about aligning with the tea party movement,” Herzik said.

And $250 to see Sarah is a bargain.


What is He Thinking?

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The start of every American Idol season provides numerous cringe-worthy moments where a tone-deaf aspirant attempts to impress the panel of judges with a voice that should never be allowed out of a well-insulated shower stall. Dreams of fame and fortune blind these youngsters to their blatant inability to carry a tune. Like a horrific car accident on the highway, many of us find it impossible to look away.

I often find myself asking, doesn’t anyone love that person enough to tell him the truth before they step in front of cameras and embarrass themselves on national TV?

This is the same thought I have upon hearing the news David Paterson is defiantly running for re-election.

Read More→


AdMonitor (NJ): Two Sets of Rules

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The Corzine camp keeps swinging away at Republican Chris Christie’s ethics and driving problems. It may be just me, but using the term “throwing his weight around” may step over the line as an unfair personal attack.

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Democratic leaning Public Policy Polling has a first look (pdf) at the yet-to-form Arizona gubernatorial contest and delivers perhaps the brightest news for Democrats they’ve heard in months.

“This is the first poll in months where we’ve found a Democratic challenger leading a Republican incumbent anywhere across the country,” Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling. “Jan Brewer’s one of the least popular Governors anywhere and that’s put Terry Goddard in a strong position.”

PPP tested Democratic Attorney General  Terry Goddard (who thanks to the state’s quit-to-run laws, can’t declare his candidacy until January 2010) against Brewer (and Accidental Governor), former Governor Fife Symington (who left office in disgrace a decade ago) and State Treasurer Dean Martin.

Brewer, the only Accidental Governor (the others – NY’s Paterson, Alaska’s Parnell, Kansas’ Parkinson, Illinois’ Quinn & Utah’s Herbert) whose elevation to the top spot marked a shift in partisan power, battled the GOP-controlled state legislature in on the nation’s longest budget battles of the 2010 budgeting season. Brewer’s advocacy for an increased sales tax to help close the state’s budget hole may have been the right position but it wasn’t a strategy designed to win over the anti-tax, small government base of her own party.

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RE: Presidential Requests

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What happens when you dismiss a confidential presidential request to step aside? 

It becomes “not-so-confidential.” 

The White House, apparently concerned over NY Governor David Paterson’s dismal poll numbers, sent a “confidential” message to Albany requesting Paterson opt out of a 2010 re-election campaign. The request seems to have been summarily dismissed.

The move against a sitting Democratic governor represents an extraordinary intervention into a state political race by the president, and is a delicate one, given that Mr. Paterson is one of only two African-American governors in the nation.

But Mr. Obama’s political team and other party leaders have grown increasingly worried that the governor’s unpopularity could drag down Democratic members of Congress in New York, as well as the Democratic-controlled Legislature, in next fall’s election.

A few weeks ago, Paterson accused a “racist” media of causing his political headaches, which didn’t go over well at the post racial White House. Read More→