Saturday, October 20, 2007

Gubernatorial Outlook 2008

As expected, Republican Congressman Bobby Jindal easily won the Louisiana's governor race, avoiding a runoff election by getting over 50% of the vote (LA has open primary elections). Democrats were left with no serious candidate after Gov. Blanco decided to to run for re-election (she defeated Jindal in 2003 but had been dogged by criticism over her response to Hurricane Katrina) and former Sen. John Breaux determined his residency wouldn't qualify him to run. However, Democrats will soon make up for the loss in Kentucky where former Lt. Governor Steve Beshear has a 20-point lead over the ethics-challenged Gov. Ernie Fletcher. The parties are just switching seats this year.

But what about competitive races in 2008? Here's Chris Cillizza's take:
5. Washington: Say this for the Washington governor's race. It has the making of being nasty, brutish and short. Why? Former state Sen. Dino Rossi (R) will run but he doesn't seem to feel any immediate pressure to make that announcement and may not for several months. And, the campaigns are already exchanging subtle body blows, however, and this race is likely to get ugly quickly. Gov. Christine Gregoire (D) has several advantages that she didn't have when she eked by Rossi after multiple recounts in 2004: she is an incumbent in a Democratic-leaning state in a national environment that is toxic for Republicans. Rossi's challenge is formidable but he is a gifted candidate. (Previous ranking: 5)

4. Indiana: This is a race is full of disconnects. Take the Democratic primary. The smart money -- both in state and nationally -- seems to be on architect Jim Schellinger (D) and yet former Rep. Jill Long Thompson (D) has a comfortable primary lead and the support of EMILY's List, which means she will be able to compete financially with Schellinger. The general election provides a similar conundrum as Republicans are absolutely convinced that Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) will be re-elected going away -- citing the state's Republican lean and the turnout patterns in a presidential year. And yet, an independent poll conducted last month showed 45 percent of voters rating Daniels' job performance as "excellent" or "good" and 47 percent rating it "fair" or "poor". We aren't sure what to think but this race has all the makings of a real contest in both the primary and the general election. (Previous ranking: 4)

3. Missouri: As usual when it comes to Missouri politics, Kansas City Star political correspondent Steve Kraske gets it right. Kraske wrote in a recent column that Gov. Matt Blunt's (R) re-election chances hinge on whether he lets a 2005 decision to cut Medicaid rolls in order to close a $1 billion budget shortfall define his first four years or not. In a recent sitdown with The Fix, state Attorney General Jay Nixon (D) made very clear that his campaign will seek to make the 2008 vote a referendum on that decision by Blunt. "He came in and made a fundamental mistake," said Nixon. Is it that simple? It just might be. Expect Republicans to continue to bang on alleged ethical missteps by Nixon, turning the race into a devil-you-know vs devil-you-don't contest. Nixon appears ready for that sort of bloodbath; "You only have to be better than the guy you're running against." he said. What a campaign slogan! (Previous ranking: 3)

(The 1st and 2nd ranked competitive races were this year's aforementioned ones in LA and KY.)

So basically, two Republican incumbents are facing challenges, compared to just one Democrat. Hey, I'll take that.

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