Thursday, September 21, 2006

Rhode Island Governor Race

Race of the Day

September 21, 2006
47 Days Until Election Day

Rhode Island Governor

Status: Republican Incumbent
2004 Presidential Result: Blue State (East)

Outlook: Leans Republican

In what is perhaps the most pro-Democrat of all 50 states, Republican Governor Don Carcieri is attempting to buck what could be a difficult environment for his party in Rhode Island, and win the fourth conservative Rhode Island Gubernatorial election for the GOP.

Carcieri, who is a conservative by Rhode Island standards, has by and large been a pretty popular Governor during his first four years in office. He received particular plaudits for the role he played in the wake of a tragic nightclub fire in 2003 that killed several dozen Great White fans. Polls in the early part of 2006, had Carcieri favored to win reelection, with a vote percentage that hovered around the low double digits. Around spring though, several polls started to show a much closer race between the Governor and his Democrat opponent, Charles Fogarty, the state’s Lt. Governor.

These numbers indicated that as popular as Carcieri had been, the Democrat lean in Rhode Island was very pronounced and would be enough to cause any Republican running statewide to have serious concerns. However, most of the political attention in Rhode Island has been focused on the nationally prominent Senate contest, in which a liberal Republican incumbent was challenged (ultimately unsuccessfully) in a very competitive GOP primary, and that Senator will now have to face a difficult general election against a Democrat. As the two Republican Senate candidates beat each other up across the state and on television, some of that negativity directed at Republicans from within seemingly had some effect on Carcieri’s support, as polls, which had been showing a virtual dead heat, showed Fogarty moving ahead with a modest five point lead.

Since the Republican Party drama ended though a few weeks back, a couple new polls show Carcieri in better shape. The Rasmussen Reports poll shows the Governor up by two points, indicating that the race remains very tight, while a poll from Brown University shows the Republican incumbent with a healthier lead of 50-38. There is obviously some discrepancy in those numbers as to what Carcieri’s lead might be, but both of those polls show an exact seven point swing in the Governor’s favor since their last survey. It should be assumed that any rebound by Carcieri is more likely due to his personal appeal and position on local issues, as opposed to any national swing towards the GOP.

The political nature of Rhode Island will guarantee a competitive race, but momentum appears to be on Carcieri’s side. Survey USA pegs his job approval rating improving since last month up to 53 % while only 42 % disapprove. It should also be kept in mind that some general election polls in recent Rhode Island elections have underreported the eventual Republican total in state races, such as Carcieri’s 2002 win for Governor, which was a bit of an upset, and in not accurately predicting the landslide nature of Senator Lincoln Chafee’s 2000 election.

The Ocean State’s U.S. Senate campaign will surely take center stage until Election Day, but the race for Governor will also be one worth watching. It does appear though that Carcieri, who has accomplished the difficult task of being a Republican (and by all accounts a proud one) and staying competitive against tough odds, may now be starting to build momentum that will propel him to a second term. Ironically enough, Republicans are also feeling bullish about some down-ballot constitutional offices as well. In this bastion of liberalism, a relatively conservative Governor might even have some coattails.

Carcieri campaign link:

2006 Governor races predicted thus far: 12 D, 17 R
Post-election total of Governors predicted thus far: 20 D, 23 R