Sunday, August 02, 2009

2009 Governor Races

August Update:

We have moved deeper into summer and close to Election Day 2009, with Republicans being more optimistic than ever about making two Gubernatorial pickups and the psychological boost it would involve.

New Jersey-

In the past month, both major party nominees have selected their Lt. Governor running mates.

GOP nominee Chris Christie has picked a candidate that shares his background as a prosecutor but has most recently been elected as the Sheriff of Monmouth County. Kim Guadagno was seen as somewhat of a "safe" selection for Corzine, as he is ahead in the polls, but she also could potentially help him win votes of women as well as conservatives. Christie's more conservative defeated GOP primary opponent had good words to say about Guadagno and seemed excited about the selection, although that enthusiasm may have been tempered a bit when she declared she shared the same position as the more moderate Christie on some issues.

Incumbent Democrat Jon Corzine had a bit more of a public selection process and what was also considered a messier one. After first looking likely to pick an African-American businessman, who had finished second during a season of NBC's Donald Trump reality show "The Apprentice", Corzine eventually selected State Senator Loretta Weinberg a 74 year old self descried "feisty Jewish Grandmother." Weinberg also happens to have lost much of her savings to the criminal financial schemes of Bernard Madoff. My thoughts are that if Corzine cannot rely on the "Bubby (Jewish grandmothers) vote", he is really in serious trouble. Indeed, Corzine was seen as leaning towards another female State Senator, but right before a scheduled announcement, the Feds arrested all sorts of politicians (most of the Democrats) in the state in a wide ranging corruption bust. Corzine's likely selection had some ties to one of those who were indicted, so instead he went with Weinberg, who had a reputation of being a corruption fighter. She is said to not be very popular with certain party bosses, but the liberal base of the party seems to appreciate her ideology and style.

Still though, I think the selection of Weinberg indicates that Corzine's campaign is very concerned about losing the base of the party. This comes on the heels of the Christie campaign publicizing endorsements from Democrats, including some African-American and Hispanic leaders in the state. Also, while it might be tough for Republicans to be too aggressive in going after a 74 year old woman, her age may also be a bit of a liability to the Democrat ticket. While Corzine and Weinberg are not believed to be directly related to the corruption bust, it certainly helps bolster the GOP case for "change" in the state, especially with a ticket containing a prosecutor and a Sheriff.

Noted political analyst Stuart Rothenberg recently posted an article in which an unnamed Democrat insider was quoted as saying that the race is "over", basically indicating that Corzine has no remaining shot, despite the political lean of the state, support from the President, and a hefty bank account. Polls over the last month have shown that Christie's healthy lead has maintained or even expanded itself. Thus, many Democrats now believe their last hope is the "Torricelli Maneuver", where Corzine would for the good of the party end his campaign, and allow the Democrats to substitute another nominee. Some names mentioned for that switcheroo are Congressman Frank Pallone and Newark Mayor Cory Booker. When Corzine was recently asked if he would ever step away from a reelection campaign he answered in the negative, complete with a flourish of profanity that would have made another embattled New Jersey boss; Tony Soprano proud.

If Democrat insiders are referring to the race as "over", I am going to change my ranking from Leans Republican.

August Rating: Likely Republican

Headed south down the eastern seaboard to Virginia, the candidates have now held their first debate, and in contrast to the domination of the debates in 2005 in favor of the then Democrat candidate, Republican former Attorney General Bob McDonnell put State Senator Creigh Deeds, his opponent on the defensive, attempting to tie him to national issues in which the Democrat Party has taken some hits in the arena of public opinion as of late.

If the new Survey USA poll is to be believed, it might have worked in a big way as they now have McDonnell a surprising 15 points ahead of his Deeds (with the GOP candidates for Lt. Governor and Attorney General also holding double digit leads.) While most would probably concede that McDonnell is at least a little bit ahead at this stage, Democrats are taking issue with that particular poll saying that it surveyed too many Republicans and too many people that voted for John McCain, in a state which Barack Obama carried last year. Due to that factor, it is definitely important to watch and see if other polls come close to verifying what Survey USA is claiming, but if they have confidence in their numbers, it might be that Republicans in the Old Dominion are just a whole lot more motivated to come out and vote this November.

National Democrats and the White House are definitely concerned though. Former Virginia Governor and Richmond Mayor Doug Wilder, an historic African-American figure in the state, recently was interviewed and talked about how he was approached by a White House official to come out publicly in favor of the Democrat Deeds. According to Wilder, the White House said it would be "devastating" if the party lost the Governorships of both New Jersey and Virginia. Wilder has indicated that he is none too pleased with the standard bearer of his party and has even had some kind words to say about Republican McDonnell. A meeting between the GOP nominee and Wilder is said to be in the works, and if the former Democrat Governor were to actually endorse him, it would achieve massive amounts of attention.

In the meantime, Republicans were buoyed when McDonnell was recently endorsed by Sheila Johnson, who along with her ex-husband founded Black Entertainment Television, and who claims to be the nation's first ever black female billionaire (does Oprah contest that?) Johnson has typically supported Democrats, so many feel that this endorsement could be significant in helping McDonnell make inroads in Northern Virginia and potentially among African-Americans. Deeds is also talking about the fact that he has been endorsed by a couple former Republican State Senate colleagues.

August Rating: Leans Republican