Saturday, September 05, 2009

2009 Governor Races

September Update:

On this Labor Day weekend, we are heading towards the autumn of a big election year in two states, in which the results will go a long ways in determining the psyches of two parties headed into the 2010 midterm election.

As has been the case all year, Republicans continue to look to be poised to pick up the two Governorships from Democrat control, while Democrats keep hoping that something will happen to change the momentum of the races. In the past few weeks, their party has determined that their own nominees might be too flawed or weak of candidates to generate a positive outcome, but perhaps ground can be picked up by focusing on the Republican opponents, with everything but the kitchen sink. While some of these attacks and issues may indeed wind up having somewhat of an effect, the most recent poll numbers of the past week indicate they are initially not working out the way Democrats had hoped.

New Jersey-

Republican Chris Christie is maintaining a lead on incumbent Democrat Jon Corzine, but Democrats keep expecting the race to close up down the home stretch. While Christie has largely been staying off the airwaves and husbanding his resources for a late push, Corzine has been spending heavily on negative ads attacking Christie on issues such as his personal driving record and failing to report a personal loan he once gave to an employee. Christie has accepted responsibility for not properly disclosing the loan, and the attacks on him do seem to have driven up his negative ratings. Previously, Christie was seen as having a wide edge on the corruption issue, in a state where that is a primary issue, but now, both major party nominees seem to have some weaknesses on the front for many voters.

Several other candidates will be on the ballot in New Jersey, but only one will take part in the debates and will be a significant factor. He is Christopher Daggett, a former State Environmental Protection department head, whose campaign is being assisted by some of the people who helped Jesse Ventura become Governor of Minnesota. While Daggett worked for a Republican administration in New Jersey, he is considered to be more to the left of the Republican nominee. He has been approaching double digits in some polls as of late, seemingly drawing about evenly from both Corzine and Christie, and if he scores well in the debates, he could go even higher. Yet, it remains to be seen if he will be able to truly get much more than 10 percent of the total vote. Despite some voter fatigue with both major party nominees, Daggett just does not seem to have the organization or the money to actually threaten to win the race.

As for the polls, Democrats were relatively thrilled to see a couple from August, one from a Democrat organization and one conducted by an anti-Christie Republican showing close to a tied race. Even in those though, Corzine only weighed in at 36 and 41 percent. With numbers that low, and with the estimated range that Daggett might receive, it's still a long shot to imagine that Corzine will be able to find a way to win if he cannot get those numbers higher.

Three more recent polls out though show that Christie has a lead between 5 and 11 points, with Corzine still struggling to reach 40 percent. In spite of the attacks on Christie and some softening in the Republican frontrunner's political armor, two of those polls out in the past week, actually show Christie with a slightly larger lead than he had before those issues came to the forefront.

While conventional wisdom would have seemed to back up a somewhat modest Corzine comeback, it seems like voters have not responded to his attacks and may have already tuned him out.

September Rating: Likely Republican


A somewhat similar situation is at play in the Old Dominion, where in the past week, a seemingly explosive "game changer" was believed by some to occur, when Republican nominee Bob McDonnell's graduate school thesis, written twenty years ago, came to light. In it, McDonnell took several hard line conservative positions, especially as it related to women working outside the home. Democrats and supporters of that party's nominee, Creigh Deeds, jumped on the thesis and tried to link it to McDonnell's record in Virginia state politics and what he might do as Governor.

McDonnell was quick to attempt damage control on the issue. He said that his views had evolved on some of those issues since he was a much younger man and pointed out that his wife and his daughters work outside the home. He then attempted to move the discussion back to jobs and the state's economy.

Had these revelations about McDonnell's past writings come to light in the week or so before the election, it indeed could have been more of a bombshell. However, since they came out at the very beginning of September, it is more likely that the issue could fizzle out before the fall voting, as the electorate will have moved on to other things in the news.

The most recent polls out of Virginia show a little bit of improvement for Deeds, almost entirely among the Democrat base, but just very little at that. The lead for McDonnell in those polls range from 7 points in a poll conducted by a Democrat firm to 12 points in yesterday's released Survey USA numbers.

Democrats are probably surprised that they were not able to make up any political ground in the immediate aftermath of the news regarding McDonnell's graduate school thesis. With the Republican holding a lead that is at or close to double digits, and an overall total at around 50 percent, he still has to be considered the front-runner.

With that in mind, I am changing my ranking of the race for the month.

September Rating: Likely Republican