Saturday, October 10, 2009

2009 Governor Races

October Update:

The elections in New Jersey and Virginia are now less than a month away and before Election Day, I will weigh in with official predictions, but for now, we will take another brief look at the state of these two campaigns.

Since last month, Republicans are more confident about their chances of victory in the Virginia race for Governor (which would probably incorporate a sweep for the GOP in statewide contests for Lt. Governor and Attorney General), but more nervous about New Jersey.

New Jersey-

After leading in every public poll for the entire year, the race has tightened to the extent where GOP nominee Chris Christie's lead is either in the mid to low single digits to a dead heat. A Democrat poll even has him three points behind incumbent Governor Jon Corzine.

There has been some qualms over the Christie campaign in the past few weeks. Some feel that while there is vast disgust with Corzine, the Republican challenger has not done a good enough of job of offering a positive alternative, and that was especially talked about after the one candidate debate which has been held.

Corzine has been massively outspending his main opponent on the airwaves and hammering away at him ideologically in what has been a fairly Democrat state in recent years. Some Democrat support has been coming home to Corzine's corner, but still, his approval ratings are horrible and the majority of the state clearly does not want to see him reelected.

So, why, after having a large lead for most of the campaign, has Christie not been able to seal the deal? Well, it has the most to do with the Independent candidacy of Christopher Daggett, a moderate to liberal Republican, whom has been rising in the polls, to the greater detriment of Christie than Corzine. Daggett appeared in the debate and many felt won the night. Interestingly enough, Corzine's political interests involve propping Daggett up. There is a realization that there are many voters that Corzine will not be able to win back, but if his campaign can divide the anti-incumbent vote, he might be able to sneak back into office with a low 40s plurality vote.

Daggett cannot be elected Governor (this is not Maine or Minnesota after all), but he can play spoiler. If one would know what percent of the vote he will get on Election Day, one could more easily predict which of the two major parties would score a victory. Right now, most polls show Daggett at an impressive figure in the mid teens. While Corzine wants to help utilize Daggett to double team on Christie, we might see more in the late days of the campaign of Christie deliberately targeting Daggett in order to make him a less appealing alternative to anti-Corzine voters.

Often, third party candidates who play significant roles in the campaigns and poll well, do worse at the ballot box when election time comes. Whether it is an issue of campaign organization or voters merely wanting to cast a "protest vote" while on the phone with pollsters, it has been seen before in politics. Additionally this year in New Jersey, there are several other also ran candidates on the ballot and there is talk that Daggett's name may be quite hard to find when people are in the voting booth. If his supporters are not able to quickly find it, they may get frustrated and walk away... or cast a vote for Christie, the non-Corzine.

This past week has seen a controversial Corzine ad introduced to the campaign which could wind up having an impact. Chris Christie is a very large man. His girth is impressive. He greatly resembled famous New Jerseyan Bobby Baccala of The Sopranos. The Democrat has produced an ad, attacking Christie for his driving record, which seems to use words and images that serve the main purpose of calling Christie fat.

It's a pretty tough ad in a state whose politics have seen many of them, but there might be a backlash for such a tactic as attacking an opponent's physical appearance. There are a lot of overweight New Jersey voters who might hold a grudge.

On Labor Day weekend, I was rating this race as Likely Republican. Obviously, I cannot continue with that classification. In fact, this race is very close now to being a Tossup, and may very well be that on Election Day.

However, because of the fact that Daggett may not be the spoiler on Election Day that he is appearing to be now, I am still giving Christie a bit of an edge. While the campaign dynamics and personalities may be different, this race very much resembles the 1992 Presidential race between Perot, Clinton, and Bush 41. If Chris Christie does what the challenger Clinton did and receive 43% of the vote, he will probably be elected Governor.

October Rating: Leans Republican


On Labor Day weekend, Republican Bob McDonnell continued to hold a lead on Democrat Creigh Deeds, but there were some worries about a Washington Post story that brought to light writings McDonnell had done many years ago in which he expressed very conservative and perceived outdated views on the concept of working women. As September developed, polls showed the race had tightened up considerably into the dead heat range.

However, that controversy has seemed to ebb, and more recent polls have shown McDonnell with his largest leads of the campaign at around 14 points. The very most recent poll shows McDonnell ahead by nine, and that is probably a more accurate snapshot of the race.

McDonnell is being seen as a more effective communicator and debater than his opponent, who has struggled mightily with the evading the question on the possibility of raising taxes. Such an incident, after a candidates debate has gotten much attention, and helped take the heat off McDonnell. Various newspaper editorials have also criticized the "Dirty Deeds" negative campaign aspect of the Democrat nominee. And no, former Democrat Governor Doug Wilder has not come around to endorse Deeds.

While the race may not be totally over, McDonnell has seemingly built up a lead and support over 50 percent, which will make it tough for Deeds to overcome.

October Rating: Likely Republican