Sunday, November 01, 2009

2009 Governor Races

November Update and Final Predictions:

While the number of contests is smaller, Republican political junkies are approaching this Tuesday's Election Day in far more optimistic fashion than the Election Days of the last few years. It might remind many of the 1993 election, in which a GOP pickup in Virginia looked to be a near certainty, while New Jersey was faced with a very close, uncertain race, but with an incumbent Democrat on the ropes.

New Jersey-

In October, I hesitantly classified this race as "Leans Republican." There is not now any remaining doubt that the race is a Tossup, which could go either way. The outcome will be decided by turnout, organization, last minute deciders, and the final performance of Independent candidate Christopher Daggett.

There is some evidence in the polling of the last few days, that after facing some negative stories, and with the realization that he will finish a distant third in the race, voters are starting to turn away from the Daggett flirtation and that he may even struggle to hit double digits. This development might work to the favor of Republican challenger Chris Christie, as most of those voters are strongly opposed to the tenure of Democrat incumbent Jon Corzine. That might be part of the reason why some polls of a week or so ago, which then showed Corzine with a narrow lead, now once again show Christie narrowly ahead. If undecided voters break in the way they typically do when an unpopular incumbent is running, that should also benefit the challenger Christie.

The wealthy Corzine is very much in the game though, thanks to outspending his oppnent my more than 3-1 as well the strongly Democrat nature of the state. If he wins, it might also be due to the strong campaign support he has received in the state by President Obama and other prominent national figures. Christie has campaigned alongside Rudy Giuliani in the last few days, but has largely had to fight this battle on his own in blue New Jersey. This weekend though did see at least one Christie appearance with Steve Lonegan, the conservative that Christie dispatched in the state's Republican primary this year. There had been reports of tension between the state's conservatives and the more moderate Christie and an endgame rallying of the base definitely would help the Republican win.

The Obama campaign appearances are mostly designed to rally support for the unpopular incumbent among the state's traditional Democrat voters, especially in minority communities. Corzine will also need to rely on the state's Democrat GOTV machinery, but in an anti-incumbent election, it might not be enough, especially with Daggett appearing to fade away somewhat as some voters have decided that casting a vote for him would be a wasted on. It is once again worth pointing out that actually finding Daggett's name on the ballot could be a chore for many in the state.

Like Christie Todd Whitman's 1993 defeat of incumbent Democrat Jim Florio in the Garden State, this one is probably going to be decided by just a couple points or so. The lawyers will be on standby.

If the rotund Christie wins in such a Democrat leaning state, it will truly be a happy, "Fat Tuesday" for Republicans across New Jersey and the country.

Prediction: Tossup (R)


The outcome in Virginia seems far more certain in this open seat race as conservative Republican nominee Bob McDonnell has run a stronger campaign and appeared to be a more politically attractive candidate than Democrat Creigh Deeds. Four years ago, McDonnell narrowly defeated Deeds to be elected the state's Attorney General, but his victory margin this time around should be larger. It is also expected to be enough to reelect the incumbent Republican Lt. Governor and a new Republican Attorney General. In addition to likely sweeping all three state offices for just the second time ever, Republicans are expected to have a big day in the state legislative races.

After spending much of the campaign trying to keep his distance from an increasingly unpopular President, Deeds has sought to rally the base by bringing in Obama in the final weeks of the campaign and to feature him in television ads. That he has felt the need to appeal to the base this late in the game might be telling in and of itself (and the same might be said for both Corzine and Christie in New Jersey), it actually appears as if the focus on Obama in the race has actually caused Deeds polling numbers to get worse. Interestingly enough, the White House has taken part in some pre-election post-mortem, all but privately (but leaked to the media) declaring Deeds a lost cause and distancing themselves from the result.

While the media might declare a potential double digit win for McDonnell to be a result of local issues and dynamics, it is not hard to forget that just a year ago, Obama won the state with 57% and there was much talk about how Virginia had become far more fertile ground for Democrats.

The state's outgoing Democrat Governor Tim Kaine, also happens to be Obama's handpicked Democrat National Committee Chair, and has spent some time in New Jersey recently, rather than his home state. It will be interesting to see how he chooses to spin the Virginia results on Tuesday evening and on Wednesday.

Prediction: Likely Republican