Friday, October 19, 2007

2007 Races: October Edition

Here is a final look and final predictions on the three 2007 Gubernatorial contests:

Kentucky Governor:

Status: Republican Incumbent
Outlook: Likely Democrat

Survey USA has conducted polling on this general election matchup every month, and each time, first term Republican Governor Ernie Fletcher has gained a little bit of ground against his Democrat opponent, former Lt. Governor Steve Beshear.

If that trend were to continue, Fletcher would be in good shape to finally catch Beshear sometime around early 2009. Unfortunately for the Governor though, Election Day is just weeks away and the Bluegrass State looks poised to return to their past tradition of having Democrats preside as the state's chief executive.

Fletcher, who was once seen as a national rising star for the GOP, became the first Republican to serve as Governor of Kentucky in many years, and as a result, ran afoul of some regulations regarding patronage that put him in serious legal and political trouble, and despite the fact that he was later cleared in a state probe, he has just not ever been able to overcome the ethical cloud that came of his having been indicted by the state's Democrat Attorney General.

While the Governor emerged victorious in a competitive GOP primary, in which he was once the underdog, he has not been able to reach a satisfactory level of party unity and that has greatly complicated his reelection effort. Had former Congresswoman Ann Northup won that primary contest, this might be a very different race.

Fletcher and his running mate, are running a campaign that is nearly solely focused on opposition to casino gambling and the hope that enough religious voters will turn out on that issue to alter the election. Based on the polling that has consistently showed Beshear with a double digit lead, it might be a tough roll of the dice for Fletcher.

Beshear is seen as far from a perfect candidate, but it would take a pretty substantial upset for him to be denied now. It might be a political perilous four years for a new Governor, considering the fact that both of his immediate predecessors, one from each party will have likely left office unpopular and with the stench of scandal.


Louisiana Governor:

Status: Democrat Open
Outlook: Safe Republican

As of this writing, Republican Congressman Bobby Jindal may be hours away from officially becoming the Governor-Elect of a Louisiana. It would be a political triumph that narrowly escaped the now 36 year old son of Indian immigrants, four years ago. There is also a signficant chance that Jindal's campaign will fall just short of an outright majority of the vote in Saturday's all party primary and the campaign may have to last into November. Still though, Jindal will likely be so close to the finish line, that a general election against a second place finisher would just be little more than a formality.

The main reason that Jindal and his party are in such good shape to take a major political office away from the Democrats somewhere in America for the first time since 2004, is the dissatisfaction of the response by the now retiring Democrat Governor to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the fact that the storm resulted in many of Louisiana's core Democrat voters perhaps being permanently misplaced.

In his role as a Congressman, Jindal received plaudits for his work and advocacy on behalf of the victims of Katrina and in a state with a colorful and often less than proud political history, is seen by just about everyone as being one of the most intelligent political candidates to come along in some time. If he is a success as Governor, there will be a lot of talk about a potential Jindal Presidential run around 2016 or so.

Throughout this second campaign, Jindal has come under harsh attacks from Democrats and has been blasted numerous times in television ads by wealthy opponents, but despite that all, the sole Republican candidate is polling at around 46 or 47 percent in a crowded field. That should indicate that if turnout is as expected, Jindal would need just a small fraction of the remaining undecided voters to win the election outright.

It is interesting though that if Jindal is forced into a runoff, the candidates currently running at second and third in state polls, at around nine and 10 percent are both candidates who began seeking the Governorship this cycle as Republicans. One is State Senator Walter Boasso, a rotund State Senator, who casts quite a physical contrast to the much younger and thinner Jindal, who decided to switch to run as a Democrat in this state where party changes are common, as a tactical move. Another candidate is wealth businessman John Georges, who started out the race running as a Republican to Jindal's right, but is now making the race as an Independent. The one credible "traditional" Democrat in the race is State Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, whom if the recent polls are accurate, would find it very tough to achieve a second place finish.

Jindal and Republicans will breathe a lot easier on Saturday night if the election ends then and there. However, it would probably take a collapse on par with the 2007 New York Mets if his campaign were not able to put the pieces together in a November 17th runoff, if it comes to that.


Mississippi Governor:

Status: Republican Incumbent
Outlook: Safe Republican

In the least colorful of the three Gubernatorial contests, first term Governor Haley Barbour is believed to still be way ahead of his Democrat opponent, trial attorney John Arthur Eaves Jr.

Barbour, a former Beltway lobbyist and Republican National Commitee Chair, is a staunch conservative with a likeable personality who has been pretty popular as Governor, and in contrast to the retiring Democrat Governor of Louisiana, was seen as a responsive and effective leader when Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc on his state.

Eaves, who has some money to his name, is by all accounts, a credible seeming candidate, but has very interestingly gone out of his way to appeal to social conservatives and religious voters in the very right-leaning, but traditionally Democrat friendly State of Mississippi. In fact, some of Eaves' rhetoric probably would have Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi, and many other national party leaders a little embarassed. Most likely though, they have not been paying too much attention to this race, as Barbour's reelection has been considered a virtual foregone conclusion for several months now.


In summation, these three states have their share of interesting candidates, falling political stars, unlikely second acts, party switchers, potential national leaders, and lots of agressive negative campaigning. However, none of the races actually turned out to be all that competitive.

Expect a wash as two states will swap Republican and Democrat Governors and a Republican will be reelected in a third. The end result will be that political junkies and hyper partisans on both sides who follow every single statewide election very closely, will be unable to claim undisputed 2007 bragging rights.


At 6:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bob Odom just dropped his re-election bid in Louisianna for Agriculture Commissioner. This means Mike Strain becomes the first GOP Ag Commissioner in the history of Louisianna.


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