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The Best Gubernatorial Campaign of 2008

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels handily defeated his Democratic opponent despite a tough landscape for incumbent Republicans and the fact that Obama carried the state. (AP Photo/ Indianapolis Star, Frank Espich)

Yesterday we started our year-end awards by naming state Sen. Kay Hagan's race in North Carolina as the best Senate campaign in the country.

Today we move on to the gubernatorial ranks where, with just 11 races, there are relatively slim pickings. Even so, our winner was obvious. And that winner was:

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels -- At the start of the 2008 election, Daniels was widely regarded by Democrats and Republicans as highly vulnerable.

Daniels's first term had been marred by a high-profile fight over his decision to lease the Indiana Toll Road to a private company and his desire to bring Indiana into line with the rest of the country in observing Daylight Savings Time. (And, no, we are not kidding.)

He also carried the burden of having served as the director of the Office of Management and Budget for President George W. Bush -- a tie that Democrats believed could be exploited in an election cycle where any link to the current Administration could prove deadly.

Recognizing his peril, Daniels reprised a successful tactic from his 2004 campaign -- touring the state in an RV -- to show voters that he was still in touch with their needs and concerns. From his first ad to his last ad, the RV was a potent sign that Daniels was from and of the people.

Daniels, like all good politicians, benefited from a bit of luck in the campaign as well. Democrats played host to an expensive primary fight that produced former Rep. Jill Long Thompson as the party's nominee. Long Thompson was an uninspiring candidate who was unable to raise the sort of money needed to be competitive against Daniels.

Still, that Daniels won reelection by 18 points in a state that President-elect Barack Obama carried on the same day is a testament to the kind of campaign the Indiana Republican ran and why he is already being touted in some circles as a 2012 presidential candidate for the GOP.

Honorable Mention

Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire: After winning the governor's mansion in decidedly controversial fashion in 2004, Gregoire was imperiled from the day her opponent in that race -- former state Sen. Dino Rossi -- decided to run again.

With so few races on the docket in 2008, both national parties spent heavily on the race -- slamming each other with charges and counter-charges throughout the fall.

Gregoire focused almost exclusively on linking Rossi to Bush, a savvy move given the progressive wave surging through Washington State, and effectively parried Rossi's attacks that she was simply a big spending liberal.

The Democrat's margin -- 53 percent to 47 percent -- surprised many observers who thought 2008 might well be a repeat of her 129-vote margin four years earlier. That it wasn't nearly that close is a credit to Gregoire and the Democratic Governors Association.

By Chris Cillizza  |  December 30, 2008; 10:30 AM ET
Categories:  Governors  
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Next: Blagojevich, Burris and More Problems for Illinois Dems


Coming from WA, I'm shocked to see Gregoire's campaign listed in any kind of positive light. Her campaign this year, as in 2004, was run horribly. As just one example, Obama people offered me window signs on numerous occasions, but I had to go to the campaign office in person to get a Gregoire one, which I then had to pay $10 for! She's a perfectly decent governor, but an awful politician. For months Republican attacks and ads went unanswered. She eked out an alarmingly close 48-46 win over Rossi in the top two primary in August, and they were tied in the polls most of the year. There was controversy impugning the groups making independent expenditures on her behalf (though in the end those against the pro-Rossi BIAW probably hurt him more), and MANY voters were turned off by negative ads they ran on Gregoire's behalf. This is a state that hasn't elected a Republican Governor since 1980, or voted Republican for president since 1988, yet Gregoire managed to perform anemically in both her gubernatorial campaigns, underperforming the base Democratic strength of the state and forcing party and independent groups to scramble to make massive expenditures of time, money, and effort to save a seat we shouldn't have had to fight so hard for in the first place. This diverted resources from other key races like the 8th congressional district and the state attorney general race (Rob McKenna is widely seen as a future candidate for governor or senator), or even the lands commissioner race where we *barely* ousted the Republican incumbent. There was widespread fear that Dino Rossi would win and show Gregoire to be a one-term fluke, and preparations for retreating to the Legislature (where we were one vote short of being veto-proof in each house) to fight him. Gregoire owes big debts to labor, environmental, and other outside groups that provided money and massive phone banking and canvassing efforts to re-elect her; and most of all to the Obama/coordinated campaign which inspired people to volunteer and vote Democratic. Had Obama not been on the ballot, it's quite easy to see how Rossi might've won.

In the end, we were thrilled that Gregoire won, and shocked at the size of her margin of victory--there was real expectation and preparation for another protracted recount fight like in 2004. But I am most relieved that Gregoire is expected to retire in 2012; we shouldn't come that close to losing what should be an easy office to hold and shouldn't have to divert resources away from other races to defend it. I don't think many of us would be willing to pull out all the stops for Gregoire in 2012 like we did in 2008. Time for someone better.

Posted by: JonSM99 | January 3, 2009 6:35 PM | Report abuse





Blogojevich is basically mocking Obama by playing the RACE CARD -

Blogojevich is mocking the democratic party for putting up with Obama playing the racial baiting game all year.

YOU get what you deserve, and OH boy do the democrats deserve this one. I wonder what else Blagojevich has in his bag of tricks.

This move by Blagojevich is basically a parody of Obama.

Blagojevich is laying bare how morally bankrupt the playing of the RACE CARD is and how morally bankrupt the democrats have been all year by tolerating Obama and these RACIAL ANTICS ALL YEAR LONG.





Posted by: Yes37thandORulesForever | December 31, 2008 9:25 PM | Report abuse

I live in Indiana and I am a retired state employee. I did not vote for Mitch Daniels this election or the last one. When he ran the first time he pledged that he would only serve one term, HE LIED.This election he made it sound like he had Indiana's economy in the black, after he was elected we find out that things are only rosy for him.He wants to privatize every thing, he has sold our toll road to foreigners.He was a top dog of a company that people lost their pensions while he walked away with millions. Also he is a b-tt buddy of good ole George Bush. Unhappy Hoosier. Connie from "BLUE" Indiana

Posted by: grams1944 | December 30, 2008 9:51 PM | Report abuse

He's shown it, the federal government has already verified it. GET OVER IT.

"It seems to have eluded you unless you count empty promises and ruining the economy. and of course the taxing and spending, your old stand-bys."

I forgot, it was the all powerful democratic minority that ruined this country systematically over the last eight years, not the borrow-and-spend conservatives who held office during that time.....

Posted by: kreuz_missile | December 30, 2008 9:11 PM | Report abuse

Accurate observation, Kreuz. Of course, good ‘ol King O’Zouk continues to disgorge his usual assortment of meaningless irrelevancies—it’s what he’s lived for on this site, for years. Indeed, Kouk (supported by soul mates like 37th) constantly shows why his beloved Republicans keep losing, by continually demonstrating his complete understanding of the world consists of:

“Muslim William Ayers Hussein Lib Pledge of Allegiance Birth certificate Wife's comments Moonbat Hussein Muslim Anti-Christ Black PLO Militant Lib Spread the wealth Rezko Whitey Natural-born Bitter Guns Religion Fistbump Elite Kenya Muslim Socialist Indonesian school Hussein Muslim Celebrity Reverend Wright Muslim Pfleger Messiah Citizen Paris Hilton Blagojevich Public financing Hussein Hawaii Muslim Chicago Khalidi Foreign Redistribute Hussein Flag pin Muslim Airplane decal Muslim ACORN Presidency symbols Hussein Office of the President-Elect SEIU Muslim.”

What Kouk, 37th, and the rest of the Wacky Acolytes are doing—through fleeing the field of rational discourse and continuing to press forward their fictional stories of the universally wicked, corrupt Democrats—is simply demonstrating the utter incoherence, fearful fanatical craziness, and absolute irrelevance of that tiny intense class of fantasists who find what meaning in life they can, only in attacking what they fear.

Posted by: malis | December 30, 2008 8:00 PM | Report abuse

all the R's care about is trying to create scandals to score partisan points. This is why you guys keep losing elections. Try actually standing for something.

Posted by: kreuz_missile


this sounds like the Dem strategy in 2006. and they won. too bad about the other part, actually standing for something. It seems to have eluded you unless you count empty promises and ruining the economy. and of course the taxing and spending, your old stand-bys.

the new venture will concentrate on taking from the rich and giving to the.......Lib members of congress, of course.

Posted by: king_of_zouk | December 30, 2008 3:22 PM | Report abuse

Obama isn't president yet (sadly); we're stuck with the current moron-in-chief for a few weeks yet.

Another reason why the transition period is far longer than it needs to be.

Posted by: scurley1


The Transition Period needs to be long enough to check BIRTH CERTIFICATES AND MAKE SURE NO ONE IS STILL A CITIZEN OF INDONESIA.









Posted by: Yes37thandORulesForever | December 30, 2008 3:14 PM | Report abuse

THEY WISH THEY HAD, but now they love it.


I keep forgetting that you moonbats are so adept at reading other people's minds and finding their true motivations, in the absence of any evidence. As in bush lied us into war and as in the war is already lost and as in suspension of disbelief and as in Fannie is performing just fine, my boyfriend said so and even, those Marines killed them in cold blood.

you know everyone else's minds but demonstrate none of your own.

Posted by: king_of_zouk | December 30, 2008 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Again, America faces real problems, fighting two wars that are nownere close to being won despite neocon propoganda, the largest economic crisis since the Great Depression, new fighting between Israel and Palestine, etc., and all the R's care about is trying to create scandals to score partisan points. This is why you guys keep losing elections. Try actually standing for something.

Posted by: kreuz_missile | December 30, 2008 3:10 PM | Report abuse

24 posts, 11 by king_of_zouk.

Posted by: koolkat_1960 | December 30, 2008 3:08 PM | Report abuse

"so Rs did not eliminate the filibuster, even though they could have, and you conclude what? that they wish they had , even though they didn't. I guess I'm not following your moonbat "reasoning"."

THEY WISH THEY HAD, but now they love it. It's called a flip-flop genius. And most of those Gang of 14 members, now gone, chased out by the Republican base. And NO, I did not say Republicans always vote in lockstep, I have pointed out that neither party votes in lockstep time and time again. The only party, however, that needs to vote in lockstep to preserve any of its agenda right now, though ,are the Republicans, not the Dems.

Posted by: kreuz_missile | December 30, 2008 3:05 PM | Report abuse

"Republicans voted to keep the filibuster and thwarted the desires of the Republican caucus"

so Rs did not eliminate the filibuster, even though they could have, and you conclude what? that they wish they had , even though they didn't. I guess I'm not following your moonbat "reasoning".

I thought you just got done saying that all Rs vote in lockstep and never disagree. I guess it depends on the meaning of the word 'Is" and lately "innappropriate". you libs are as funny to watch as monkeys in a cage, and about as intelligent.

now about the dog, shall we suck up to the humane society or the kids, try for votes or promises kept, ignore reality or promise effusely, in other words, same old BHO BS. such a complicated matter, for a value-free Lib. whatever the polls dictate.

Posted by: king_of_zouk | December 30, 2008 2:57 PM | Report abuse


• Domestic torture via radiation weaponry (D.E.W.)

• Extrajudicial targeting and punishment

• The global financial crisis borne of the U.S. mortgage market meltdown

It's all coming out now. Please read this link, and forward to decision-makers in Congress who must act NOW to preserve the (eroded) rule of law.

And victims need legal assistance ASAP.

Because politics without the rule of law is but bread and circuses.


Posted by: scrivener50 | December 30, 2008 2:54 PM | Report abuse

what we have to look forward to, the end of honesty and integrity, the begginning of Libs lining their own pockets:

The Blagojevich drama is titillating enough, and local Democrats' dithering over how to fill Mr. Obama's seat guarantees it will remain a storyline longer than is comfortable. But the Illinois drama has also thrust new light on the ongoing ethical controversies of House Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel. At the rate the House Ethics Committee is receiving complaints -- over Mr. Rangel's real-estate problems, tax problems, his privately sponsored trips to the Caribbean, and donations to his center in New York -- this too will make headlines for a while.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Tribune published a new story about Illinois Rep. Luis Gutierrez, who racked up $420,000 through a series of suspicious real-estate deals. Texas Rep. Silvestre Reyes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, came under scrutiny this fall for questionable earmarking. West Virginia Rep. Alan Mollohan has been under investigation for a separate earmarking mess. And then there's Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, who has yet to answer questions about the sweetheart mortgage deal he received from Countrywide.

One unfortunate side effect of Mr. Obama's long coattails was that they helped the party's more ethically challenged members get re-elected. Pennsylvania's Paul Kanjorski and John Murtha, who both struggled to keep their seats because of earmarking travails, will continue to answer questions about their actions. Mrs. Pelosi lost a problem when Louisiana Rep. William Jefferson -- with his $90,000 in freezer cash -- lost in November. Yet she has potentially gained a new headache with Illinois Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., who may have wanted that Obama seat a little too much.

There are more. Shockingly, this has happened despite all those campaign-finance laws, and Congress's legislation to ban lobbyist lunches. The members took credit for those publicity stunts, and went right back to their "culture" of earmarking.

Posted by: king_of_zouk | December 30, 2008 2:48 PM | Report abuse

"It seems Obama is very busy indeed -- playing golf."

And Bush, who actually still IS the President, is still in Camp David. See, he's still the decider...

Posted by: kreuz_missile | December 30, 2008 2:44 PM | Report abuse

Obama isn't president yet (sadly); we're stuck with the current moron-in-chief for a few weeks yet.

Another reason why the transition period is far longer than it needs to be.

Posted by: scurley1 | December 30, 2008 2:42 PM | Report abuse

"do you Libs ever make any sense? the filibuster was saved when the Rs were in power and could have eliminated it. It is not "suddenly" that they value it, it is perpetually. I don't suppose you ever met a fact you didn't ignore."

UM, HELLO!!!!! No, they could not have leiminated it through the rules process, which is why they were on the verge of taking the step of having it declared unconstituional.

Your actual argument here is, because 7 Republicans voted to keep the filibuster and thwarted the desires of the Republican caucus, that makes the Republican party as a whole noble in this regard (even as many members of that "Gang of 14" were villified by the base, targeted for defeat, and how it nearly cost John McCain the Republican nomination along with his stance on immigration) (The Gang of 14 Republicans, besides McCain- Chafee, Dewine, Snowe, Collins, Warner, Graham)?? Logic just isn't your strong suit, is it?

Posted by: kreuz_missile | December 30, 2008 2:42 PM | Report abuse

It seems Obama is very busy indeed -- playing golf. the same hectic schedule that prevented him from ever holding a committee meeting is now preventing him from providing any guidance on any world affairs. It seems the dog decision has completely overwhelmed his decision-making abilities for now. PRESENT, well not exactly, he's in HI.

I suppose Hillary can just "handle it". I wonder how much Hamas will have to pay to the clinton foundation for a truce?

Posted by: king_of_zouk | December 30, 2008 2:37 PM | Report abuse

"suddenly they think the filibuster is the greatest thing in the world "

do you Libs ever make any sense? the filibuster was saved when the Rs were in power and could have eliminated it. It is not "suddenly" that they value it, it is perpetually. I don't suppose you ever met a fact you didn't ignore.

Let's try on the garmant colored "most ethical congress in history". not such a good fit, is it? and in three weeks the thugocracy takes over. Keep your head down. If they ever end up making any important decisions, other than the dog of course, the press might come back to life.

Posted by: king_of_zouk | December 30, 2008 2:29 PM | Report abuse

"These people are nuts"

And those nutty people just beat the snot out of the Republicans in the last election, picking up 8 Senate seats and 21 House seats, expanding gains from the previous election for only the second time since the 1930s for the party in power. That says a whole lot more than your poll or your wharped view of what the American people really want. Then you continue to spread LIES about Pelosi's jet

Posted by: kreuz_missile | December 30, 2008 2:24 PM | Report abuse

Ok ,for one thing, Harry Reid doesn't represent a district, he represents a state. Second, no it's not in the Constitution, it's in the rules of the Senate. I asked the question because I'm sure you recall the whole "Gang of 14" nonsense- what was it about? Resolving the Republican threat to have the filibuster declared unconstitutional to press through right-wing judges. Now that they're down to 41 seats, suddenly they think the filibuster is the greatest thing in the world and the salvation of the republic (assuming, of course, that they get all 41 to blindly vote the "R" label without regard to what their constituents, in places like Maine, Pennsylvania, Iowa, etc. But that's not gonna happen, it's only Dems who all fall into line and vote lockstep with the leadership, right???).

Posted by: kreuz_missile | December 30, 2008 2:18 PM | Report abuse

Congress Approval Hits Single Digits – Again Approval of Congress’ job performance has plunged to single digits again for the first time since early September, says the latest Rasmussen Reports

President Bush is at least FOUR times as popular as the spineless Harry Reid and the clueless worst speaker in history PeLousy.

Madame Pelosi wasn't happy with the small private jet that comes with the Speaker's job, no, Madame Pelosi was aggravated that this little jet had to stop to refuel, so she ordered a Big Fat 200 seat jet that could get her back to California without stopping!

Since she only works 3 days a week, this gas guzzling jet gets fueled and she
flies home to California , cost to the taxpayers of about $60,000, one way!

As Joe put it, 'Unfortunately we have to pay to bring her back on Monday night.'
Cost to us another $60,000.

Folks, that is $480,000 per month and that is an annual cost to the taxpayers of
$5,760,000. No wonder she complains about the cost of this war, it might cramp
her style and she is styling, on my back and yours.

I think of the military families in this country doing without and this woman,
who heads up the most do-nothing Congress in the history of this country, keeps
fueling that jet while doing nothing

Madame Pelosi wants you and I to conserve our carbon footprint. She wants us to
buy smaller cars and Obama wants us to get a bicycle pump and air up our tires.

These people are nuts.

Posted by: king_of_zouk | December 30, 2008 2:16 PM | Report abuse

My vote for the best campaign is like, you know, OMG, LOL, it must be, you know, my bff, ummm, like I has to be, ummm, you know......Caroline.

Posted by: king_of_zouk | December 30, 2008 2:11 PM | Report abuse

37th & O writes

For once, you have a point. Well done.

Posted by: bsimon1 | December 30, 2008 2:10 PM | Report abuse










Posted by: Yes37thandORulesForever | December 30, 2008 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Daniels was never challenged. He could make RV ads, because he was never questioned by the opposition. As pointed out the opposition didn't have any money, didn't have a plan. The opposition didn't run any TV ads until mid-October!!!! All politicians dream about running in that environment. Daniels winning said more about his opposition than his own candidacy. I think Hoosiers wanted a new gov in May, but by Nov, there was no better choice.

Posted by: IndyJeff2020 | December 30, 2008 2:00 PM | Report abuse

I did not establish the meme. the corruptocrat Libs did. I only point it out since the press will not.

As far as I know, the fillibuster is in the constitution. although an actual filibuster has only been threateneed and not utilized in a long time.

I ponder how appropriate a bill is that can't get a single Repub to agree. As we know, the unthinking and lemming-like Libs always vote for whatever they are told. but perhaps not this year and next. Many of thgem are in r districts and ran on centerist platforms. If they go along with the nutty PeLousy and Reid, they will lose. reid is not even liked in his own district and looks like he will lose there. Just like that previous spineless Daschle did.

Posted by: king_of_zouk | December 30, 2008 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Given the demographics of the two states I think Perdue's win was more impressive than was Gregoire's. Gregoire faced a repeat opponent, while Perdue took out someone who was regarded as the best candidate the other party could field. There were a lot of big races on the NC ballot and most thought Democrats probably wouldn't win them all (President, Senate, Governor, House). Her easy win was more impressive given that Democrats have held the governorship there for an extended period of time and that most political pundits regarded this as a pure toss-up going into election day--Perdue no doubt was another beneficiary of the strong Obama ground game in NC. I think everyone agreed Gov. Gregoire was going to defeat Rossi again.

Posted by: jdunph1 | December 30, 2008 1:56 PM | Report abuse

"And the king continues to post unrelated garbage in comment threads."

The goal is to establish a meme, whether accurate or not. In this case, the goal is to make Democrat synonymous with corruption. This tactic has been very effective in the past, for an example see "tax and spend liberal." What he & his cohorts don't understand is that if they jump the gun in trying to establish their meme - if they choose a characterization that is too much of a stretch - they will render the attack meaningless, even if it becomes relevant in the future. Trying to tag Obama specifically and Dems generally with the corruption label is likely to act more like a vaccine that innoculates the party from such future attacks, rather than infecting them with a debilitating disease.

The attack also has the potential to backfire, given the various challenges we face as a country. The GOP apparently wants to maintain a partisan atmosphere, rather than working to solve problems. If they keep up such efforts, they will only hasten their own demise. Shoot, even The Newt can see this happening. But those whose careers are contingent on hyperpartisanship (Limbaugh, for example), do not wish to read the writing on the wall.

Posted by: bsimon1 | December 30, 2008 1:53 PM | Report abuse

One question for you Zouk, do you believe the filibuster in the Senate is unconstitutional?

Posted by: kreuz_missile | December 30, 2008 1:50 PM | Report abuse

And the king continues to post unrelated garbage in comment threads.

In a field that generally consisted of contests with obvious winners (none moreso than Schweitzer in Montana), Daniels in Indiana is a pretty easy choice.

Gregoire was one of two Democratic candidates who benefited a lot from Obama's surge (the other being Beverly Perdue in North Carolina, who extended Democratic control of the governor's mansion there for a fifth straight term).

Posted by: scurley1 | December 30, 2008 1:14 PM | Report abuse

Mr President to be, what do you think about the Israeli attacks?

BHO: I will look into that right after I finish the dog decision. I am busy, busy. now can I get back to my waffle? I've answered like eight questions already.

Posted by: king_of_zouk | December 30, 2008 1:09 PM | Report abuse

And corruption runs amok:

The year 2008 also reintroduced us to Bill Ayers, Hot Rod Blagojevich, Rahm Emanuel, Father Pfleger, Tony Rezko, the Right Rev. Wright and the rest of the Chicago Pals. What was so uncanny about them all was not just that they were proverbial spokes to Barack Obama’s hub, but that each revealed how the Chicago Way proved so interdisciplinary in nature.

Posted by: king_of_zouk | December 30, 2008 12:52 PM | Report abuse

what a year - the flip-floppers take over:

We forget that the Democratic primary once hinged on who was to apologize the loudest for authorizing the war, that the Sen. Majority Leader in mediis rebus declared the war lost, that the New York Times once ran at a discounted rate the “General Betray Us” ad, that Sen. Clinton once derided the general’s testimony as requiring a “suspension of disbelief” (i.e. “you are lying”), and that President-Elect Obama once all but said the surge would make things worse — and when it began to work claimed that it hadn’t.

Posted by: king_of_zouk | December 30, 2008 12:51 PM | Report abuse

As a Seattle resident, I can attest that the Gregoire-Rossi campaign was the filthiest one in state history. Neither candidate distinguished himself or herself as someone you would trust. Both candidates could have seized on substantive differences; instead, they manipulated each other's records. That being said, of course I voted for Gregoire. The alternative was unthinkable.

Posted by: maris9 | December 30, 2008 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Chris, I hope you wrote this great series before you headed out! You need some time off so you'll be tanned, rested, and ready for our glorious Washington January weather (cold, yet overcast, is our motto) on your return. The links to Daniels's ads were great. If a still picture is worth 1000 words, maybe a video clip is worth more than that.

Two observations: the first Daniels ad was straight-up "change you can believe in" (not meaning that it was a copy, but that it, like Obama's campaign, had figured out what was in the air this year). I can easily see that ad and Obama's message appealing to the same voter. No wonder they both won.

But as to your hint of 2012 presidential ambitions, isn't it an issue that the charming last ad spends half its time emphasizing the governor will never run for another office and never appear in another political ad? That's not a reply to a question, it's a chosen message and deliberate promise. I wish politicians wouldn't do that. I'm a Democrat and even I can see he is an appealing fellow.

Posted by: fairfaxvoter | December 30, 2008 10:59 AM | Report abuse

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