Angry voters look to vulnerable governors
New USA Today/ Gallup poll numbers released this morning show that two-thirds of Americans describe themselves as "angry" about the state of the country.
While much the focus of coverage of voter discontent has centered on Congress -- 60 percent said they would prefer to elect a candidate with no congressional experience(!) -- those who may feel the sting most directly are the nation's governors.
Across the country governors have spent the last two years watching their political capital evaporate amid massive budget shortfalls that have left them with two terrible options to balance budgets: raise taxes or cut services.
Approval ratings -- for Democratic and Republican governors -- have, not surprisingly, plummeted in the face of those tough decisions, a trend that has served to broaden an already gigantic gubernatorial playing field.
The net result? More volatility and the potential for surprising results -- like Idaho Gov. Butch Otter's (R) not-terribly-convincing 55 percent win in his primary fight earlier this week.
Our Line on the 15 races most likely to switch sides this fall is below. As always, your thoughts on the Line are welcome in the comments section.
To the Line!
Coming onto the Line: Ohio, Florida
Coming off the Line: Wisconsin, Arizona
15. Ohio (Democratic-controlled): Gov. Ted Strickland has stopped his free-fall of several months ago and began to land some major hits on former Rep. John Kasich (R) -- an effort aided by ads sponsored by the Democratic Governors Association that outline the former Congressman's work on Wall Street. The state's economy -- and the measures Strickland has had to put in place to balance the budget -- make this a near-certain nail biter, however. (Previous ranking: N/A)
14. California (Republican-controlled): The rise, fall and re-rise of former eBay CEO Meg Whitman in her Republican primary fight against state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner suggests a very volatile electorate not entirely sure what they want. After a major scare, Whitman has asserted herself -- and run to the right on immigration -- and is now very likely to win (and win easily) on June 8. State Attorney General Jerry Brown awaits. (Previous ranking: 14)
13. Florida (R/I): Former health care executive Rick Scott's free-spending on television has put him on the map -- even if he still trails state Attorney General Bill McCollum by 20+ points in advance of the Aug. 24 GOP primary. Scott's candidacy -- and his willingness to spend down his considerable personal wealth -- is a problem for Republicans who had hoped to give McCollum a free run into the fall. (Previous ranking: N/A)
12. Vermont (R): Republicans continue to insist that Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie (R) will shock the political establishment by delivering the Green Mountain State to their side again this fall. Dubie does benefit from a crowded Democratic primary race -- there are five candidates running -- that won't conclude until Sept. 14. (Previous ranking: 10)
11. Connecticut (R): For a small(ish) state, Connecticut is hosting one of the more entertaining governor's race this fall. Former Ambassador Tom Foley (R) and former Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy (D) won their respective party nods at the recently concluded state conventions but both men will face primary challengers. The Democratic race seems likely to provide more fireworks with polling that suggests 2006 Senate nominee Ned Lamont carries an edge over Malloy who was a close runner-up for the party's gubernatorial nod that same year. (Previous ranking: 11)
10. Minnesota (R): Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's last-minute endorsement of state Rep. Tom Emmer at the state GOP convention earlier this month paid dividends as Emmer won and avoided a difficult primary. On the Democratic side, Margaret Anderson Kelliher, who won her party's nod at the state convention, faces an
September August primary in the form of two self-funders: former Sen. Mark Dayton and former state Rep. Matt Entenza. A recent University of Minnesota poll showed Emmer narrowly leading everyone but Dayton. The state's clear Democratic tilt should boost the eventual nominee, however. (Previous ranking: 12)
9. Pennsylvania (D): The May 18 primary in the state played out as expected with state Attorney General Tom Corbett (R) and Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato (D) easily winning their respective party nods. Given Pennsylvania's history of flip-flopping the governorship every eight years since time immemoriam, however, Corbett enters the general election as a favorite. (Previous ranking: 9)
8. Michigan (D): The ad wars have started in the Republican primary with state Attorney General Mike Cox (R) going up with the first negative commercials of the race and Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R) responding by touting his "character and integrity." Even businessman Rick Snyder (R) -- he of the nerd ad fame -- has joined in, slyly repeating the negative charges against both his opponents while making an appeal for the yelling to stop. But does all that GOP infighting improve Democrats' chances of holding the governorship? Not likely. (Previous ranking: 7)
7. Iowa (D): Gov. Chet Culver's (D) fate may well be decided on June 8. Why? That's the day Republicans will pick their nominee to run against him in the fall. Former Gov. Terry Branstad (R) is the clear favorite for the nomination and even most Democrats acknowledge that, barring a political cataclysm, Culver can't beat Branstad. (Previous ranking: 6)
6. Hawaii (R): The special election victory by Rep. Charles Djou (R) in Hawaii's 1st district had emboldened some Republicans about their chances of keeping the seat of term limited Gov. Linda Lingle (R). It probably shouldn't. Democrats do face a real (and late) primary between former Rep. Neil Abercrombie and Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann but either one is a favorite in a general election matchup with Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona (R).
5. Oklahoma (D): Rep. Mary Fallin (R) is nearly fifty points(!) ahead of state Sen. Randy Brogdon (R) in the GOP primary. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) won his highest percentage of the vote in the Sooner State in 2008. 'Nuff said. (Previous ranking: 5)
4. Tennessee (D): Rep. Zach Wamp, Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey continue to duke it out on the airwaves with Wamp releasing a series of four region-specific ads and Haslam up with a spot aimed at rural voters. The race remains a safe bet for Republicans, with the successor to term-limited Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) likely be decided in the August 5 GOP primary. (Previous ranking: 4)
3. Rhode Island (R): The two little-known Republican candidates in the state had less than $100,000 cash on hand combined at the end of March -- a total less than the Moderate Party candidate. What's the Moderate Party, you ask? A party that has about the same chance of winning this race as the GOP does. This race is between former Sen. Lincoln Chafee (I-R.I.) and either state Treasurer Frank Caprio (D) or state Attorney General Patrick Lynch (D). (Previous ranking 3)
2. Kansas (D): About the only movement in this race came earlier this month, when Sen. Sam Brownback (R) came under fire from state Sen. Tom Holland (D) for his involvement in a proposal to exempt car dealers from the oversight of a new consumer protection agency. Still, repeat after us: Governor Sam Brownback. Get used to saying it. (Previous ranking: 2)
1. Wyoming (D): The filing period in the Equality State closes today, and Democrats don't look likely to field a serious candidate. One county Democratic party chairwoman who was weighing a bid at the eleventh hour said the field of three Democrats running "have sent a shiver up my spine." Um, what? (Previous ranking: 1)
With Felicia Sonmez and Aaron Blake
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