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The Governor's Line: All Eyes on Louisiana

Eight days are all that separate political junkies from the first significant vote of the 2007-2008 election cycle.

It will come on Oct. 20 when Rep. Bobby Jindal (R-La.), state Sen. Walter Boasso (D), businessman John Georges (I) and Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell (D) -- among others -- battle for the right to succeed Gov. Kathleen Blanco (D).

For months, the storyline has been whether Jindal, who narrowly lost to Blanco four years ago, can win the Oct. 20 primary with better than 50 percent of the vote. If he does, he avoids a runoff with the next highest vote-getter and becomes Louisiana's next governor.

Until about a month ago, it seemed as though Jindal was more likely than not to crest the 50 percent barrier. But, huge personal spending by Boasso and Georges has complicated that picture significantly. Even Jindal allies now acknowledge that a runoff is a 50-50 proposition but still express confidence that whether he wins on Oct. 20 or Nov. 16 (the date of the runoff) he will win.

But, considering that Jindal led the primary filed in 2003 only to see that lead evaporate in the runoff there has to be a certain level of trepidation about the unpredictability of a November vote in the Jindal camp.

Scroll down to see where Louisiana ended up this month. As always, the number one ranked race is the most likely to switch party control. Feel free to offer your own thoughts in the comments section below.

To the Line!

5. Washington: Say this for the Washington governor's race. It has the making of being nasty, brutish and short. Why? Former state Sen. Dino Rossi (R) will run but he doesn't seem to feel any immediate pressure to make that announcement and may not for several months. And, the campaigns are already exchanging subtle body blows, however, and this race is likely to get ugly quickly. Gov. Christine Gregoire (D) has several advantages that she didn't have when she eked by Rossi after multiple recounts in 2004: she is an incumbent in a Democratic-leaning state in a national environment that is toxic for Republicans. Rossi's challenge is formidable but he is a gifted candidate. (Previous ranking: 5)

4. Indiana: This is a race is full of disconnects. Take the Democratic primary. The smart money -- both in state and nationally -- seems to be on architect Jim Schellinger (D) and yet former Rep. Jill Long Thompson (D) has a comfortable primary lead and the support of EMILY's List, which means she will be able to compete financially with Schellinger. The general election provides a similar conundrum as Republicans are absolutely convinced that Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) will be re-elected going away -- citing the state's Republican lean and the turnout patterns in a presidential year. And yet, an independent poll conducted last month showed 45 percent of voters rating Daniels' job performance as "excellent" or "good" and 47 percent rating it "fair" or "poor". We aren't sure what to think but this race has all the makings of a real contest in both the primary and the general election. (Previous ranking: 4)

3. Missouri: As usual when it comes to Missouri politics, Kansas City Star political correspondent Steve Kraske gets it right. Kraske wrote in a recent column that Gov. Matt Blunt's (R) re-election chances hinge on whether he lets a 2005 decision to cut Medicaid rolls in order to close a $1 billion budget shortfall define his first four years or not. In a recent sitdown with The Fix, state Attorney General Jay Nixon (D) made very clear that his campaign will seek to make the 2008 vote a referendum on that decision by Blunt. "He came in and made a fundamental mistake," said Nixon. Is it that simple? It just might be. Expect Republicans to continue to bang on alleged ethical missteps by Nixon, turning the race into a devil-you-know vs devil-you-don't contest. Nixon appears ready for that sort of bloodbath; "You only have to be better than the guy you're running against." he said. What a campaign slogan! (Previous ranking: 3)

2. Louisiana: Make no mistake: Jindal is still in the drivers's seat in this race. The most recent survey put him at 46 percent followed by Boasso at 10 percent and Georges at nine percent, with roughly three in ten voters still undecided. Jindal's numbers, however, have taken something of a hit from prolonged attacks by both Boasso and Georges and is now perilously close to facing one of those two men in the runoff. If that happens, expect Democrats to draw paralells to Jindal's 2003 runoff loss to then Lt. Gov. Kathleen Blanco (D). But, neither Boasso nor Georges is nearly as strong as Blanco was heading into that runoff. Jindal would start the runoff as the frontrunner and eithe Boasso or Georges would have to show us more than they have to date to unseat him. One x-factor in the primary calcuations? LSU's number-one ranked football team plays a home game that same Saturday against Auburn. Do the 100,000+ fans at the game -- plus hundreds of thousands watching at home -- take the time to vote that day? If not, how does it effect the resuilts? (Previous ranking: 2)

1. Kentucky: It's never over until it's over but this one sure looks like it's over. Gov. Ernie Fletcher (R) spent his first term beset by ethical questions and, despite a brief revival to win a contested Republican primary, looks like a dead man walking at the moment. A mid-September poll conducted for the Louisville Courier Journal showed former Lt. Gov. Steve Beshear (D) 20 points ahead of Fletcher; our conversations with insiders on both sides suggest that number is about right. Fletcher has tried a number of attacks on Beshear -- alleging that Beshear "supports" casino gambling, that he engaged in unethical practices in relation to the collapse of Kentucky Central Life Co. -- but they simply haven't caught on. Voters made up their minds about Fletcher a while ago and Beshear is in the right place at the right time. (Previous ranking: 1)

By Chris Cillizza  |  October 12, 2007; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  The Line  
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Comments

From what I understand, most of the people who voted absentee in Louisiana are white and Republican and therfore presumptively Jindal supporters. If the absentee votes were seriously influenced by the LSU game, then, at least in Louisiana, the average college football fan leans Republican.

But I'm expecting Boasso to force the runoff. He'll fight for our reconstruction like he fought to fix the corrupt levee boards.

"Bobby" doesn't even know about the state between New Orleans and Lake Charles. He needs to finish the job we sent him to do in Washington before we promote him to another job! I mean, he's only 36 years old. He'll be better prepared in another few years. IF you even agree with his politics, that is...

Posted by: economy1 | October 19, 2007 1:11 PM | Report abuse

Regarding the Louisiana gubernatorial race, we can only hope that whoever gets elected in Louisiana affects changes in reconstruction efforts. I just saw the documentary Desert Bayou (http://www.desertbayoumovie.com) which, if there were any doubts, really made it evident that there is still a lot of work to be done in reconstruction and current administrations (both local and national) don't seem to have a clear longterm plan. I'm hoping a change of state leadership mixed with a new president will create a more focused joint leadership with clear plans for reconstruction.

Posted by: christina.shideler | October 16, 2007 2:24 PM | Report abuse

Regarding the Louisiana gubernatorial race, we can only hope that whoever gets elected in Louisiana affects changes in reconstruction efforts. I just saw the documentary Desert Bayou which, if there were any doubts, really made it evident that there is still a lot of work to be done in reconstruction and current administrations (both local and national) don't seem to have a clear longterm plan. I'm hoping a change of state leadership mixed with a new president will create a more focused joint leadership with clear plans for reconstruction.

Posted by: christina.shideler | October 16, 2007 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Relative to the Louisiana Gubernatorial Campaign, Jindal will be in a run off, and he may even win. However, he has arrogantly refused to debate when the other 3 main candidates showed up repeatedly. If he does not act responsibly now, he will not later!

Moreover, he did not show up to vote on the very important Children's medical bill last month...Of the seven Congressional Louisiana Delegation, we Democrats are unfortunately represented by 5 Republicans... Jindal did not show up,but the other 4 voted (as Bush licking Republicans against the bill). Jindal said he would support it. Well, let's see if he returns to Washington to over ride the President's veto of the bill!

I seriously doubt he will, but if he does, I will come back here and report to you.

Thanks for reading. Governor Blanco is a great Governor,,,,,and has not yet received the credit that is due!!

Moreover, Jindal will wish he was not Governor when the Democrat Louisiana legislature gives him his "just desserts"!

Audrey George
815 Funderburk Avenue
Houma, Louisiana

Posted by: abgeorge | October 15, 2007 12:54 PM | Report abuse

I live in Washington state and many Democrats thought Attorney General Gregoire did not go after Rossi aggressively enough in 2004. I suspect she will not make that mistake this time.

Gregoire has been popular with the Democratic base due to a variety of measures (expanded health insurance for children, Puget Sound cleanup, transportation bill, funding for education initiatives, two gay & lesbian civil rights bills) she has passed. The local economy is solid, making it a non-issue. She even co-opted a Republican supported idea to make a "Rainy Day" fund in case state revenues go south. The lawsuit she filed against Bush's restrictions on SCHIP pits her in a high-profile battle over children's health against an unpopular administration. In a Democratic leaning state and a horrible political environment for Republicans, I think she has done enough to win. The challenge will be getting the message out. Gregoire's Achilles heel is that she has been weak at PR and communicating her agenda. Rossi, in contrast, is good at PR. However, at this point Gregoire would have to make major mistakes in her reelection campaign to lose. That is possible but unlikely.

Posted by: Lloth8 | October 14, 2007 4:55 PM | Report abuse

You may want to pray that Jindal does win, and by a landslide, or all our goofy Louisiana residents (myself included) may be moving soon to YOUR state. :) We desperately need some positive change here.

Posted by: katie839 | October 12, 2007 7:29 PM | Report abuse

An interesting list. In Montana, it's still looking like no contest. No prominent Republican has yet declared for the gubernatorial race. The only one in the wings is former State Senator Bob Keenan of Bigfork.

Keenan's only statewide race was his unsuccessful primary challenge to incumbant Conrad Burns in the Senate Race of 2006. He got 30 percent of the vote and that has to be considered a measure of success when running against the incumbant in a primary. Keenan repaired relations with the party by campaigning for Burns in the gerneral election.

But Keenan has been in the news as openly vacillating between a run against popular Governor Brian Schweitzer and equally popular US Senator Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. Baucus is still relatively young for a five-termer at age 65. The only close re-election bid was his third when he beat now congressman Denny Rehberg by five points. But there is an asterisk on that race. There was a green party candidate that won five percent of the vote. Without that candidate, Baucus would have had a ten-point spread. All his other re-election bids have been runaways.

Baucus is often under attack by the left wing of the Democratic Party. He has been a pragmatist in Congress who has cut deals with Republicans, which of course sticks in the craw of Party purists who see any cooperation with the other party as treachery, rather than pragmatic compromise. There is a very strong green element in Montana, particularly in the Democratic stronghold of Missoula. A strong green candidate could cause Baucus problems, if there is a corresponding strong Republican candidate. But neither a green or GOP is in sight. Only Micheal Lange, seen on national television doing a profanity laced tirade in his party caucus, has announced against him. Lange was ousted at House majority leader after that.

So the story in Montana is the Congressional at-large seat may be the only state contest worth watching in 2008, and even that is a maybe, depending upon how well Yellowstone County Comission Bill Kennedy, the only announced Democrat, overcomes the name-recognition gap in the rest of the state.

Also worth watching will be the various State legislature races. Last session the GOP had a one-vote majority, due to cooperation with the lone Constitution Party legislator. The session ended for the first time in the state's 118-year history without a budget being passed. The House GOP leader Michael Lange made CNN with a profanity-laced tirade against Schweitzer saying the Governor could take his budget and shove it up his (you know what).

A small group of Republican moderates met after the session and cut a deal with Schweitzer that gave the Governor most of what he wanted. It was all sealed in a special session in which Schweitzer appeared the victor.

So while Schweizter appears to have a cake-walk for re-election, the real vindication of his first term actions may be seen if the GOP loses the majority in the house.

Posted by: AlaninMissoula | October 12, 2007 2:20 PM | Report abuse

"Do the 100,000+ fans at the game -- plus hundreds of thousands watching at home -- take the time to vote that day? If not, how does it effect the resuilts?" -CC

You know, that's really an interesting thought. I wonder what the polling data of avid football fans is like. How many are likely voters? Does an average college football fan lean Republican or Democrat?

I have no way to answer this question. I wonder if this research was done by anyone in Louisiana.

Posted by: JasonL_in_MD | October 12, 2007 11:52 AM | Report abuse

I think Jindal is still clearly the favorite in LA, but what does his future look like if he actually does lose this race? The guy is only in his mid thirties and has a safe House seat, so I suspect he can stay in poltics if he wants to, but I wonder if he has much of a statewide future if he loses a second gubenatorial race that he was favored to win. Not saying it's going to happen, but i have to think that would be HUGELY damaging to his future if it does come to pass.

Posted by: _Colin | October 12, 2007 11:36 AM | Report abuse

cricket crickets crickets

Posted by: RUFUS11_33 | October 12, 2007 11:20 AM | Report abuse

"Barack Obama is JFK heir, says Kennedy aide
By Toby Harnden in New York
Last Updated: 2:01pm BST 12/10/2007

John F Kennedy's closest living aide has anointed Barack Obama as the heir to the assassinated president's legacy and predicted that Hillary Clinton would lose an election to a Republican.

"

go Obama-gore or 08. Or better yet, Gore obama 08

Posted by: RUFUS11_33 | October 12, 2007 11:04 AM | Report abuse

I concur with Andy R3: There is little chance of Rossi defeating Gregoire. Not only is she an incumbent, she also got a lot of credit for the successful passage to legislation extending health care to children. Given the unpopularity of Bush's SCHIP veto, this will stand in her favor.

Posted by: mjames2 | October 12, 2007 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Consult the Nobel Peace Prize winning, gore-acle :)

Posted by: RUFUS11_33 | October 12, 2007 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Great rankings, but it's definitely sad how little action there is in 2008 Governor's races. Once LA and KY leave the table, especially.

For a full rundown of all 13 Governor's races, and a full ranking of them, check: http://www.campaigndiaries.com/governorrankings

Posted by: campaigndiaries | October 12, 2007 10:24 AM | Report abuse

CC, I think you should limit this to a four race list cause there is no way that Rossi will win in Washington in this environment. He lost last time and its not like Washington got More conservative since then.

Jindal I think should hope that he wins this weekend cause I think a run-off would give all the momentum to the challenger. Not to mention you know that the Dem Governors association will then throw some serious weight around to help Boasso, or heck they might help Georges just to not let Jindal win.
Kentucky is done and has been for a while, the question is will this carry over to hurt McConnell or not?

I think with McKaskill's victory in Missouri last year shows that it is trending more and more towards voting for democrats in statewide offices. Stem-cell's will again be a big issue here and Blount's position against medicaid will be amplified with the GOP's position against SCHIP. I think Nixon wins this in the end but it will be nasty in the end.

If Mitch Daniels wins next year then he is one of the most gifted Politicians in the country. A year ago he was fighting with Fletcher for lowest approval ratings for a governor.

Posted by: AndyR3 | October 12, 2007 8:14 AM | Report abuse

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