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)
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