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The Friday Line: Romney News Shakes Up Governors Rankings

Editor's Note: Due to techical problems with our blog vendor, The Friday Line didn't get posted last week.  Apologies for the delay.

The biggest piece of news so far this year on the gubernatorial front came Wednesday when Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) announced that he won't run for a second term in 2006.  With the seat now open, the Bay State becomes an even riper pick-up opportunity for Democrats.

You'll have to scroll down to see where Massachusetts ended up on the Friday Line -- the lower the number, the more likely it is the seat will change party. As always, your comments, questions and critiques are welcomed. Please post in the comments section below.

10. Florida -- OPEN, Gov. Jeb Bush (R) is retiring: Both parties are hosting two-way primaries.  For Democrats, Rep. Jim Davis and state Sen. Rod Smith are facing off, while on the Republican side it's state Attorney General Charlie Crist going head to head with state Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher.  That's where the similarities end, however.  The two Republicans are well-known and well-financed.  The two Democrats are little known statewide and have regularly trailed their Republican rivals in the cash chase. But national political atmospherics clearly favor Democrats at the moment, and neither Crist nor Gallagher has the star power that Jeb Bush brought to the ticket. (Previous ranking: N/A.)

9. Oregon -- Gov. Ted Kulongoski (D): Kulongoski's biggest problem at the moment comes from within his own party where a number of Democrats are jockeying to oust him.  The biggest name of that bunch is former Gov. John Kitzhaber, who has said he will make a decision on the race next month. If Kitzhaber, who has played the political Hamlet since leaving office in 2002, decides to run, he would begin the primary as a favorite.  And if he was able to unseat Kulongoski, Kitzhaber as nominee would make the seat decidedly safer for Democrats next November. (Previous ranking: 8.)

8. Arkansas -- OPEN: Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) is retiring: State Attorney General Mike Beebe (D) continues to round up support from his party, receiving glowing reviews for his speech at the state Democratic Party committee meeting last weekend. Beebe also has done an outstanding job of fundraising and seems likely to crest the $2 million mark by the end of the year.  Former Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R) is no slouch as a candidate and will likely get some boost from the popular Huckabee, who has pledged to go all out to elect a Republican as his successor.   (Previous ranking: 9.)

7. California -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R): A Field Poll released just before Thanksgiving encapsulates the divergent elements at work in this race.  Schwarzenegger is almost universally known in the state but has a higher unfavorable rating (54 percent) than favorable (38 percent) -- never a good sign for an incumbent. But Schwarzenegger's two likely opponents -- state Controller Steve Westly and state Treasurer Phil Angelides -- are known by less than one-third of the electorate. In most states that kind of name notification deficit would be easily remediable with several months of television advertising. But given the prohibitive cost of television time in the Golden State, becoming a household name politically is a much harder task.  Californians seem ready for a change, but if Schwarzenegger can define his Democratic opponent early on, voters may opt for the devil they know. (Previous ranking: 7.)

6. Michigan -- Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D): This race is currently all potential for Republicans. If  Dick DeVos (R) (son of Amway founder Richard Devos) drops tens of millions into the race, and if his message catches on with voters in the state, and if the national climate doesn't go any further south for Republicans -- then Granholm is beatable. One thing we know for sure is that the state's economy continues to struggle, and Granholm must find a good way to explain it to voters so that she doesn't bear the brunt of the blame. For now, Granholm does have a cushion. A recent EPIC/MRA poll showed her with a 23 percent edge over DeVos. Still, Republicans remain decidedly optimistic. (Previous ranking: 6.)

5. Maryland -- Gov. Bob Ehrlich (R): Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley's selection of state Del. Anthony Brown, an African American legislator from Prince George's County, drew widespread praise both within the party and among influential media types in the state.  The pick furthers O'Malley's momentum in his primary against Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan, although Duncan (for now) has given no sign that he is reconsidering his bid. Ehrlich faces a tough job of convincing voters in this Democratic-leaning state to cross the aisle to support him for a second term, but he has shown a knack for doing just that during both his time in Congress and in the 2002 gubernatorial race. Still, O'Malley's growing strength should be worrisome for Republicans hoping to hang onto this seat. (Previous ranking: 5.)

4. Iowa -- OPEN, Gov. Tom Vilsack (D) is retiring: This race drops a spot solely because of Romney's announcement. Republicans have a right to feel good here as Rep. Jim Nussle (R) is running a strong campaign (though Bob Vander Plaats's (R) campaign is showing some life, attacking Nussle on his stewardship of the nation's budget while in Congress).  The Democratic race is more wide open, although secretary of state Chet Culver seems to be bouncing back from a slow start; Culver also likely got a boost from a recent independent poll that showed him giving Nussle the closest race of any of the announced Democrats. (Previous ranking: 3.)

3. Ohio -- OPEN, Gov. Bob Taft (R) is retiring: Rep. Ted Strickland's campaign for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination got a major boost at the end of last month when Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman dropped his bid for the nomination. But on Thursday a new roadblock was thrown in front of Strickland as Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D) said she was considering a run for governor. Should Kaptur run she would enjoy strong support from organized labor. The Fix is betting she takes a pass, but until she does this race drops one slot.  Republicans seem to have a two-way fight on their hands between Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell and state Attorney General Jim Petro, though state Auditor Betty Montgomery continues to insist she will stay in the race. (Previous ranking: 2.)

2. Massachusetts -- OPEN, Gov. Mitt Romney (R) is retiring: Romney's decision not to run for a second term bumps this race up two spots on the line. While polls showed Romney trailing state Attorney General Thomas Reilly -- the likely Democratic nominee -- he would have made this a competitive contest had he stayed in the race. Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey, who will almost assuredly be the GOP nominee, is an untested political figure who will be forced to answer for some of the shortcomings of Romney's term. Combine that dynamic with the Democratic nature of the state and Reilly looks well positioned to reclaim the governor's mansion after 16 years in the political desert.  (Previous ranking: 4.)

1. New York -- OPEN, Gov. George Pataki (R) is retiring: No change at the top of the governors line this month. State Attorney General Elliot Spitzer (D) led all his potential Republican rivals by margins varying from 38 points to 50 points in a Quinnipiac poll out early this week. Meanwhile, the New York Republican party can't seem to get everyone singing out of the same song book.  Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld remains the likely Republican nominee, but the possibility of super-rich Tom Golisano entering the race complicates Weld's mission. (Previous ranking: 1.)

See last month's Friday Line on governors races here.

-- Chris Cillizza

By Chris Cillizza  |  December 19, 2005; 6:30 AM ET
Categories:  Governors , The Line  
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Posted by: Phyllis | August 27, 2006 7:57 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: Troy | August 27, 2006 7:20 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: Terry | August 27, 2006 6:43 AM | Report abuse

Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur of Ohio announced this past weekend that she is not seeking the democratic nomination for Ohio Governor and will run for re-election to the House of Reps.

Also, a new poll has Congressman Ted Strickland leading all three potential Republican contenders for Ohio governor by anywhere from 4 to 16 points.

Posted by: RMill | January 10, 2006 10:57 AM | Report abuse


As to the first post:

Strickland is pro-choice and Ohio House Minority Leader Chris Redfern was elected Ohio Dem Party Chair, solidifying Strickland's political power.

Posted by: RMill | January 4, 2006 1:11 PM | Report abuse

Rumor is State Senator and former congressman Eric Fingerhut is ready to announce.

Strickland appears to have ruffled feathers in Dem vote rich NE Ohio as well as leaders in the Black Elected Officials Caucus.

With running mate choice needed in next few weeks, it appears more likely that he chooses Peter Lawson Jones as Lt. gov. Has largest voter base of any african american elected democrat in Ohio.(Cuyahoga Couty commissioner) and could help with both the NE Ohio and Black Dem Caucus problems as well as head off a Fungerhut challenge (also from NE Ohio).

Posted by: RMill | January 4, 2006 1:05 PM | Report abuse

Chris, could you just note in these Friday Lines which races you listed on the previous top 10 list but are now dropping? Looks like WI on this one?

To the first poster: I've met Strickland. Had dinner with him even. He is pro-choice.

I've seen polls showing Angelides 3 points ahead in CA and Jim Davis tied with or ahead of both Republicans in FL.

Yeah, CO is a possible flip, as is NV. Whether they deserve to be in the top 10 I don't know.

What is the MN Gov. race looking like? Swing state that still has a Democratic lean, will also have a Senate race going, and control of the state House of Representatives in the balance. Plus Camp Wellstone seems to be quietly building success and effectiveness at electing candidates. I don't even know what Democrats are considering running against Pawlenty, but I understand that he's done a number of things to cost him popularity since taking office. Like MA and OH, this is a state that hasn't elected a Democratic Governor since 1986. Could the time be ripe?

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | December 21, 2005 2:01 AM | Report abuse

Listen closely... put your ear to the ground, down where the grass roots are... and you'll hear the sound of an uprising in Texas.

Your list overlooks what will be the biggest surprise of 2006, when David-like Independent candidate Kinky Friedman takes on and beats the career Goliaths in Texas.

Posted by: Lone Star | December 19, 2005 9:40 PM | Report abuse

You miscalculated the Massachusetts election. Conventional thinking does not work well here. Romney leaving the field breaks it open for a candidate from the left. Deval Patrick is well positioned to take the nomination away from Reilly. The MA Democrats are starving for a liberal to lead them out of the wilderness. Front-runners are notorious for stumbling in Massachusetts.

Posted by: CapeCodPolitics | December 19, 2005 9:23 PM | Report abuse

Here's my guess:
OMalley wins Maryland handily. Dems were soured to Townsend in 2002 as she was part of Parris Glendening regime. Glendening left his wife and fathered another child with one of his aides while getting a divorce. Erlich would have never been governor if DEms had not given him the opportunity.

As for Steele the current Lt. Governor, he has a snowballs chance of winning the Senate seat. He is not well liked by the African Americans in MD.

Posted by: db | December 19, 2005 8:57 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: KCinDC | December 19, 2005 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Chris, I too was wondering about Deval Patrick in Mass. He has a great chance to do some damage with his vision for the future of that state.

Posted by: Marve | December 19, 2005 2:46 PM | Report abuse

Weld's candidacy in New York is interesting. Can anyone provide some historical context for one person to have governed two different states?

Posted by: Bill Baxter | December 19, 2005 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Here in CA Gov. Arnold is in trouble and is behind in every poll following his Special Election defeat trying to change the state with a series of Propositions.

He is also to moderate (abortion, gay rights, appointments) leaving him vulnerable to an attack from his Republican Right Wing.

While he would be left bruised from a Primary (might even lose) the Democrats will be running their campaigns totally against Arnold leaving their winner, State Treas. Phil Angelides) unscathed beating Arnold by 4-10 points in Nov.

Posted by: Peter Lorenzo | December 19, 2005 12:46 PM | Report abuse

Michigan makes it to sixth simply because Granholm's opponent is a billionaire? You listed 3 big caveats for it to be competitive, and then pointed out a poll showing that it currently wasn't. Number 6? Really?

And why does Oregon rate a spot? As you say, Kulongoski's biggest threat is Kitzhaber, in which case it's safely Democratic. You don't even mention an opponent. If a potential primary gets you to 8, how about Alaska where Frank Murkowski has a primary coming his way, and approval ratings in the 20s?

Seems to me that Colorado is a lot more likely than ether to change hands. Only poll I know of had Ritter ahead of Beauprez/Holtzman, and if Hickenlooper runs, he'd be the easy favorite. Add to it progressives recent success in passing Referendum C, and things are looking good for dems in CO.
Alabama is another state that could deserve some attention. Riley's getting a serious primary from Moore, and Baxley polls closely with Riley and ahead of Moore.

I realize this would further unbalance a list that's already 7-3, but it doesn't look like 2006 is going to be remotely balanced.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 19, 2005 11:55 AM | Report abuse

Does Deval Patrick not even warrant a mention in the Massachusetts section? MA isn't a state famous for upsets and the rigidity of the Democratic establishment is well known, but despite Reilly's huge financial advantage Patrick is a much more inspiring figure with a clearer message. Though Reilly has lots of chits to cash, insiders see him as cantanquerous and arrogant. Now that any Republican opposition is only token, if Patrick can get in a few good blows, this could get interesting. Are you aware of any polls on Patrick's name recognition?

Posted by: MAttinDC | December 19, 2005 9:42 AM | Report abuse

You are so right that Marcy Kaptur's possible running is not likely to happen (Rats). This is being used as a power ploy by the left wing of the Ohio Dem party and is a shot across the bow of the Ted Strickland campaign for governor.

At stake is today's election of a new state party chair and as far as the Left is concerned,Strickland is picking the wrong guy, State Rep Chris Redfern of Catawba, NWOH. The left wing is lining up behind Montogomery Cty chair Dennis Lieberman. Labor is split between Redfern and Lieberman but all the usual far left suspects such as black legislators and Black executive committee members and U.S. Rep Stephanie Tubbs Jones, Dennis Kucinich, Sherrod Brown and Kaptur, are behind Lieberman.

Bottom line: the left cannot stand the idea of a moderate governor leading their party. Strickland is an ordained minister and supports gun rights, might even be pro-life. While he could be governor, the left will have control of the party.

I predict Lieberman will beat Redfern who's pretty left himself; his shortcoming is being backed by Strickland.

Posted by: vivabush04OH | December 19, 2005 9:35 AM | Report abuse

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