These Two Governors Are Thriving In Unfriendly Territory

Perhaps “unfriendly” is a poor word choice. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts and Larry Hogan of Maryland have enjoyed sky-high popularity since the very beginning of their tenure. In fact, the two literally top the list of most popular governors in America – Baker number one with a whopping 75 percent approval rating and Hogan nipping at his heels with 73 percent.

The real kicker in this story: the Republican duo represent two of some of the most liberal states in the country. Both men were elected in the GOP wave year of 2014 and are up for re-election next year.

The upcoming mid-terms will be a rough road for Republican governors, as they will have to play defense in the majority of states. Twenty seven of the 38 gubernatorial seats up for grabs in 2017 and 2018 are currently held by the GOP – giving Democrats a high ceiling for growth. It would be assumed Maryland and Massachusetts (two states with overtly high Democratic voter registration advantages) would be top targets. However, it may prove difficult for the Democratic Governors Association to field worthy candidates against such popular figures.

Rep. Joe Kennedy has declined a run against Baker and so has Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey – eliminating two top-tier candidates. Former Secretary of Administration and Finances, Jay Gonzalez, has thrown his hat into the ring, and so has liberal activist Bob Massie. Newton Mayor Setti Warren is seriously considering a bid.

Donald Trump is deeply unpopular in the state. Gov. Baker had to publicly rebuke the then-presidential candidate during the 2016 campaign to create distance between the two. Despite this, Trump’s poor image will certainly be a factor leading into this election. Baker will be sharing a ballot with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a very popular Democrat in the state who is also running for re-election. Her own get-out-the-vote operation could prove to be a problem as she galvanizes liberal voters.

The environment could be ripe for a Baker defeat, but if no serious Democrat steps up to the challenge – it won’t matter.

A lot of the same can be said for Gov. Larry Hogan. He has also distanced himself from President Trump and governed his state moderately while working with a Democrat-controlled state legislature. Hogan won over the hearts of many Marylanders during his public battle (and eventual victory) with cancer – everyone loves a heartwarming tale.

Given Hogan’s amazing popularity and a campaign war chest of over $5 million, not many Democrats have jumped at the opportunity for a challenge. State Delegate Maggie McIntosh and a few other big names have declined to run. The only official candidate so far is former State Department official Alec Ross – an accomplished individual, but a relative unknown in Maryland. It is also looking very likely that Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker will announce his candidacy in the coming days.

Both Charlie Baker and Larry Hogan shocked the country when they came out victorious in the aftermath of the 2014 elections… but a lot can happen in four years.

These two could win again and perhaps not a single spectator would be surprised.

Campaign Daily Rating (Massachusetts): Likely Republican

Campaign Daily Rating (Maryland): Likely Republican


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Is Scott Walker Poised For A Third Term?

A question that seemed so unimaginable during his 2012 recall campaign.

While he has not officially announced his candidacy for re-election, Gov. Scott Walker appears to be in good standing to win again – for a fourth time in a row. Walker’s poll numbers dipped amid his failed presidential run, but have since slowly climbed up and now stand in the mid-40’s.  However, it’s not just his growing poll numbers that have experts in the Badger State believing another gubernatorial victory is his for the taking.

To lose an election, you need someone else to win. With that obvious fact on the table – there appears to be no one wanting to challenge Gov. Walker. Many high profile Democrats have already taken their name out of consideration. Former Green Bay Packers player Mark Tauscher, businessman Mark Bakken, Congressman Ron Kind and former state Sen. Tim Cullen are the latest (of others) who have opted out of a Walker challenge.

The only Democrat who has officially announced is 25-year-old Bob Harlow, a man who ran for Congress in California last year. Not exactly top talent.

Wisconsin is a bona fide purple state with a long history of progressive politics. The voters in the Badger State voted Democrat in every presidential election since 1988 – until last year. As early as 2010, both chambers of the state capitol were controlled by Democrats. Why would it be so hard to find to find a serious Democrat to challenge a governor despised by the liberals?

Perhaps Wisconsin isn’t what it used to be.

The Badger State shocked the country when it broke over two decades of tradition and voted for Donald Trump, a Republican candidate, for president. But if you look closer at the partisan changes in the state, it may not seem so surprising.

Both chambers of the Wisconsin legislature are now GOP controlled. A larger majority of Wisconsin’s House Delegation is Republican. The state was at the epicenter of Hillary Clinton’s “blue wall” collapse amid the night of the 2016 election.

Gov. Scott Walker may have rode a GOP wave into office during the 2010 mid-terms, but he clearly earned his place as the state’s top executive. In the three gubernatorial races he’s run: the 2010 election, the 2012 recall and the 2014 re-election, Walker never took less than 52 percent of the vote.

The 2012 recall that attempted to oust him from power did just the opposite. Walker not only survived the recall attempt, but walked away with a national donor base and recognition from conservatives around the country. It’s this same donor base that’s scaring Democrats from challenging him. Numerous Democratic lawmakers have cited an inability to match Walker’s fundraising prowess as reason for opting out of a challenge. The governor raked in about $35 million in his 2014 campaign and many estimate he could raise as much as $45 million for 2018.

While Gov. Walker continued to win race after race and local Democrats dwindled in the state legislature, Rep. Paul Ryan continued to climb the ladders of power on Capitol Hill. He was idolized on the right during the 2012 election as Mitt Romney’s running mate. In 2015, Ryan became the current speaker of the House – the first Wisconsin congressman to ever do so.

Even more so, the former Wisconsin GOP chairman, Reince Priebus, became the RNC chairman in 2011 and earned a national profile of his own. Getting promoted yet again, he now serves as the White House chief of staff.

The once-dark blue Wisconsin has become the epicenter of Republican politics.

It can be argued that Donald Trump paved his own way to victory in The Badger State by winning over rural voters with his blue-collar appeal. However, there should be no denying the road Walker, Ryan and Priebus paved into transforming the partisan shift of Wisconsin.

This may be why Wisconsin is less friendly to Democrats than times past.

It may also be why Gov. Walker won’t have such a tough time securing a third term.

Campaign Daily Rating: Likely Republican


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Gubernatorial Race Brewing In Virginia

While most every other state is still recuperating from the crazy presidential campaign last year, Virginia is already underway in a competitive contest for the state’s highest office. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe is term limited (thanks to Old Dominion’s one-term gubernatorial policy) and will be vacating his seat at the end of the year.

Former Bush staffer and RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie is the clear front-runner in the GOP primary. He leads Prince William County Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart with 28 percent to his 12 percent. However, that same Quinnipiac University poll taken in early April shows Gillespie trailing both Democratic candidates by over 10 points in a general election matchup.

Unlike the Republican primary, the race to become the Democratic nominee is much more competitive. Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam trails former Rep. Tom Perriello by only five points. The contest has become an establishment-versus-grassroots campaign of sorts.

Northam has long been involved in Old Dominion politics. He also sports the backing of major Democrats in the state: Gov. McAuliffe, Senator Tim Kaine, Senator Mark Warner, the majority of the state’s Democratic congressional delegation and every Democrat in the state legislature.

This laundry list of backers for the lieutenant governor has not secured his nomination, however. Tom Perriello’s surprise entrance into the race in early January has led to a wave of insurgent support.

Tom Perriello only served one term in the U.S. House of Representatives – having been elected in 2008 to Virginia’s 5th Congressional District and then promptly ousted amid the 2010 Republican wave. Upon leaving the House, Perriello served as CEO of the Center for American Progress Action Fund and was appointed in 2015 as the Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The time spent at the Center for American Progress and his vehement anti-Trump rhetoric on the campaign trail has largely built up his cred among national liberals. Perriello boasts endorsements from many key members of the Obama White House (Dan Pfeiffer and John Podesta included) and from the Senate’s only democratic socialist – Bernie Sanders.

Since he entered the primary, Perriello has continually railed against Donald Trump on the campaign trail, calling the 45th President “viciously racist” and vowing to stop his agenda whenever possible. The strategy to energize disillusioned  Democrats after a bruising 2016 election loss is clearly working. Despite having virtually the entire Virginia Democratic establishment betting against him, Periello leads Northam 25 percent to 20 percent.

To be fair, there will be more than enough time for either candidate to pull ahead. Both parties pick their nominee on June 13.

The ramifications of the election may be more than just political.

This November could be the deciding factor in where the Washington Redskins decide to make their new home stadium. Gov. McAuliffe has worked desperately to move the team to Northern Virginia, but has yet to finalize a deal with the Redskins’ management. They  may move to D.C. or stay in Maryland. Both Perriello and Northam have publicly taken tough stances on the team’s controversial name whereas Gillespie believes the decision to change the name is solely up to the team.

Campaign Daily Rating: Toss-up


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