[Mb-civic] Campaign 2006: Six Races to Watch - David S. Broder -
Washington Post Op-Ed
swiggard at comcast.net
Thu Jan 5 04:04:38 PST 2006
Campaign 2006: Six Races to Watch
By David S. Broder
Thursday, January 5, 2006; A15
With the return this week of the 109th Congress after last year's
bruising session, it is open season for speculation about November's
midterm elections. The collapse of President Bush's landmark Social
Security initiative, the battles over Supreme Court nominations, the
scandals real and threatened involving Republican leaders, and the signs
of fraying of the GOP coalition have raised the stakes in the coming
House and Senate campaigns.
While Democrats remain underdogs to capture control of either chamber,
the exceptional unity they have displayed on a variety of domestic and
economic issues has bolstered their hopes for gains.
It's guaranteed that banner Senate races, such as the Pennsylvania
contest between Republican incumbent Rick Santorum and Democratic state
Treasurer Robert Casey Jr., will grab a large share of the headlines.
But, at the risk of being contrarian, let me suggest that the most
significant results of 2006 will not involve the Senate or House but
instead will be found in six Midwest governors' races.
The campaigns in Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin
will tell us more about the direction of the country and the shape of
the 2008 presidential battleground than any of the battles for Capitol
Hill -- where incumbency advantages in both money and gerrymandering are
likely to skew the results.
Governors are closer to their constituents than most senators or
representatives, and they exert more influence on presidential politics
than their federal counterparts, in part because the nominees themselves
most often come from the statehouses.
Republicans are likely to consolidate their current strength among
governors across the South from Florida through Texas. Democrats are
poised to solidify their grip on the state capitols in the Northeast,
with strong candidates available to challenge in New York and
Massachusetts, where Republican incumbents are retiring.
But the Midwest is a real battleground, with one open seat in each party
and three Democrats and a Republican facing tough reelection battles.
No state is more up in the air than Ohio, the crucial battleground in
the 2004 presidential race. Retiring Republican Gov. Bob Taft figured in
one end-of-the-year survey as the least popular incumbent in the
country, with a 17 percent job approval rating. Rep. Ted Strickland now
has an open path to the Democratic nomination, while Republicans face a
possible primary battle among three statewide officials, Secretary of
State Ken Blackwell, Attorney General Jim Petro and State Auditor Betty
In Iowa, the other open seat, where Democratic incumbent Tom Vilsack is
retiring voluntarily, the Republican front-runner is Rep. Jim Nussle,
chairman of the House Budget Committee, who is opposed by businessman
Bob Vander Plaats. Secretary of State Chet Culver, son of former senator
John Culver, heads a Democratic field that also includes a Vilsack
protege, former state economic development director Mike Blouin.
In Minnesota, Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty has battled the opposition
legislature over budgets and other issues but was credited with a 59
percent approval score. Attorney General Mike Hatch, state Sens. Becky
Lourey and Steve Kelley, and developer Kelly Doran are seeking the
In Wisconsin, Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle has faced the mirror image of
that problem, squabbling regularly with Republicans in the legislature.
Doyle has 48 percent job approval and two credible Republican
challengers, Rep. Mark Green and Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker.
In Michigan, Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm is personally popular,
but her state's continuing economic woes have left her with a shaky 41
percent job approval rating. The Republican challenger is likely to be
Dick DeVos, the former head of the Alticor (Amway) sales network.
And finally, in Illinois, Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich has
accumulated a huge campaign treasury but also a slew of investigations
and controversies as he bids for a second term. The weakened Republican
establishment has rallied behind state Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka, but
she has opposition from state Sen. Bill Brady, investor and dairy
magnate Jim Oberweis, and Ron Gidwitz, a businessman-philanthropist.
In the last presidential race, Ohio and Iowa went narrowly to Bush;
Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin barely held for John Kerry. Illinois
was the only one of the six states that delivered a solid Democratic
Those states figure to be just as important in 2008, which means that
what happens there this year will be well worth watching.
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
More information about the Mb-civic