Sabato's Crystal Ball

Notes on the State of Politics

U.Va. Center for Politics September 29th, 2011

Too Late for Christie, Palin?

While New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has denied that he will enter the Republican presidential primary field, many political insiders continue to buzz over this possibility — especially after his Tuesday night speech at the Reagan Presidential Library. Those close to him — including his own brother, Todd — have clearly stated their doubts that Gov. Christie will run. The possibility remains, however, that Christie will dispel these doubts and join the field.  Either way, though, the governor of the Garden State is inching closer to primary filing deadlines that could effectively keep him out of the running.

The filing deadline for the Utah primary, Oct. 15, is fast approaching. While a potential Christie campaign would most likely not suffer from missing this contest, his staff will have to be mindful of the next deadline: Florida. Failing to file by the Oct. 31 deadline in the Sunshine State would almost certainly derail any chance that Christie would have at grabbing the Republican nomination.

As the New York Times recently reported, these deadlines will similarly affect Sarah Palin and her decision to join the Republican field. Candidates such as Gov. Rick Perry have certainly been able to enter the race later than others, but for Christie and Palin, entering too late could mean that their campaigns might be over before they truly begin.

Tim Robinson

GOP aims for another upset

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, the ex-head of the Republican Governors Association, surveyed this year’s four governors’ races and said that the GOP would elect “not just the two Republican governors we’ve got now, but at least three and maybe four Republican governors.”

The first two are easy: Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) barely faces any competition in his reelection bid, and in Mississippi, Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant is an overwhelming favorite to defeat Democratic nominee Johnny DuPree, mayor of Hattiesburg (Barbour himself is term-limited).

It certainly appears that the GOP won’t get a sweep: Gov. Steve Beshear (D-KY) is walloping his Republican opponent, state Senate President David Williams, in Bluegrass State polling.

That leaves West Virginia, where acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) is facing an unexpected challenge from Republican businessman Bill Maloney. Polling has shown the race tightening, although Tomblin apparently still holds a lead of several points.

The special election is next Tuesday, and it’s possible the campaign will just keep going, because this election is just to fill the unexpired term of Sen. Joe Manchin (D), the former governor. Another election, for a full term, will be held next year.

A Maloney victory would surely send national political commentators into a tizzy, although West Virginia is hardly representative of the nation at large (the state’s electorate was 94% white in the 2008 presidential election, for instance), and turnout could be very low for this election. A Tomblin loss, however, could be a bad sign for West Virginia’s conservative Democratic ruling class, indicating that the state’s Republican politics on the presidential level are trickling down to the local level.

Kyle Kondik

Pennsylvanian power grab

Republicans in Pennsylvania are considering a plan in which the state’s 20 electoral votes would be allocated not on a statewide basis, but rather on a congressional district by district basis (the two extra votes given to Pennsylvania for its two senators would go to the statewide winner).

Given that the Keystone State has gone for the Democratic presidential candidate in each of the past five elections, this would certainly help Republicans, as Carl Klarner of Indiana State University argues.

If approved, Pennsylvania would be the third state to award its electoral votes by congressional district; Maine and Nebraska are the others.

At this point, the plan does not look all that likely to be put into action; National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX) argues that the plan might put some Republican congressmen in danger, because the Obama campaign — and its seemingly bottomless pockets — would coordinate its campaign to win individual congressional districts as opposed to just the statewide vote. Unsurprisingly, nearly all of Pennsylvania’s Republican congressmen agree; so do voters, who oppose the plan 52-40 according to a Quinnipiac poll.

Bill Pascoe, a friend of the Crystal Ball, lays out the dangers for Republicans.

Kyle Kondik