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On Election Day two weeks from now, voters in 36 states will go to the polls to choose their next governor. Of these contest, 28 include incumbents seeking another term. Somewhat striking in this election cycle is the fact that this time around many incumbents find themselves in highly competitive races. Some say voters are transferring frustration with Washington to candidates closer to home. Join us to discuss the 2014 gubernatorial races, why so many are so close what a party swap at the top could mean for state and national politics.
- Stuart Rothenberg Editor and publisher of the Rothenberg Political Report and a twice-a-week columnist for Roll Call.
- Larry Sabato Founder and director, University of Virginia Center for Politics and author of "The Kennedy Half-Century" (2013).
- Jennifer Duffy Senior editor of the Cook Political Report.
- Alan Greenblatt Writer, Governing Magazine
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Big money, an estimated $379 million is being spent this year on governors races. The 36 gubernatorial contests include 11 incumbents in serious jeopardy. Joining me to talk about the governors races coming down to the wire and their national implications, Stuart Rothenberg of the Rothenberg Political Report, Jennifer Duffy of the Cook Political Report.
MS. DIANE REHMJoining us by phone from Charlottesville, Virginia, Larry Sabato of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia and from a studio at KWMU in St. Louis, Alan Greenblatt of Governing magazine. I know you'll want to weigh in. Give us a call, 800-433-8850. Send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter. And welcome to all of you.
MR. STUART ROTHENBERGThanks very much.
MS. JENNIFER DUFFYGood morning.
REHMGood to have you all with us. Stu Rothenberg, I'm gonna start with you. Lots of attention on these races, but still more attention on the Senate. But tell us what's going on with the governors.
ROTHENBERGWell, there are 22 Republican governors up this year and 14 Democrats overall. There are 29 Republican governors in the states and 21 Democrats so there are more Republican governors overall and also dramatically more in this class. Remember, Diane, this is the same class that was elected four years ago, 2010, a big Republican wave not only in the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate, but also in the states.
ROTHENBERGSo there's a lot of states up. It's very important because the states have become laboratories not only for ideas, but also for politicians who want to be national political figures and, of course, run for the White House. Plus, there's all this talk about gridlock in Washington and if Washington can't work, somebody's got to work and often, that's put at the doorstep of governors, states and state legislatures.
ROTHENBERGSo there's -- I think there should be a significant amount of attention to governors. There is less so, I think, for a couple of reasons. One, is when you look at the Senate, one party or the other controls the institutions. Governors, it's different. They run individual states and so it's harder to say, well, there's a gain or a loss or who's winning control. It's really not a case of who's going to win control of governors. It's who's going to be elected to those offices.
REHMSo Jennifer, take us back to 2012. How does this compare?
DUFFYWell, you know, 2012, there are so many fewer races. There are only 12 states that actually elect governors in a presidential year. So by and large, sometimes it goes with the presidential, sometimes not. You had some surprises. You know, President Obama lost North Carolina by a couple points. The Republican won North Carolina by a couple points. Yet, you know, President Obama lost Missouri by a good bit and you saw a Democratic governor get reelected.
DUFFYSo they tend to exist in their own universe and they don't get very much attention, that's for sure.
REHMLarry Sabato, how important is partisanship in these races?
MR. LARRY SABATOWell, it's very important, but it's not as important as it is in races for the Senate. Yeah, as Jennifer was just saying, individual governors races tend to run on different tracks. They don't get as much attention nationally, but within the state, they often dominate the coverage because people know they're electing a singular executive for the next two or four years and they're governed by that individual.
MR. LARRY SABATOThey know when they elect a senator, the senator is one of 100 and there's collective responsibility. But, you know, we make the argument at our crystal ball site that the governorships are a much better measure of where the country is and what the country's thinking this year. And there's a very fundamental reason for it. There are 35 Senate races, but because they're concentrated this year in smaller states, for the most part, only 51 percent of Americans have the opportunity to vote for one of those 35 Senate seats.
MR. LARRY SABATOContrast that with the 36 governorships that are up, almost 80 percent of the American people are voting for governor. So when we're looking for lessons from 2014, we might actually start with the governorships, not the Senate.
REHMSo Alan Greenblatt, how do you respond to that?
MR. ALAN GREENBLATTWell, one thing I've been thinking about is whether this is kind of a referendum election in that while Washington has been totally gridlocked, very dysfunctional, the states have been pushing a lot of ambitious policies, but in different directions. We have single-party control in most states, meaning Republicans or Democrats have both the governorship and the legislature. And in the red states, Republican states, they've been very ambitious with abortion restrictions, with tax cuts, with voter ID laws.
MR. ALAN GREENBLATTAnd if you're living in a blue state, you're living politically in a very different world. You're seeing your minimum wage probably increased. You're seeing expansion of Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act, which is up to state's discretion and maybe seeing some restrictions on gun owners rights. So the states have been going in these opposite directions and I think for a lot of these governors, one reason they're in trouble is that some of them may have gone farther than their voters wanted.
ROTHENBERGI simply want to add, while I see Larry's point and I, you know, agree partially with it, I think there's one difference, the governors races versus Senate races in an area where governors races may not be as instructive as looking at the Senate or the House. And that's this. Governors races are, in a sense, like presidential contests where personality, the individual style of the governor is very important. Sure, the ideology and the agenda and how successful the governor's been on the economy or education, those are all very important.
ROTHENBERGOf course, we all pay attention to that. But some of these governors who got elected, when I look at how they've performed over four years, you wonder how they seem politically tone deaf sometimes.
REHMGive me an example.
ROTHENBERGI'll give you Corbett in Pennsylvania just can't communicate with the state. Rick Scott in Florida is not a natural politician. Snyder, Governor Snyder in Michigan is not a natural, you know, there are some politicians -- Bill Clinton, there was a case of a natural politician. So some of these governors, it's about their personality and style.
DUFFYYou know, I'd also add that one of the threads that I can weave for most of our very vulnerable incumbents is the economy. A lot of these governors are in states where the economy has not recovered as it has in some others. There are a couple of exceptions to that. But when you look at a Connecticut, for example, an Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, they haven't really kept up. And I think that that is feeding voters' dissatisfaction with some of these incumbents.
DUFFYLook at Connecticut. Now Dan Malloy, the governor, Democrat, promised in the campaign that he would not raise taxes. Well, within six months, he instituted the largest tax increase in the state's history and...
REHMAnd how did he justify that?
DUFFYHe justified that as we have a big budget hole to fill and we have to raise taxes or cut education. Unfortunately, there are people in Connecticut who believe they did both. But as a result, he's very unpopular. I'd say that the same is true for Pat Quinn in Illinois. He instituted an enormous tax increase that he said would be temporary and now he's kind of hinting it might be permanent. You know, Rick Snyder, Michigan, Republican, has actually done some very interesting, innovative things in the state, but it hasn't moved forward as much as they would like, which explains, you know, why he's in trouble.
DUFFYAnd he is not a natural politician. He runs as one tough nerd, is his tag line. So he's a computer guy.
REHMSo Larry Sabato, what about a tough nerd running for governor as opposed to somebody who really appeals to the people?
SABATOWell, he managed to win, of course, in a heavy Republican year and so far, he's doing reasonably well, but he's not doing exceptionally well. Why? Because Michigan is a blue state. The Senate race there, at least at our crystal ball site, we put to bed many months ago. There was very little chance the Republican was going to win the Senate race there. Now, why isn't the Democrat winning the Michigan governorship?
SABATOThere's a fairly strong Democrat, former congressman running against Governor Snyder. The answer is that while governorship elections are still partisan, they're not as partisan in many cases as the Senate races are. You're able to get a Republican elected in a Democratic state for governor a lot more easily than you can do that for a Senate seat and vice versa. And that's probably a good thing because the issues that governors focus on are much less the social issues that often dominate the TV ads for Senator, you know, about abortion and gay marriage and this, that and the other.
SABATOThey're focused on education, transportation where the rubber meets the road. There's an old saying. Senators talk and governors do and that's a fundamental distinction.
REHMSo, Alan Greenblatt, then why does the party affiliation of a state governor matter to the country at large?
GREENBLATTWell, I think it matters because they pursue different policies. The states have become more partisan. Larry's right. Governors are not as partisan in tone or approach as senators or members of Congress. But they have become, actually, more partisan. They're more likely to attack each other and as Stu eluded, some of these guys see themselves as future presidents and the Republican side, in particular, has a wide open field.
GREENBLATTA lot of governors will be going to Iowa and New Hampshire and touting their ability to balance budgets without cutting taxes, their ability to prevail in blue states, their ability to do things, like Scott Walker's famous four in Wisconsin, to end collective bargaining rights for most public employees.
REHMI remember talking to Barack Obama before he became president. He told me that there's not a member of the Senate or a governor state house that doesn't look in the mirror every single morning and say, maybe I could be president. We're gonna take a short break here and take your calls when we come back. Join us, 800-433-8850.
REHMAnd if you've just joined us, we're talking about the 36 governors up for re-election. Eleven of them are in very tight races. During the break, Jennifer Duffy, you were talking about how during these races people -- some governors tried to diminish other governors in their search for the White House.
DUFFYWell, true. I think the Democratic Party in particular had their sites on three or four governors who, if they do not win re-election, obviously you cannot run for president so...
DUFFY...Governor Walker in Wisconsin, Governor Snyder in Michigan. They tried against Governor Kasich in Ohio. That didn't work. But even -- they have one more in their sites and that's Governor Christy who is chairman of the Republican Governors Association. He sort of bears the responsibility for the number of seats won or lost. And I think that they would like to damage his prospects further, narrow the field some.
REHMStu Rothenberg, would you agree?
ROTHENBERGWell, I -- oh, I certainly agree. I mean, this goes to the point that these elections are not even just in a two-year period. An election cycle has become, like, four years, eight years, twelve years as each party looks ahead. And I would just add to Jennifer's point, she's entirely correct, just look at what the Republican operatives now say about Hillary Clinton. I mean, they are doing kind of the same thing.
REHMOh, sure. Oh, sure.
ROTHENBERGIt's not about this November. It's about the following November and the one after that.
REHMAnd to you, Larry Sabato, what are some of the states that could actually flip from one party to another? We've already seen Neil Abercrombie, Democrat in Hawaii, lose his primary.
SABATOYes, and by the way, there's a lot of potential because we have the largest number of governors, 28 running for re-election this year, in over 50 years. And it would've been 29 had Abercrombie not lost his primary. So you have tremendous opportunity for incumbents to lose. Eleven of them are in trouble. If all 11 lost it would tie the modern record, which was back in 1962 when 11 governors lost, five democrats and six republicans.
SABATOAnd, by the way, I think there's going to be a mix of Democrat and Republican losing, incumbents losing. I don't think it's going to be a clear pattern on one side or another.
REHMTell me about Tom Corbett, the Republican in Pennsylvania.
SABATOWell, we felt so certain about Corbett. Almost a year ago we waited the race against him which we've never done for an incumbent governor in his first term before the opposition had even picked the candidate. And Corbett doesn't have a personal scandal. He was felt to handle the Penn. State matter badly. And in addition to that, he never really connected with the Republican legislature, he doesn't have a lot of accomplishments. He can say that there's a much better economy. I've been surprised he hasn't driven that message home more.
SABATOBut we also have to remember Pennsylvania is a blue state. Republicans are often fooled into thinking that it's purple or even the case only reddish, and it really isn't. So I think Corbett has a basket of problems that are unique to him. I think he was probably the first incumbent governor that everybody rode off. Abercrombie was second.
REHMWhat do you think, Jennifer?
DUFFYWell, you know, interestingly enough governors are supposed to be the bright spot for Democrats on election night. But I tend to agree with Larry that I think we're going to get a very mixed bag. I mean, we've even got -- this is the most incumbents we have ever had in toss up in 30 years of rating races. But at the same time, you know, we've got some Democratic open seats that are in toss up that are interesting. Massachusetts, for example, is an open seat.
REHMBecause Deval Patrick is not running for...
DUFFYHe is not running for re-election.
REHMWhy is he not running?
DUFFYYou know, it's hard to do a third four-year term. He said when he announced it was a promise he made to his wife that he was going to make good on. You know, yes, Abercrombie lost in Hawaii so now you've got a very interesting three-way race in Hawaii and Republicans have a shot at that. So what is supposed to be Democrat's bright spot may be a very mixed bag.
REHMAlan Greenblatt, I want to go back to Pennsylvania for just a moment. Tom Corbett, as Larry has said, has a Republican legislature behind him. Any chance that a Democrat could be elected governor?
GREENBLATTWell, we do expect that the Democrat Tom Wolf will be elected governor there. And that raises a point which I think will be very interesting in the next couple of years, which is that if some of these challengers win, they're going to have legislatures that are of the opposite party. You know, the Democrat looks like he's in pretty good shape, Paul Davis, to knock off Sam Brownback in Kansas. That legislature will be still very Republican.
GREENBLATTIn Massachusetts if Charlie Baker the Republican does win, that legislature's going to be 80 percent Democratic. My guess is, especially in Pennsylvania, if you have a new governor coming from a new party facing the legislature controlled by the other party, we're going to see Washington-style gridlock in more of these states. We've had, as I said earlier, single-party control in all but a dozen states. They've been really moving on a lot of policies. But I think we may see a bit of a brake put on all that.
ROTHENBERGYou know, I agree entirely. I mean, and the point was made earlier by Larry and or Jennifer, these governors races traditionally are less ideological. But what we're seeing is seeping into the state capitols, the governors, state legislatures. What we see in D.C. is filtering out there, the partisanship, the bitterness, the conflict.
ROTHENBERGPennsylvania legislature actually has been evenly divided, narrowly divided for a long time. I remember when I taught at Bucknell in -- whenever that was, whatever century that was in the late '70s. I mean, they used to have these legislative fights for unappropriations and spending right to the end.
ROTHENBERGBut I do think -- here's one little area of disagreement on Pennsylvania. I think it's a huge deal that the Democrats are going to win the governorship because there's what I call the iron law of Pennsylvania governorships, Diane, whereby one party has held the governorship for eight years, eight years and then switches to the other party, and then the other party and then the other party going back to World War II. So this is going to break that trend. This is a 60-, 70-year-old trend.
ROTHENBERGAnd I think there's a reason for that. If you're governor of Pennsylvania, it's a big state, many media markets. The Philadelphia folks don't like the Pittsburgh folks. The Pittsburg folks don't like the Philadelphia folks and they don't know that the center of the...
REHMIt sounds like Washington.
ROTHENBERG...they don't know that the center of the state exists. They've never heard of Harrisburg. So it's difficult to knock off a sitting governor who can raise so much money and has so much presence. So I think it's a big deal the Democrats are going to own governorship (unintelligible) ...
REHMLarry, I know you wanted to jump in.
SABATOYeah. I agree with what Stu said, it is a big deal. But iron laws are made to be broken and these iron laws are created by us analysts. I don't think voters focused on, you know, whether one party's been in for eight years and needs to be changed. But I'll tell you the one I'm focusing on that I think does reinforce the point Stu made and Alan and Jennifer, Florida.
SABATONow let's say that Charlie Crist benefits enough from fangate to be able to beat the one-term Republican incumbent Rick Scott. And, you know, Crist was already doing well. The polls are tied. After all, he's a tri-partisan. He's been a Republican, an Independent, a Democrat. The guy is deeply tanned. That plays in Florida.
SABATOLet's say he's elected. Not only does he get a heavily Republican legislature. They're going to be out for blood because he switched parties. And they really dislike him personally, many of the legislative leaders. So that is going to be ground zero for hyper partisanship at the state level.
REHMAll right. I'm going to open the phones, take some calls, 800-433-8850. First to Sycamore, Ill. Haymus, you're on the air.
HAYMUSYes, good morning.
HAYMUSAnd thank you very much for your show. There's isn't anybody that does it better than you do.
REHMThank you so much, sir.
HAYMUSOkay. We have a Democrat and a Republican running for office. And my problem is the Republican candidate is buying the office. He's using his own money. And somebody that buys the office does not represent me or anyone else. He's just -- it's just not the way to go. We definitely have problems here but having somebody buy the office doesn't solve the problems.
REHMHow different is Illinois from any other state, Jennifer?
DUFFYWell, it's interesting. We've seen candidates put money into, you know, gubernatorial races, Senate races, House races. By and large I think the caller's in the minority. Voters mostly don't care. What Bruce Rauner, the Republican he's referring to, is saying is by funding it himself he's beholden to no one, which in Illinois is -- he believes is a big deal since he believes that the Democratic governor is beholden to everyone.
DUFFYSo that's part of it but Democrats have done a very good job of turning Bruce Rauner into Romney 2.0 only meaner. So that's a tough race. Given Quinn's numbers you would think that he would be where Tom Corbett is now. But they've managed to keep this race very competitive.
REHMAlan Greenblatt, do you want to comment?
GREENBLATTWell, that's happening also in the Connecticut race. There's a wealthy businessman Tom Foley running against Dan Malloy, the incumbent Democrat. And they're doing that exact same strategy of Romney the heartless businessman. Foley owns a 116' yacht. He doesn't understand your problems. And those states are blue enough that those weak incumbents may just eek it out.
GREENBLATTBut I think -- you know, I was just talking to somebody yesterday about Wisconsin where Mary Burke is a Democratic challenger. She comes from a wealthy background and people seem to like that. They like that idea of the person who is beholden to no one who is self funded. Tom Wolf, the Democrat who we're touting as the likely next governor of Pennsylvania, he's put $10 million of his own money into the race. I mean, there's plenty of money sloshing around in these races, some of it from the candidates themselves.
ROTHENBERGDiane, I found that when people complain about a candidate trying to buy an election, usually they favor the other candidate and the other party. I remember when John Corzine went into New Jersey and sprinkled money around. I remember when Herb Kohl who recently retired from the Senate from Wisconsin said, I'm going to spend my own money because I'm not going to be beholden to anyone, just as Jennifer said.
ROTHENBERGSo this is really I think -- you know, maybe the caller does not like the idea of a candidate spending money but mostly it's an excuse to support one candidate or the other.
REHMBut Larry Sabato, are we seeing more money in this term race than we've ever seen before?
SABATODiane, I can tell you the automatic answer to that question that's asked every two years is, yes.
SABATOAlways yes. We never know exactly...
REHMJust keeps going up.
SABATO...how much more but it's always a lot more. You know, I had to chuckle a little bit listening to the others mention some of these wealthy candidates. At least Stu and I are old enough to remember when the wealthy candidates used to turn that into a plus, the fact that they were spending their own money. The slogan would frequently be, I'm nobody's man but yours.
REHMExactly. And that is the voice of Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia Center for Politics. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." And let's go back to the phones to James. He's in Cleveland, Ohio. Hi there.
JAMESGood morning. How is everyone?
REHMJust fine, thanks.
JAMESLove your show, Diane. It's a fabulous show.
REHMThank you. Thank you.
JAMESSince you guys have been talking -- I'm going to augment just a little bit, I will be quick. My first one was going to be about how does everyone feel that the so-called gerrymandering will impact the election? And then secondly, I want to ask everybody what the people who are spending their own money and therefore aren't beholden to anybody, what don't we know that we all think we do know because they are spending their own money? And the last one I'll be bowing out for another time.
REHMAll right. Thanks a lot. Stu, what about gerrymandering?
ROTHENBERGWell, this doesn't affect governors races as much as it affects the fight for the House of Representatives. There's been a lot of talk over the past few years about how these districts are drawn to elect certain -- a candidate from one party to the other. They empower the most ideological, most partisan elements of a particular party.
REHMBut how does that affect governors races?
ROTHENBERGIt doesn't -- as a matter of fact, governors races can affect gerrymandering to the extent that in most states governors have a role in the redistricting and reapportionment process. But we still have half a dozen years before we have to worry about that. Or actually we start worrying about it well before the census and the new lines are drawn. So -- but we still have a couple years, don't you think, Jennifer, before we...
DUFFYI think we can take a break for two years.
REHM...and Larry Sabato, what about the money don't we know?
SABATOWell, I -- actually I think very little and here's why. One of the great growth industries in political consultancy has been opposition research often shortened to oppo research. And each major party candidate, at least in the competitive races, can spend millions investigating the opponent. Everything the opponent and the key members of his family have done all the way back to kindergarten. And if there's anything there on the public record or that they can obtain in surreptitious ways, believe me, we'll find out about it. Either they put it in a TV ad or if it's really nasty they will leak it to a blog or a reporter who will do their dirty work for them.
DUFFYWell, I mean, it's interesting. Larry's absolutely right. You know, opposition research is such that one of the Democrat's taglines in their ads against Bruce Rauner is, did he think we wouldn't find out?
REHMFind out what?
DUFFYWell, mostly about his business dealings but, I mean, that is the tagline. So there's very little about these candidates you don't know except maybe what they ordered for dinner last night.
SABATOAnd the video tracker may get that. They may get that on film. We may even know that.
REHMExactly. Let's go to B. J. in Sarasota, Fla. Quick question, B. J.
B. J.Yes, quick question. We certainly are learning nothing from all of the TV ads except who has the most money to run them. I'm wondering what Professor Sabato and others think about eliminating television ads from TV like we did cigarette ads because (unintelligible) ...
REHMI want to go first to Alan Greenblatt for your comment on that.
GREENBLATTWell, my comment is I don't think that's a plausible idea. What we've seen in the last ten, twenty years is that money finds its way into politics. Whatever restrictions you put on it people find a way. And free speech certainly will allow people to make their positions known on TV or otherwise.
SABATOWell, having grown up in the era of poll taxes and literacy tests, I'm not in favor of any kind of test in order to vote and certainly not to banning television ads. It would be a First Amendment violation. But if I could persuade people not to vote it would be on account of one thing. If they believe the charges they see in the TV ads, that's a good indication that haven't done their homework and they shouldn't cast a ballot. And I'm really quite serious about that.
SABATOThe charges in many of these TV ads are absolutely outrageous. Organizations like PolitiFact do a fine job in testing them. But of course very few people read PolitiFact. They don't know what the truth is.
REHMLarry Sabato of the University of Virginia and author of "The Kennedy Half Century." Short break here. We'll be right back.
REHMAnd we've got lots of callers, lots of emails. We'll try to get to as many as we can. Here's a question about the Texas gubernatorial race from Evan, who says, "Poll after poll shows Wendy Davis trailing Greg Abbott, but isn't a big part of Ms. Davis' strategy to activate people not typically likely voters, and therefore, people who are unlikely to be polled? How can we assess how successful her campaign and other get-out-the-vote efforts have been to date?" Jennifer?
DUFFYWell, I mean, first of all, these are public polls that he's talking about. But trust me, the parties, the candidates poll on a whole set of scenarios. And Republicans have polled on her assumptions. And they don't get a much different answer. It's, you know, this is Democrat Senate strategy, right? Is to motivate these what they call drop-off voters. There is such a believe among Democrats that Texas is so close to turning purple, on its way to being blue. But the reality is we're pretty far away from that. You're going to see Arizona, maybe Georgia turn blue before you're going to see Texas turn blue.
REHMWhat do you think, Stu?
ROTHENBERGPeople from the minority party, that is the smaller party in a state, always talk about registering voters, turning out voters, bringing out new voters. You hear this all the time. It just -- it's -- this is one of those races -- there's always a couple races, aren't there, Jennifer, where kind of national media attention gets certain people all excited, but it just was never there.
ROTHENBERGShe's trailing 8, 10, 12, 15 points in poll after poll. You have to understand when you register voters and turn them out, even if they're not traditional voters, you're just talking about a percentage point or two here. You can't turn a state around. You can't recolor a state. And she is just running in the wrong state at the wrong time. Maybe 20 years from now, 10 years from now she could win.
ROTHENBERGBut it's not there now.
REHMAll right. And, Larry Sabato, during the break we were talking about political ads and whether they actually changed people's minds. What do you think?
SABATOI think in a mid-term election they're used more to motivate the bases than they are to change people's minds. They try to get the Democratic base or the Republican base energized and activated to vote. And sometimes they do it by telling them pleasant things about their own candidate, but mainly they tell them unpleasant things about the other candidate. That's the difference.
SABATOI just want to add on Texas, Davis has been such a disaster in the election that not a single Democrat is going to win statewide office in Texas. Maybe if she'd been a better candidate, one or two might have popped through, or maybe not. But none of them are going to win. And I second what Jennifer said. Georgia is going to turn blue well before Texas.
REHMOkay. But, Larry, I need your analysis of why you think she's been such bad candidate.
SABATOWell, she doesn't fit the electorate in Texas. A lot of this is purely ideological. They simply disagree with her, the electorate -- the dominate electorate in Texas. This is still a deeply red state. You know, Rick Perry, governor for life, elected over and over again, Ted Cruz, even John Cornyn, who is certainly quiescent compared to some of the other statewide Texans, is a very conservative vote it the Senate.
REHMAll right. And let's talk about the Maine gubernatorial election, Alan Greenblatt.
GREENBLATTWell, this is a fascinating one. Paul LePage is the Republican incumbent. He snuck in four years ago. It was a three-way race. He got about 39 percent of the vote. The Independent, Eliot Cutler, finished second in front of the Democrat. The Democrat ran a weak campaign and her support imploded, it went Cutler. So the question all year has been -- there are people in Maine who have bumper stickers saying 61 percent. In other words, they're part of the big majority that does not like LePage.
GREENBLATTHe's very brash. He's sort of a Tea Party figure in a, you know, in a lightly blue state. The question is, has -- can the Democrat, who's Congressman Mike Michaud, capture the bulk of that support. So far most of the polls suggest he can. Cutler, the Independent who came in second last time, is running again. The -- I think the last couple polls will tell the tale. If Cutler's still looking strong, he'll probably retain some of that strength. But more likely, if he's looking like he's gonna finish third anyway, I think Michaud will bring that one home for the Democrats.
REHMOkay. Quick tweet from Sarah, "Is Virginia the only state with a one-term limit?"
SABATOThe only one.
REHMQuick tweet from Keith, "Are all of your panelists saying Governor Kasich is sure to win election in Ohio?"
ROTHENBERGI think we're all saying that. He's got a huge lead. The Democratic nominee has imploded over, I guess would we call it a personal scandal or questions about personal behavior that occurred years ago and it's just turned this race we expected to be a really competitive, interesting, close race into an absolutely laugher. And it may well catapult Kasich to a presidential bid.
REHMAll right. To Caitlyn, in Grand Rapids, Mich. Hi, you're on the air.
CAITLYNI just had a quick comment about our current governor. He actually has done quite a few policy things that I think would be more associated with a Democratic governor, such as the Medicaid expansion and he has really knocked heads with the Republicans in the House and the Senate -- the State House and Senate over that. And I think that that has been affecting his ability to get some of his base to come around.
SABATOWas she referring to Michigan?
SABATOWell, Rick Snyder is generally seen as a more moderate Republican. He certainly doesn't have the hard edges of say a Scott Walker in Wisconsin or certainly some of the southern Republican governors. And he has to. Look, from the very beginning I'm sure he realized he was representing a blue state. And to get reelected he would at least have to win the people in the middle, the purple voters, combined with the red voters can equal a narrow majority in Michigan.
ROTHENBERGYeah, well, I think Caitlyn is extremely astute, assessment of that race. It's funny, the polls show the race quite close and, yet, when I talk to Republican operatives they're really quite confident that they're going to win that state. So I think that they think that the late deciders, the people who haven't committed yet, are really are going to go for the governor.
REHMAnd here's an email on that same state from Catherine, in Grand Rapids. She says, "Michigan is not necessarily a blue state. Ann Arbor, Detroit, its surrounding suburbs are deep blue. They outnumber the rest of the state, which is very red. In statewide elections, we've vote Democrat because of Detroit and Ann Arbor. But if it were not a winner-take-all state, the Republican would get the most Electoral College vote, which is why our state legislature is trying to change it. As Grand Rapids rises in influence, the state gets redder." Alan Greenblatt?
GREENBLATTWell, that's right. There's some states have sort of objected to our Electoral College system. And legislatures have talked -- and not just there, but in Pennsylvania, other states -- because we have this phenomenon. Democrats tend to live in dense communities. The more populace suburbs and the big cities. And that's true in state after state. The Wisconsin governor's race is all about Madison and Milwaukee versus the rest of the state.
GREENBLATTWe don't vote by county any more. So if you have more people that's how you win statewide. But it does -- that's also an aspect of the polarization of our politics. You know, we really don't have so much red and blue states, as very red and blue counties that are struggling for influence. And in some places that's playing out in these races. You know, in Colorado Democrats have the legislative majority.
GREENBLATTA lot of those legislators are from Denver and Boulder and they push through certain gun control restrictions and environmental laws that John Hickenlooper, the Democratic governor, signed -- even though he's mainly tried to position himself as a centrist. That is what is causing him a lot of problems in the rest of the state. You know, I think it was 11 or 13 counties in Colorado held votes last year on whether to secede. So people don't always like the dominate politics of their state. They feel outnumbered.
REHMAnd what about Kansas, Stu Rothenberg?
ROTHENBERGWow, one of the most Republican state in the nation, Sam Brownback, is in a fight of his life. He's alienating members of his own party by trying to defeat them in primaries. He has angered the education establishment. He -- this is -- what's happening in Kansas, both the Senate race and the governor's race is remarkable. If you think -- put it in the context of this election cycle. It's all about President Obama.
ROTHENBERGThere's a significant breeze behind the Republicans, at their back. And here, in one of the most Republican states in the country the governor is in big trouble and the sitting Republican senator's in trouble.
DUFFYAnd I think that it's also a case of did he take an agenda too far. And that is…
DUFFYTax cuts. He had a very, very aggressive tax cut proposal that he got through the legislature. And now the state is short about $350 million in revenue and it's beginning to hurt schools. So, you know, there are consequences to these things. He's called his agenda a great living experiment.
REHMJennifer Duffy, she's senior editor of the Cook Political Report. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's go back to the phones to DeWitt, Mich. Hi, Lisa. You're on the air.
LISAGood morning, Diane. Thank you for taking my call.
LISAI guess I just have a comment and your panel can then share their thoughts. For me the biggest issue in this election if education and the cuts that our current governor has made to education funding. One of the first things he did when he came in was to take a lot of money away from public education. And while he's put a little bit of it back over the last four years, the funding levels are still lower than when there was a Democrat in office.
REHMAlan Greenblatt, do you want to comment?
GREENBLATTYeah, if you were looking for one issue that was really important across these races, education leaps out. I mean, we were just talking about Sam Brownback and the state being short. Well, he not only took away teacher tenure, but he cut education. Georgia, Pennsylvania, Florida, Arizona, Michigan, I mean, race after race a lot of the dialogue is about whether education was cut too much. There's a lot of debates. Sometimes the governors say, I only cut the rate of growth. I didn't really cut it. There's more money, etcetera.
GREENBLATTBut they are talking about education. You have to remember these governors have presided over a time of retrenchment for states. There's still about half the states that don't have the revenue levels that they did in 2008, before the recession. So they've cut hundreds of thousands of teachers. And people have felt those cuts.
REHMWe have an email that says, "Don't write Texas off. It does no good for those of us in the small minority who will one day be the majority vote. Stu?
ROTHENBERGThat could well happen one day.
REHMIt could happen.
ROTHENBERGBut the day is not today.
ROTHENBERGNor will it be this November.
REHMOkay. And to you, Larry, you've written that if all the incumbents who are in close contests right now actually lost, we would tie a modern record. Talk about that record.
SABATOYes. Well, it was back in 1962, in a less polarized time. And that's why you had five Democrats and six Republicans losing. Now, you're going to have a mixed bag in this November election for governor, too. I doubt the overall balance, the net balance changes that much. It's 29 Republicans, 21 Democrats currently. Democrats may pick up a couple net. Republicans may pick up one or two net. We'll have to see how it turns out. But in the individual state, obviously, where a switch occurs it matters.
SABATOIt's also going to matter for presidential contenders in 2016 for the nominations. Governors can have a big influence on who gets the delegates from their state. Governors have much less influence in a general election.
REHMAlan Greenblatt, do you want to speak to that?
GREENBLATTWell, even if we don't break the modern record, we're going to have a lot of upheaval. I learned from Larry's site, The Crystal Ball, that we haven't had more than four governors lose in a single year since 1990. So there is a lot of discontent at this level of politics. I mean, we haven't even touched on, for instance, Massachusetts. A blue state where the Democrat is tied and the support may be slipping. I mean, people do not seem happy with the status quo. We've eluded to the jobs issue a little bit.
GREENBLATTI just wanted to say we've had callers from Michigan. And Rick Snyder had an ad saying we're on the road to recovery for every Michigander. He said you might not feel it yet, but you will soon. And it was really not a happy days are here again kind of message. I mean, there's still a sense that the economy isn't working and that there may be more jobs in the state than when the governor took over. But there aren't enough jobs.
REHMWhat's the biggest surprise out there? Or the biggest potential surprise? Stu Rothenberg?
ROTHENBERGFor governor races, boy, I can look at this list of incumbents or candidates and see a bunch. Scott Walker, there was a time when we were assuming that he'd win this race easily and enter the presidential race. Then the race became even. Then he pulled out ahead. Now, it's even again. The fact that Kansas has a competitive race, amazing. Connecticut and Massachusetts could possibly go Republican. The list goes on and on.
REHMLots of surprises. Yeah, you agree?
DUFFYI agree. And I'll even add what's going in Alaska right now with that, shouldn't be a close race. I'll throw in Georgia where Nathan Deal seeking another term, a second term. I didn't expect to see -- to have that in my toss-up column. So this has been a cycle of the unpredictable.
REHMOkay. Surprise question for all of you. Do you expect the Senate to go to Republicans? Larry Sabato, yes or no?
SABATOYes. I think it will. We could go into the exact numbers, but that would take another hour.
GREENBLATTYes. I think it will be a Republican Senate.
REHMAnd Stu Rothenberg?
ROTHENBERGYes. I think that's more likely than not, but it's not quite yet a done deal. But still it could be a pretty good Republican year.
REHMAll right. Stuart Rothenberg, Larry Sabato, Jennifer Duffy, Alan Greenblatt, thank you all so much. And thanks for listening all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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