Governors' Races Could Scramble Election Night Verdict

Image: Charlie Crist, Rick Scott
File - This Oct. 15, 2014, arefile photo shows Democratic challenger, former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, left, and Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott, shaking hands after participating in their second debate in Davie, Fla. Polls show Scott running neck-and-neck with Crist. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, Pool)Wilfredo Lee / AP

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Political reporters -- including us -- have focused so much attention on the Senate races, because of the possibility (and maybe even increasing likelihood) that Republicans could win control of that chamber. But don’t lose sight of all the major gubernatorial contests: It’s equally possible that the GOP is set for major Senate gains, but also set for some high-profile gubernatorial losses, including in top presidential battleground states. Already, Democrats are slated to pick up Pennsylvania’s governor’s mansion, and after last week’s FAN-tastic debate in Florida, it’s very possible that Gov. Rick Scott (R) loses (a new Quinnipiac poll has the race tied at 42%). Throw in Maine, the jump-ball races in Michigan and Wisconsin, and the fascinating gubernatorial contest in Kansas, and the Republican Governors Association could very well have a rough Election Night. Of course, the Democratic Governors Association has its own problems of maybe losing gubernatorial contests in the blue states of Connecticut (see the new Quinnipiac poll there), Illinois, and even Hawaii. But guess who might crack a smile if Republicans win control of the U.S. Senate, but lose the governor’s mansions in Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and even Wisconsin? Hillary Clinton…

Could anti-incumbency -- across the country -- be the election’s big theme?

Indeed, all the momentum that GOP has the Senate races, the Dems have the momentum in the gubernatorial races. And if Election Night plays out this way -- with Republicans poised to win the Senate, but Democrats making gubernatorial gains across the country -- the election’s big theme could be anti-incumbency. The races aren’t just about President Obama and the incumbent Senate Democrats; they’re about all the incumbent governors (Republicans and Democrats) struggling, even in an improving economy. Here’s a final thing to chew on: We’re likely to see more incumbent governors lose than incumbent senators. Let that sink in.

Shaheen vs. Brown in New Hampshire

Last night was another big debate night across the country. Here’s the write-up, via the Concord Monitor, of the debate one of us moderated last night between Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and challenger Scott Brown: “In answers to questions about the government’s approach to managing Ebola, the Affordable Care Act, immigration, the Islamic State and more, Brown reiterated over and over again the assertion that Shaheen has operated in lockstep with President Obama and all of his mistakes. Shaheen, on the other hand, stood by her votes on the Affordable Care Act and repeatedly accused Brown of ‘fear mongering’ and ‘grandstanding’ on Ebola, border security and other issues.” More: “When asked directly whether she approves of the president, Shaheen skirted a panelist’s request for a yes-or-no answer: In some cases she does, she said, but in some she doesn’t... Toward the end of the debate, moderator Chuck Todd of NBC’s Meet the Press asked Brown why he decided to run in New Hampshire after losing his Massachusetts seat to Elizabeth Warren in 2012. ‘Because I live here,’ Brown said… Todd then posed the question to Shaheen, pointing out that she was born in Missouri. Here, Shaheen pointed to the lag between Brown’s loss in Massachusetts and his decision to run in New Hampshire. ‘I don’t think New Hampshire’s a consolation prize.’”

Turning up the heat in Florida: Scott vs. Crist

Also debating last night were Gov. Rick Scott (R) and challenger Charlie Crist (D) in Florida. Here’s the clever headline from the Orlando Sentinel: “Scott-Crist debate has no fan, but plenty of heat.” From the story: “The two verbally sparred over their political connections with Crist accusing Scott making his fortune by running a company that was fined $1.7 billion for Medicare fraud. ‘You're worth at least $100 million,'' Crist told Scott. "God bless you for that, but the way you got that money was pretty unsavory.’ Scott blasted Crist for his connections to a South Florida swindler. Later, Scott said, ‘Charlie, you are a divider.’ And they renewed their long fight over the economy with Scott blaming Crist (when he was governor) for the economic meltdown that cost Florida hundred of thousands of jobs. Crist fired back that he had no more to do with the meltdown than Scott had to do with economic recovery.” More than anything else, Scott needed to change the narrative of last week’s debate.

“Meet the Voters”

Chuck Todd’s “Meet the Voters” bus tour is kicking off, and it begins with a look at the Senate race in Kansas -- and the role independent candidates (and parties) have played in American politics. Also check out Chuck’s preview of his bus tour.

Pointing the finger instead of lifting a hand

The New York Times is the latest news organization to pick up on a theme we’ve explored over the past few weeks: How the Ebola, Secret Service, immigration, etc. stories have all produced a lack of confidence in the federal government. But the article concludes by mentioning a culprit that hasn’t received enough attention -- the political parties seizing on every problem, big or small. “Part of it is just the whole atmosphere in Washington — the gotcha mentality; we’re just going to stick it to you,” former Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) told the Times. “We focus on what’s not going well because our political system rewards that sort of thing.” Davis is right: The incentive is to extract maximum political gain from every problem instead of fixing it. And we in the media contribute to that. Yet when solving problems becomes less of a priority in politics, it’s self-defeating because you end up with fewer problem-solvers wanting to run for office.

David Perdue’s Swiss bank fund

Finally, don’t miss the latest problem for wealthy GOP Senate candidate David Perdue in Georgia: He’s got a Swiss bank fund. “Republican David Perdue, the Georgia businessman running for U.S. Senate, has as much as $1 million invested in an exclusive fund managed by a Swiss private bank -- a rarefied investment strategy that has earned him between $100,000 and $1 million since 2012,” the Huffington Post writes. “The fund, Vontobel Non-U.S. Equity LLC, is managed by a subsidiary of the Zurich-based private bank Vontobel to invest in companies that operate primarily outside the United States. Registered as a Delaware corporation, the fund includes shares of mortgage companies in India, global tobacco corporations, and European consumer goods manufacturers.” Democrats always said they hoped to turn the businessman Perdue into Mitt Romney. Well, it’s happening.

Countdown to Election Day: 13 days

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