Saturday, September 6, 2008

Does a Rising Tide Raise Jill Long-Thompson's Ship?

Given Barack Obama's apparent insistence on investing in Indiana to try to win the state, I started thinking about how his efforts might benefit Jill Long-Thompson, Democrat seeking to oust Republican Governor Mitch Daniels.

According to the recent Howey-Gauge Political Poll, Republican McCain leads Obama by 2 points while Republican Gov. Daniels sports an 18 point lead over Democrat Jill Long-Thompson. If those numbers hold up it would reflect a major change in the relationship between Presidential and Gubernatorial election results in Indiana.

Indiana is in the minority of states which has its gubernatorial election the same year as the presidentiual contest. That means that outcome in the presidential race could well influence the race for Governor and other contests.

So let's take a look at the relationship between elections results for President and Governor since 1976.

2004 Pres: D Kerry (39.6%) R Bush (61.4%); Gov: D Kernan (46.1%) R Daniels (53.9%)
2000 Pres: D Gore (42.0%) R Bush, II (58%); Gov: D Obannon (57.6%) R McIntosh (42.4%)
1996 Pres: D Clinton (46.9%) R Dole (53.1%); Gov: D Obannon (52.4%) R Goldsmith (47.6%)
1992 analysis for this year skipped due to large effect of Ross Perot on presidential numbers
1988 Pres: D Dukakis (39.9%) R Bush, I (60.1%); Gov: D Bayh (53.2%) R Mutz (46.8%)
1984 Pres: D Mondale (37.9%) R Reagan (62.1%); Gov: D Townsend (47.2%) R Orr (52.8%)
1980 Pres: D Carter (41.2%) R Reagan (59.8%); Gov: D Hillenbrand (42%) R Orr (58%)
1976 Pres: D Carter (46.2%) R Ford (53.8%); Gov: D Conrad (43%) R Bowen (57%)

Percent Vote Dem Candidate for Governor Led Dem Candidate for President in Indiana

2004: 6.5%
2000: 15.6%
1996: 5.5%
1992: skipped
1988: 13.3%
1984: 9.7%
1980: 0.8%
1976: -3.2%

So you have to go back until 1976 to find an election where the Democrat candidate for president ran ahead of the Democrat candidate for governor in Indiana. The 16% spread reflected in the Howey-Gauge poll would be truly historic should those poll numbers end up being the actual results on Election Day. Don't bet on that spread continuing. If Jill Long-Thompson promotes herself as a conservative Democrat, starts connecting with southern Indiana Hoosiers, and raises doubts about the governor, she could come closer to parity with Obama in Indiana, and be in a position to win should a Democrat/Obama tidal wave hit the country.


Anonymous said...

My Dearest Mr. Ogden,

Ii was just curious their are many in the media who say the race for governor is already over. But you do not neccessarily seem to believe that. Could you give your reasons for this and state where the media is mistaken? Also where do you teach?

Goldwater Republican

Paul K. Ogden said...

I teach at the University of Indianapolis, generally one class a semester. This year I'm teaching American National Government.

I'm not sure I know of any media types who say the race is over. There are still two months to go which is an eternity in politics. Rather they say that the odds are long for Long-Thompson because of the fracture in the Indiana Democratic Party over the Governor's race, which fracture hasn't healed. They too believe she hasn't been a very aggressive campaigner. Both are fair points.

First, I know how a popular presidential candidate at the top of the ticket can lift the fortunes of those down on the ticket. Remember 1980? That year Ronald Reagan and Jimmmy Carter were virtually dead even in the polls. Reagan's poople came to the polls while the Carter people stayed home. As a result, a virtually unknown Congressman, Dan Quayle who trailed in the polls to the Senators Birch Bayh by double digits was lifted to an election victory.

Second, Governor Daniels has very low re-elect numbers in the polls. That's a far more important stat than the spread between the candidates at this point. It used to be below 50% was considered the death knell for an incumbent. Daniel's numbers have hovered right aroudn 50%.

Third, I think Daniels is vulnerable on economic issues, such as unemployment, jobs and gas prices. The numbers are getting worse and they can be exploited by the Democrat candidate. Now I'd be the first to tell you the Governor has very little real influence over the economy. But a constant stream of commercials on that subject in October, could really drive down his numbers.

Fourth, I think some of the missteps by agency heads will be exploited by Long-Thompson in commercials that will drive down his numbers. For example, the mess at FSSA, the problems in the BMV, etc. Now opposed to the economy I think those administrative type issues are legitimate and ones the Governor has control over. I've always said, and will continue to say, that the lack of strong supervision over the operation of state agencies is a major Achilles heel for the Governor.

Those are just some reasons off the top of my head why I think Long-Thompson may well end up winning. At this point, I'd say her changes are about 25%. But she's hardly out of the running, especially in the event of a Democrat Presidential win in the state. As I note in the blog, in Indiana Democrat governor candidates almost always run ahead of Democrat candidates for President.

Anonymous said...

Hi Paul,

Goldie here again. Thanks for the quick response it was insightful. I just had one or two more questions for you. Firstly, Do you think if Senator Waterman had made it onto the ballot the race would look any different now. Secondly, should JLT you think have helped get Waterman on the ballot, why or why not? And lastly you mentioned in an entry last month that you felt that the guv should retool his campaign message, in what way? Thank you for your time.


Paul K. Ogden said...

I'll try to answer your questions. No, I don't think Waterman would have made much of a difference, a point maybe at the most. He would have been a protest vote against Daniels. What happens when Republicans voters have a beef with a Republican incumbent is that they cast a protest vote for the Libertarian candidate. The Libertarian is already on the ballot in this race so there is that protest option for those wanting to vote against Daniels but who do not want to vote Democrat.

That fact may break against JLT in this election. Elections like this are inevitable a referendum on the incumbent's performance in office. People who are unhappy with Daniels, but don't want to vote for JLT, have the option of voting Libertarian. That means that the Libertarian might scoop up votes JLT would otherwise end up getting.

Before I hear from Libertarians claiming they aren't a protest vote, I would point to the Gubernatorial election of 2000 between D Frank O'Bannon, R David McIntosh and Libertairan Andy Horning. Horning was a terrific candidate and got a ton of publicity. But when election day rolled around, the libertarian candidate for Superitendent of Public Instruction received twice as many votes as did Horning. The result was because of a very large number of Republican voters who did not like Republican Superintendent Sue Ellen Reed and were voting for the Libertarian as a protest.

No, I don't think JLT should have helped. I don't think it would have helped (see above). It possibly could have been used against her and it would have diverted resources she needed devoted to her campaign. Obtaining the signatures to run for Governor is a quite burdensome requirement.

I'm not sure I went as far as saying the Governor needs to retool his message - right now JLT isn't challenging his message so he's safe. I might have said he needs to be careful bragging about economic development in the state when the perception is that people are hurting and we need to do better.

I also think he needs to be careful with the privatization issue. Because of some bungled privatization efforts and poor supervision of contracts, privatization, unfortunately, has become a negative word with negative political consequences. We Republicans deserve to reap what we sow. Privatization is a great idea when it involves the injection of market competition into the provision of a government service. However, when there is only one contractor and you give that contractor a 10 year contract, that's not market competition. That's a state endorsed monopoly.

Finally, I would in the strongest terms encourage the Governor to drop the lottery privatization idea. That's a double edged sword. First, you have a lot of voters who have a bad taste regarding privatization. Most importantly though, you have a number of conservative Republicans who rebel at the idea of an expansion of gambling in the state. Turning over the lottery to a private company would see an explosion in the marketing of the lottery that wouldn't sit well with those conservative Republican voters.