Friday, October 31, 2008

Jill Long Thompson's Missed Opportunity; Governor Daniels Seals the Deal

Today's Indianapolis Star reports that its poll shows that Governor Mitch Daniels now has an 18 point lead, 54-36, over Democrat Jill Long Thompson in his bid for re-election. The poll, conducted for WRTV and the Indianapolis Star by Selzer & Co., last month had shown Daniels with only a 4 point lead.

Polling on this race has been all over the place. In the past six weeks I've seen polls with Daniels' lead pegged anywhere from 1 point to 31 points. Different methodologies explain a lot of the difference. As I noted though, polls are at the best when the same poll, with the same methodology, is run at a later date and a substantial difference is shown. This poll shows solidification of Daniels' support and a movement of undecideds into his camp. In short it points to a missed opportunity by the Democrats and Jill Long Thompson. They had a 4-6 week period where they could have made the case against Daniels and for JLT. That opportunity appears to have gotten away.

I think that the Democrats see the numbers roll in next Tuesday will look back with regret that they did not capitalize on their opportunity to win back the Governor's Office. I expect an Obama tidal wave to wash across Indiana on November 4th and the only state-wide Republican to be above the water's edge will be Governor Daniels.

I still think the margin will be under 10. I'll stick with my prediction of an 8 point win by Governor Daniels and that the other Republicans running statewide will lose.


Donald said...

Sorry I have to disagree - even in a "Democrat" year JLT had no chance of winning this election against a very strong candidate. Honestly, what serious objections can people have to voting for Mitch? Daylight savings time? If that's someone's biggest gripe with him I feel sorry for them.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Donald. JLT was simply not a strong candidate and much less so against Mitch. But I have to agree with Paul's original point that this was probably a lost opportunity for the Dems, given their enthusiasm advantage and owning of the change message. If Indiana Democrats had run a candidate that was more exciting and relevant to young people, their odds of unseating Mitch would have been much better.

Paul K. Ogden said...


I think Daniels was vulnerable as a candidate, but any candidate looks like a strong candidate if they don't have a funded challenger against them. For example, Bayh, has never had an opponent who was financed enough to explore his negatives. As a result, he looks like a much better candidate than he actually is if tested.

The campaign book says you 1) consolidate your base; 2) you define your opponent; and 3) you define yourself and what you intend to do, all in that order. JLT hasn't been able to do any of those. If she would have just done #1, put together her base, she'd have a shot.

I think Daniels could have been vulnerable going into this election and I think the polls showed that. A good campaign against him would have: 1) tied him closely to the Bush administration; 2)tied him closely to the current economic situation (voters aren't good at making distinctions between national and state conditions or who is responsible for what); 3)publicized the problems Daniels has had with several of the agencies. Frankly, I think only #3has merit, but voters could have been easily fooled on No. 1 & 2.

On #3, Daniels is a great at coming up with ideas, some good some not so good. Where Daniels has not excelled is strong, proactive management of executive agencies under his watch. Problems are ignored and then they blow up into front page stories or lawsuits. I really blame the people around Daniels more than Daniels himself, but ultimately he is responsible for those people.

I have a personal experience that I can use to highlight my point. I was a lower level manager over at one of the non-merit agencies. My appointment was approved by Governor Daniels. The Commissioner was a direct appointment of the Governor Daniels. There was and is a mid-level manager over there who was an appointee of former Democrat Governor Joe Kernan, who received her position as Kernan was going out of office after losing to Daniels. The story around the agency is that the Kernan people had her appointed because they knew she would cause trouble for the Governor and the new Republican Commissioner.

I put in writing some of the legal and other problems with what the Kernan appointee was doing and was immediately canned, even though up to that point I was considered a strong effective manager. (For reasons that are a mystery to everyone the Commissioner is very protective of the Kernan appointee, even though he repeatedly acknowledged to everyone at the agency that she is incompetent and a terrible manager.) I pleaded with the Governor's people to look into my allegations against the Kernan appointee. I couldn't get them to even acknowledge my complaints, much less investigate them.

I ended up with no choice but to file a whistleblowing lawsuit against the State, 90% of which is based on what the Democrat upper-level supervisor has been allowed to do at the agency. While I'm very confident we will prevail in court, the whole lawsuit could have been avoided if the Governor's people had simply investigated my claims regarding the Kernan appointee from the outset and taken action. Instead I'm now the bad guy for filing a lawsuit against the State.

This is hardly the only example of a lack of a proactive approach to management of the agencies. There are a lot of other lawsuits out there filed by Republicans. There are also those problems at the agencies that haven't been addressed until they end up on the front page. The Governor would be well advised next term to have stronger, more proactive oversight over these agencies.