GOP Goes for Trifecta of Ineffectiveness with Rick Perry at RGA

The respective heads of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee, John Ensign and Tom Cole, are already having terrible trouble keeping up with their Democratic counterparts, both in terms of fundraising and recruitment. Now it looks like Rick Perry is poised to join their ranks of ineffectiveness as new head of the Republican Governors Association. The Rothenberg Political Report's Nathan Gonzales has the story over at Political Wire.

In a development not yet made public, knowledgeable Republicans say that Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) is likely to take over the Republican Governors Association in 2008. The move is significant because RGA Vice Chairman Matt Blunt (R) has been in line to become chairman next year. Governor Blunt is the son of U.S. House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R).

The reason for the change is clear: the Missouri Republican's own '08 reelection is in doubt, and he will need to spend all of his time and energy trying to win a second term. He faces state Attorney General Jay Nixon (D), a formidable foe. Perry isn't up for reelection again until 2010, which gives him more time to help the RGA with fundraising and candidate recruitment.

The Perry-for-Blunt switch is still pending official approval until the GOP governors' vote at their annual conference in November, but savvy observers expect the change to be accepted without controversy.

Perry is an interesting choise for this position. I suppose somebody had to claim the post this cycle. Last fall, Perry was reelected with just 39 percent of the vote -- the lowest percentage support for a victorious gubernatorial candidate since Jesse Ventura won Minnesota's governorship on the Reform Party ticket with 37 percent of the vote in 1998, and the lowest percentage support for a victorious gubernatorial reelection bid in recent memory. Perhaps Perry will be able to bring some of this winning spirit to his party's efforts to reclaim their majority of the nation's governorships this cycle, which they lost in 2006...

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MS-Gov: Haley Barbour's Relatives, Associates Profit from Katrina

Although the Bush administration and the Republican Party nationally were clearly hurt politically by their inability to effectively respond to Hurricane Katrina, on a more local level it was Democrats who seemed to bear the brunt of the political backlash. For instance, while Mississippi's Republican Governor Haley Barbour, a former career lobbyist and chairman of the Republican National Committee, has seen his approval rating remain fairly good, Louisiana's Democratic Governor Kathleen Blanco has seen her numbers stick at or below the low-40s since the deluge. Unsurprisingly, then, Barbour is running for reelection this fall while Blanco is not.

But should Mississippians turn a skeptical eye towards their Governor, perhaps those numbers could begin to move. An article on the Bloomberg newswire today by Timothy J. Burger may just provide that opportunity for Mississippi voters to rethink their views of Barbour.

Many Mississippians have benefited from Governor Haley Barbour's efforts to rebuild the state's devastated Gulf Coast in the two years since Hurricane Katrina. The $15 billion or more in federal aid the former Republican national chairman attracted has reopened casinos and helped residents move to new or repaired homes.

Among the beneficiaries are Barbour's own family and friends, who have earned hundreds of thousands of dollars from hurricane-related business. A nephew, one of two who are lobbyists, saw his fees more than double in the year after his uncle appointed him to a special reconstruction panel. Federal Bureau of Investigation agents in June raided a company owned by the wife of a third nephew, which maintained federal emergency- management trailers.

Meanwhile, the governor's own former lobbying firm, which he says is still making payments to him, has represented at least four clients with business linked to the recovery.

Reading through the entire article, the details sound even worse. Two of Haley Barbour's nephews -- one of whom, Henry Barbour, was the Governor's campaign manager during the 2003 campaign -- registered as lobbyists for the first time almost immediately after their uncle was sworn in. Henry Barbour, in particular, saw his fortunes rise, both after his uncle's successful campaign and then after his uncle appointed him as unpaid executive director of the Governor's Commission on Recovery, Rebuilding and Renewal, with his lobbying fees growing from nothing to $150,000 in the Governor's first year in office to $379,000 in 2006, the first full year after Hurricane Katrina hit. At the same time, a number of those enriching Henry Barbour through plush lobbying contracts were also plying Haley Barbour with campaign contributions.

This is all just some of the information contained in the article. Other details bring up similar questions. Burger makes clear that "no evidence has surfaced that Barbour violated the law," but quotes the head of a government watchdog group who explains that these revelations raise "many red flags."

It's not clear that there is much to gain for local Democrats in the short run by hitting on these allegations. By most accounts this fall's gubernatorial election is not supposed to be terribly close, and the Democratic nominee, John Eaves, appears to be running, at least in part, on bringing back school prayer. That said, there are those who view Barbour as Vice Presidential material -- or even potentially Presidential material (you know how Republicans love their lobbyists like Fred Thompson and Haley Barbour...) -- so there are long-term benefits to the Democrats giving this news a full airing, both in Mississippi and inside the Beltway, to help undercut Barbour before he can act on national ambitions.

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KY-Gov: A Rout in the Making

With most statewide races you have to wait weeks, if not months before new public polling is released. Not so with the 2007 Kentucky Governor race, which has seen quite a bit of polling, including a new survey commissioned by the Lane Report (via Breaking Blue). Take a look at the latest numbers (the new Lane Report poll is listed second because it was in the field a bit before the most recent SurveyUSA poll):

(R)(D)
Fletcher/
Rudolph
Beshear/
Mongiardo
SurveyUSA
8/4-6
3758
Lane Report
7/25-8/2
3149
SurveyUSA
7/14-16
3659
Insider Advantage
7/8-9
3841
Rasmussen Reports
5/24-25
3551
SurveyUSA
5/23-24
3462
Average
5/23-8/6/07
35.253.3

As you can see, this race is shaping up to be a real problem for Republicans -- a real problem. Republican Governor Ernie Fletcher is simply not popular, a fact that should not be surprising given that his administration has been shrouded is scandal from almost day one and that he was forced to innoculate himself from prosecution by pardoning a number of his underlings.

Let's not count this one as a win yet. But let's keep pushing ahead so that Fletcher is beaten by a margin that makes Ken Blackwell look popular.

KY-Gov: Fletcher Making No Headway Whatsoever

Things are looking really bleak for Kentucky's Republican Governor Ernie Fletcher. Take a look at the polling over the last two and a half months, including a new poll from SurveyUSA.

SurveyUSA
8/4-6
SurveyUSA
7/14-16
Insider Advantage
7/8-9
Rasmussen Reports
5/24-25
SurveyUSA
5/23-24
Fletcher3736383534
Beshear5859415162

These numbers spell cause real concern for Kentucky Republicans. Despite the fact that the state GOP has been working hard to overcome any lagging resentment following the tough primary between Fletcher and former Congresswoman Anne Northup, and despite the fact that Fletcher has been campaigning hard in recent months, the incumbent Governor has seen no movement -- no movement whatsover -- in his numbers. Regardless of how hard or soft pollsters are pushing their respondents, Fletcher isn't even approaching 40 percent support.

This is important on a number of levels, not the least of which that this represents a real gubernatorial pickup opportunity for the Democrats in a state carried twice by Bill Clinton and twice by George W. Bush (with neither Al Gore nor John Kerry receiving more than 41 percent of the vote). But even more so, this race presents an opportunity to send a real signal in a state represented by the chief obstructionist in the Senate, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

If you're interested in helping out the campaign of Beshear and 2004 netroots-backed candidate Dan Mongiardo (Beshear's running mate), head on over to the pair's website to find out more information. Let's win this one, and win it big.

KY-GOV: Fletcher Still Polling Well Below 40 Percent

Ever since it emerged that Kentucky's Republican Governor Ernie Fletcher misused and abused his hiring privileges, a fact that he copped to when signing a plea deal last summer, it's been clear that he would have a great deal of trouble trying to get reelected this year. Polling on his reelection bid has been somewhat erratic -- some polls put his Democratic challenger Steve Beshear at around 50 percent, others put Beshear at about 40 percent, and yet others put Beshear above 60 percent. But all of the polling seems to agree on one fact: Fletcher's support in a head-to-head matchup against Beshear is below 40 percent. Take a look at the latest numbers released yesterday by SurveyUSA.

In a general election for Governor of Kentucky today, 7/17/07, 7 weeks after the Primary and 3-and-1/2 months to the general, the Democratic challengers Steve Beshear and Dan Mongiardo maintain a material lead over the incumbent Republican team of Ernie Fletcher and Robbie Rudolph, according to a SurveyUSA poll of 560 likely KY voters conducted exclusively for WHAS-TV Louisville and WCPO-TV Cincinnati. Beshear is at 59% today, down slightly from 62% in SurveyUSA's 5/25/07 tracking poll. Fletcher is at 36% today, up slightly from 34% on 5/25/07. 24% of Kentucky Republicans today cross-over and vote Democratic in this contest, down from the 36% of Republicans who told SurveyUSA they would crossover in SurveyUSA's 5/25/07 release. Fletcher trails today by 12 among men, trails by 35 among women. Beshear leads by 16 or more points in every region of the state.

The Cook Political Report (.pdf) rates this race as a "tossup", but it's hard to see how that's the case given that Fletcher so consistently polls in the mid-30s against Beshear regardless of what firm is taking the survey. More likely, the race leans at least somewhat towards the Democrats at this point, with Beshear favored to win at this point. (Update [2007-7-19 0:15:44 by Jonathan Singer]:It's worth noting that The Rothenberg Political Report agrees with me that the Democrats are favored in this race.)

This race will be an important one for the Democrats, particularly because of the likelihood that Louisiana's governorship will swing from the Democrats to the Republicans this fall. While few would claim that off-year gubernatorial contests are predictors of results in the following presidential election, a Republican sweep of Kentucky and Louisiana this year could give the party some much needed momentum going into 2008 -- momentum that could be stalled by a Democratic victory in the Bluegrass state.

I take it as a good sign, then, that Beshear is disregarding the polling and running this race as if he were 10 points down and trying to claw his way to the top. (He said about as much during a blogger conference call I participated in earlier this month.) To put it another way, Beshear is not taking this race for granted -- and neither should we. If you want to help ensure that Beshear and 2004 netroots Senate candidate Dan Mongiardo will be running Kentucky come the beginning of next year -- and the Democrats stall any potential momentum shift this fall -- you can support their campaign by making a contribution here.

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