Monday, April 2, 2007

Hall Touts Election Results

From KY

Northern Kentucky was to be the battleground this year as Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher would struggle to hold office in a "swing area" where Anne Northup would key in on support from U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning and others.

If Northern Kentucky, politically known as the 4th Congressional District and solidly held by U.S. Rep. Geoff Davis (R), is any indication of how the race is going, the incumbent is pulling away from the pack and headed to a solid win.

Political columnist Patrick Crowley writes in Friday's Cincinnati Enquirer about crowded Fletcher events in Covington, where there's standing room only at the Covington Optimist Club and $100,000 netted from a fund-raiser in nearby Fort Mitchell. Crowley compares this to Northup's dismal turnout at a Fort Mitchell fund-raiser last week coupled with a sparse showing at the same Optimist Club the same day.

Then there's the apocryphal account of a tense phone conversation recently between Northup and Davis during which she reportedly demanded his endorsement. Davis stood firm, according to the well-circulated report, reiterating his neutrality in the race.

Fletcher appears to have capitalized on his strong relationships with county judge executives in the region, officials who appreciate a governor who delivers state money for highways, schools, water and sewer systems, bridges. Things people come to expect from state government.

Moving down to the 6th Congressional District, which Fletcher represented in the U.S. House, things are looking better and better for the governor, with some help from his chief GOP antagonist. Northup appeared at the March 17 Lincoln Day Dinner in Lexington, telling the governor's hometown crowd that Kentucky would have been better served by a Democrat governor. What possessed her to say that, one wonders?

In the 5th District, it's shaping up to be all-Fletcher, all-the-time as U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers has signaled he's for the governor. Fletcher draws big crowds at fund-raisers and civic club speeches there, drawing praise from local officials and others for providing emergency funding for the Wolf Creek Dam problem.

County judge execs in the 1st and 2nd Districts have stepped up to announce support for the governor, along with nearly every GOP state senator in those congressional districts.

That leaves the 3rd District, Greater Louisville, where Northup lost last November in one of the biggest freefalls of all U.S. House races of 2006. Despite conventional wisdom that says she'll win Jefferson County overwhelmingly in this election, she did manage to lose ground in the last week of the congressional race, going from a comfortable 13-percentage-point lead to a two-point loss. Only North Carolina's 8th CD had a bigger drop, 16 points, in the final days of the campaign.

Also, some may recall it was Fletcher who delivered over $1 billion in projects and state education grants to Jefferson County in the current state budget, including the Louisville Arena. He also fought for the Ohio River bridges Northup wanted for Louisville. (Some would say that, at least in this case, no good deed in politics goes unpunished.)

Let's not forget the "Washington Crowd." Recent word coming from sources inside the Republican National Committee and National Republican Congressional Committee was that Northup had the edge on Fletcher. These same operatives tuned up conservative columnist Robert Novak, who reported recently that the race leans Northup. (Wonder who's behind that?)

Today, the DC rumor mill is tilting the other way, claiming that Fletcher has a 10-to-15-point lead. Don't know where that's coming from, either, but at least one Republican on the Potomac closely watches what may be this year's only competitive governor's race. (See notes below.)

The perception battle has definitely shifted Fletcher's way some eight weeks out from the May 22 primary. He's pulling away from Northup and Paducah businessman Billy Harper. The only grey area that remains for him is a lingering doubt of his general election chances. Given the circumstances in the Democrat primary and the size of his primary victory, that potential snag may be cleared up.

It is amazing that there has been very little attention given to the seven Democrats running for governor this spring, given the fact that their party so completely dominated the state, practically since Kentucky entered the union. Perhaps it's reflective of the lackluster lot that is the Democrat field. So far, there's little to encourage even the most faithful of Democrats. Read between the lines of State Sen. Julian Carroll's recent endorsement of Bruce Lunsford. He's gravely concerned about the future of his party.

And well he should be. The Democrats' solution for just about every public policy question is to legalize casino gambling. One would be led to believe that Kentucky would be a healthier, smarter and happier place if we'd just let the gaming industry move in and start building casinos everywhere. Why, even the sun would shine brighter and there'd be less global warming if we just had a few casinos! Got a Wal-Mart in your town? Let's build a gambling casino next to it. Spread the joy! Why let Louisville have all the fun?

Governor Fletcher has a fairly keen sense of irony about things political, and must surely be having a chuckle or two when he surveys the current landscape. As with Mark Twain, Fletcher's political obituary was written prematurely.

Brett Hall is delusional. Anne Northup is a disastrous candidate. With that stated, Ernie Fletcher is not a model candidate. Each has gaffed, blundered, and embarrassed themselves. Neither is increasing their victory margin. Neither has a victory margin. This race is close. This race will remain close.

Gubernatorial campaigns are both intoxicating and misleading. Events are easily misconstrued. One slip induces misery and euphoria. One stumble forecasts premature victory and failure. The truth is gubernatorial contests are won and lost incrementally. They are won in minute circumstances. Brett, they are won on Election Day when no one is analyzing, celebrating, or writing.
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