If Republican Florida Governor Rick Scott had been on his game last night going into his second-to-last debate against Democratic challenger Charlie Crist, the small electric fan under Crist’s podium wouldn’t have become an issue. An experienced politician, Scott ought to have immediately understood that making a fuss over the fact that his opponent had brought a fan to keep him cool under the hot glare of the TV lights – practically a given with Crist – and that he (Scott) hadn’t, was an absolute political loser.
But Governor Scott wasn’t on his game, and for six crucial minutes in the televised debate, he refused to take the stage in protest over the presence of the fan. Almost immediately, social media erupted over what quickly emerged as “fangate” – and when Scott finally came to the podium, the debate was already over. The candidates discussed some of the issues facing the sunshine state, but all anybody really wanted to talk about afterward was the fan and Scott’s overreaction to it.
Why would Scott make such an obvious and avoidable blunder? It may be that, locked in a close race with a politically savvy former governor challenging him, Scott is getting nervous. If that’s the case, he isn’t alone.
University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato, whose “crystal ball” tracks races across the country, says that of the 28 incumbent governors running for reelection this year, 11 are in serious danger of losing their seats. And that doesn’t even count Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie (D), who lost a primary challenge. Most of the troubled incumbents, 8 of the 11 listed by Sabato, are Republicans.
The most recent polls have Crist – a former Republican who became an independent and then a Democrat – leading or tied with Scott. Both Sabato and RealClearPolitics.com list the race as a toss-up. But Scott is hardly the most endangered Republican in the country.
In Pennsylvania, Republican Gov. Tom Corbett is trailing businessman and one-time chairman of the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue Tom Wolf by double digits in most polls. In Maine, Republican Paul LePage is locked in a tight race with Rep. Mike Michaud (D). In the notoriously difficult-to-poll Alaska governor’s race, Sean Parnell appears to be trailing independent Bill Walker.
Some of the Republican Party’s biggest ideological stars are actually having a tough time convincing constituents to keep them around. Sam Brownback, the former congressman and senator from Kansas who won the governorship on promises to turn Kansas into a low-tax haven of conservative values, is in a seesaw battle against State Representative Paul Davis.
Wisconsin’s controversial Republican Governor Scott Walker may have survived a recall vote, but whether he will survive this year’s general election challenge from Democratic challenger Mary Burke is now very much in question. The most recent polls have showed the race either tied, or slightly favoring Burke.
Michigan’s Rick Snyder and Georgia’s Nathan Deal are both leading in their reelection campaigns, but each has seen his advantage in the polls slip in recent weeks.
Republicans, of course, aren’t alone in their travails. In Colorado, Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper is in a dead heat with former Congressman Bob Beauprez, a Republican. In Illinois, Democrat Pat Quinn is barely fending off a challenge from Republican businessman Bruce Rauner. Finally, in Connecticut, Dannel Malloy has run even in the last two polls against Thomas Foley, a Republican and former ambassador to Ireland.
With less than three weeks to go in the race, challengers and incumbents alike may want to stock up on electric fans.
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