Written by: Chris Cilizza, Washington Post Blog
Posted: December, 2008
Yesterday we started our year-end awards by naming state Sen. Kay Hagan's race in North Carolina as the best Senate campaign in the country
Today we move on to the gubernatorial ranks where, with just 11 races, there are relatively slim pickings. Even so, our winner was obvious. And that winner was:
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels — At the start of the 2008 election, Daniels was widely regarded by Democrats and Republicans as highly vulnerable.
Daniels's first term had been marred by a high-profile fight over his decision to lease the Indiana Toll Road to a private company and his desire to bring Indiana into line with the rest of the country in observing Daylight Savings Time. (And, no, we are not kidding.)
He also carried the burden of having served as the director of the Office of Management and Budget for President George W. Bush — a tie that Democrats believed could be exploited in an election cycle where any link to the current Administration could prove deadly.
Recognizing his peril, Daniels reprised a successful tactic from his 2004 campaign — touring the state in an RV — to show voters that he was still in touch with their needs and concerns. From his first ad to his last ad , the RV was a potent sign that Daniels was from and of the people.
Daniels, like all good politicians, benefited from a bit of luck in the campaign as well. Democrats played host to an expensive primary fight that produced former Rep. Jill Long Thompson as the party's nominee. Long Thompson was an uninspiring candidate who was unable to raise the sort of money needed to be competitive against Daniels.
Still, that Daniels won reelection by 18 points in a state that President-elect Barack Obama carried on the same day is a testament to the kind of campaign the Indiana Republican ran and why he is already being touted in some circles as a 2012 presidential candidate for the GOP.
Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire: After winning the governor's mansion in decidedly controversial fashion in 2004 , Gregoire was imperiled from the day her opponent in that race — former state Sen. Dino Rossi — decided to run again.
With so few races on the docket in 2008, both national parties spent heavily on the race — slamming each other with charges and counter-charges throughout the fall. Gregoire focused almost exclusively on linking Rossi to Bush, a savvy move given the progressive wave surging through Washington State, and effectively parried Rossi's attacks that she was simply a big spending liberal.
The Democrat's margin — 53 percent to 47 percent — surprised many observers who thought 2008 might well be a repeat of her 129-vote margin four years earlier. That it wasn't nearly that close is a credit to Gregoire and the Democratic Governors Association.