Gubernatorial Debate Season Gets Under Way
By John Gramlich, Staff Writer
Iowa and at least three other states — Ohio, Massachusetts and Tennessee — are holding gubernatorial debates today, while voters in seven states go to the polls on the last major primary election day before November. While the election results are sure to attract the most attention, the debates also are important, particularly in states, including Iowa, where high-profile candidates are struggling to catch up.
Stateline reported last month that Culver, despite Iowa's relative strength during the recession , is facing strong political headwinds as he takes on Branstad, a four-term former governor who can point to the fact that he left office with a $900 million budget surplus. Culver must "sow seeds of doubt" about Branstad during the debate in Sioux City, The Des Moines Register said, while Branstad is likely to continue to highlight his own record and portray Culver's one term as a failure, especially economically.
Like Culver, Ohio Governor Ted Strickland is another first-term Democratic incumbent who once enjoyed widespread popularity but is struggling in his reelection campaign. Strickland and his opponent, Republican John Kasich, will hold their first televised debate today, one that is "fraught with opportunity and political danger for the candidates," as The Columbus Dispatch put it . A Dispatch poll earlier this month found Strickland trailing Kasich by 12 points as Ohio's economy continues to struggle.
In Massachusetts, The New York Times reported, another candidate who was widely seen as a strong contender for the governor's mansion — Republican Charlie Baker — has not raced out to the lead in the polls that many people expected. Baker has been hurt by the entry into the race of independent Timothy Cahill, and Democratic incumbent Deval Patrick also has recovered politically in recent weeks. The three candidates will participate in a radio debate.
In Tennessee, meanwhile, Democrat Mike McWherter and Republican Bill Haslam will square off in their first debate tonight as the candidates vie to take over from term-limited Governor Phil Bredesen, a Democrat.