Morning Read: Gubernatorial Frenemies

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley heads the Democratic Governors Association, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell leads the Republican counterpart, and both men are thought to have national aspirations. But the Baltimore Sun says “despite their deep ideological differences, occasional sparring on national television and the natural competition between the two neighboring states, the governors have been able to maintain a working relationship that rarely erupts in public spats.”

They attended each other’s inaugurations, and maintain a relationship “that aides say has been cordial, even friendly at times.” But 2012 could strain that relationship, as they lead their parties’ efforts to win 11 gubernatorial races, many of them “highly competitive.” The Cook Political Report’s Jennifer Duffy “said it ‘does seem a little odd’ that the two neighboring governors will be competing national voices for their parties in 2012. But she said it is ‘helpful’ for the relationship that neither man is up for election this year -- in fact, both are term-limited.”

* The Norfolk Virginian-Pilot says in an editorial that “a recognizable name will likely be enough for two candidates to make it onto the November ballot” for U.S. Senate in Virginia, with Republican George Allen and Democrat Tim Kaine favored to win their parties’ nominations. But Allen “can expect to face at least two opponents in next year’s general election: the Democratic nominee and Allen himself.” He “is saddled with baggage from his six years in the Senate, where he’s on record supporting the No Child Left Behind Act, an expansion of Medicare prescription benefits, unfunded wars, increases in the nation’s debt ceiling, deep tax cuts and pay raises for himself.”

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The Staunton News-Leader similarly writes, “Poor George Allen. He’s running hard for his old seat in the U.S. Senate, but with none of an incumbent’s clout and plenty of baggage.” And while he is “trying to run against Washington, the president and the deficit,” Allen “backed wars and tax cuts that blew holes in a national budget surplus.” The Danville Register and Bee says in an editorial that Allen “now faces challenges from some conservatives who see him as the embodiment of Republicans who say one thing when they’re running for office and do another once they’re elected.”

Bearing Drift’s Norman Leahy writes, “Virginia politics is for retreads,” with the two likely candidates “as familiar as Coke and Pepsi.” But Larry Sabato tells the Richmond Times-Dispatch that all this early maneuvering may have little impact on the final result. “’It’s amusing for everybody but the candidates and their staffs, and they have to do what they’re doing, but most of it won’t matter a whit,” Sabato said. “In all probability, if the presidential result [in the state] is at least 51-49 or greater, then the winner of the presidential contest will probably bring the party nominee in on his coattails.”

* In a piece on Jewish Republicans, Roll Call notes that Allen “was caught off guard in his failed 2006 re-election race when he, a practicing Methodist, discovered his mother was raised Jewish.” Jewish Republicans says Allen has “always forged ties with their community, but he’s embraced the community in a whole new manner since that revelation.”

* Governors Journal says Virginia’s Bill Bolling is set to become “the most relevant lieutenant governor in the nation” since he will have tie-breaking power in the new evenly split state Senate. It is not yet clear, though, how McDonnell and GOP legislators “use their hold on power.” Bolling does not anticipate an aggressive push for a more conservative agenda, and says of the Senate, “It is more of a collegial body than it is an ideological or partisan body.” He does not think he will have to break ties “on every issue.”

The Washington Post says Bolling earns just $36,000 per year as LG, officially “a part-time gig,” even though he says he says he “spends 40-plus hours a week on his state job, which means he is earning about $17.30 an hour.” With the evenly split Senate, that time commitment -- and Bolling’s stature -- are sure to increase.

Meanwhile, as Bolling faces an unexpected and tough 2013 gubernatorial primary against AG Ken Cuccinelli, McDonnell is signaling “the depth of his support” for his number two, the Post’s Anita Kumar writes. Last week, McDonnell “attended two fundraisers for Bolling -- one at the The Palm restaurant in McLean on Wednesday and another at Burton’s Grill in Virginia Beach on Thursday.”

* In the Charlottesville Daily Progress, GOP Del. Rob Bell outlines why he is running for Virginia AG, writing, “I believe my experience as a prosecutor and a conservative lawmaker has given me the background to serve as Virginia’s next attorney general.” Bell says he “would continue to fight crime and to promote safer schools and neighborhoods,” and would continue Cuccinelli’s “battle to rein in unconstitutional overreach by the federal government.”

* The Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star reports that Republican Bryce Reeves, whose narrow victory over state Sen. Edd Houck delivered the Virginia Senate to the GOP, is getting ready for his new gig. He “doesn’t have Senate letterhead. Nor does he know which office he’ll have in the General Assembly office building. And he hasn’t yet found a place to stay in Richmond for the two-month session.” But “none of that seems to bother Reeves, who said he’s eager for the session to start and to get to work.”

* The Post’s John Wagner says Bob Ehrlich, “Maryland’s only Republican governor in a generation,” has released a new book that could offer some tips to Mitt Romney, “whom he has endorsed for president.” Wagner says Ehrlich’s “career -- like Romney’s campaign -- illustrates the challenges for moderate Republicans in tacking right.”

* Towson University communications professor Richard Vatz writes in the Sun that while Paul Schurick’s actions in the Maryland Election Day robocall episode may have been “dirty campaigning, heavy-handed and irresponsible,” it “should not be legally actionable.” Vatz says that while Maryland “may be Democratic and very leftist, we do not yet have a system of justice that criminalizes political speech. But perhaps we are moving in that direction.”

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