Can John Cox Win? There Have Been GOP Surprises in Blue States

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

Can John Cox win the California gubernatorial race? A long shot to be sure, but looking at the overwhelming registration advantage Democrat Gavin Newsom has over Republican Cox doesn’t mean numbers are destiny. Ask the governors of Massachusetts, Maryland and Illinois.

In three of the more liberal states in the union, with registration advantage for Democrats as strong or stronger than the advantage California Democrats enjoy, Republicans sit in the governor’s chair. In all three instances the Republican governors, like John Cox, came from the business world.

California Democratic voter registration is 19-points higher than Republican registration. In Massachusetts and Maryland Democratic registration is more than 20-points higher and in a Pew Survey which included voters that leaned a certain way, the Democratic advantage was even greater.

Like the governors in these three liberal states, Cox came out of the business world. He has been criticized for never winning a political office. Yet, of Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker, Maryland governor Larry Hogan and Illinois governor Bruce Rauner, Baker was the only one to previously hold an elected office as a town selectman, equivalent to a California city council member. Baker and Hogan both served in gubernatorial cabinets and Rauner was an advisor to Chicago’s mayor.

They all beat the political odds. Can it happen here?

Granted all the states have their own peculiar brand of politics. Too, governors Baker, Hogan and Rauner all were elected before Donald Trump came on the scene with his ability to galvanize opposition against him and his policies, nowhere more stridently than in the Golden State. Cox has the wholehearted endorsement of the president.

The Republican brand is damaged goods in California, but it is in other liberal states as well. It is the message that the winning gubernatorial candidates delivered that secured them the office. It will be up to Cox to convince voters that he has a plan to overcome some of California’s problems.

While I’m not naïve about Cox’s chances, there is one more thing that he might have going for him. Let’s call it the Jerry Brown effect. Brown built a reputation as a strict fiscal steward of the public purse. Gavin Newsom has campaigned as someone who has big plans that cost a lot of money; e.g. single payer health care.

Can Cox pick up the mantle as the fiscally responsible candidate in an era of California’s high taxes and legislatively proposed profligate spending in such a way to convince voters to put him in office?

I once asked a political science professor if a state like Massachusetts, that has one-party Democratic rule in the legislature, elects Republican governors as a check on legislative actions. He said he was not aware of any studies to test the theory. However, these Republican governors in three blue states do tell an interesting story.

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