Austin Hill: Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard sits alone, without competition from other Democratic candidates, waiting to declare his candidacy for governor, and probably hoping that the Republican candidates cannibalize each other.
It seems like nearly everyone in Arizona knows Gov. Jan Brewer won't be running for her own full term in office next year.
That is, just about everyone except Brewer herself.
As politicos kick it in to gear for the upcoming election cycle, the game board for next year's gubernatorial race is becoming more and more crowded. I noted a couple of times earlier in the year that this might happen - owing to Brewer's relative weakness since taking office (recall that she moved up from the Secretary of State's Office when Janet Napolitano left to go work for President Barack Obama) - a bevy of Republican candidates would likely ignore Brewer's status as the "incumbent" and decide to jump in.
Well, Brewer's weakness is not merely a matter of my opinion. It's been a "hot topic" at the state Capitol since before she was sworn in, given her remarks to the press prior to taking office that she was entertaining a state tax increase. Those remarks caught Republicans in the Legislature off-guard then, and Brewer has never managed to forge any consensus among Republicans or Democrats since.
So as members of the Legislature have had an "up close and personal" view of the current gubernatorial train wreck, increasing numbers of Republicans around the state have been watching, waiting and anticipating Brewer's next moves.
And then last month, more objective evidence of Brewer's weakness arrived in the form of opinion polling data. The very reputable (and accurate) Rasmussen Reports polling agency determined that, as of the time of the poll, in a head-to-head matchup with likely Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry Goddard, Brewer would lose the race by a margin of 35 percent to 42 percent.
Worse still for Brewer, in that same hypothetical matchup with Goddard, she draws only 59 percent of support from likely Republican voters, whereas Goddard draws 83 percent of support from likely Democratic voters. Similarly, Goddard carries the majority of votes from independents, and even secures some Republican support.
That news, which emerged on Sept. 28, made the state's Republicans even more restless. And now, within the last week, we've seen some action on the "new candidates" front.
For one, former Arizona Republican state party chairman and Tucson resident John Munger declared his candidacy for governor. Shortly after his declaration, Munger was interviewed in The Arizona Republic regarding some of his platform proposals, and, noting his ideas for raising the salaries of productive teachers, Munger said, "John Munger is going to fight for that."
Increasing the salaries of good teachers is a great idea. But John Munger will need to quit talking about John Munger in the third person if John Munger is serious about running a campaign (remember how well that "third person thing" worked for Bob Dole in '96?).
Then on Wednesday, Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman (a rumored possible gubernatorial candidate previously mentioned in this column) made a surprise announcement about Paradise Valley Mayor Vernon Parker (another prospective gubernatorial candidate previously mentioned in this column) about whom there are more than mere rumors. Hallman noted he will officially chair Parker's exploratory committee and declared, "Vernon Parker is the fresh new voice our party and state needs right now. Every now and then, you get particularly excited about someone running for office. That's the way I feel about Mayor Parker, should he choose to run ..."
Elsewhere, state Treasurer Dean Martin still insists that he's not running for governor (thou protesteth too much?), but the "Draft Dean Martin for governor" Web site and Facebook pages tell a different story.
And all the while, Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard sits alone, without competition from other Democratic candidates, waiting to declare his candidacy for governor, and probably hoping that the Republican candidates cannibalize each other.
Brewer may or may not see the light and make the choice to not run in 2010. But regardless of what Brewer does, Goddard may yet get his wish about the cannibalization.
Austin Hill's commentaries appear every Sunday. He hosts talk radio around the country including Arizona's Newstalk KTAR (92.3 FM). To join Austin as he talks with Arizona's newsmakers, watch "The Austin Hill Web TV Show" on Arizona Web TV.