What’s your take on Whitman v. Bill Bradley? It seemed she got the nod for guv based on her near-victory then, so it probably wasn’t a surprise that she got nominated. Do you think she came off better then and just got worse later on?
Bradley was caught in the Florio backlash, one reason he nearly lost in ‘90 (it would be a year later that the GOP would sweep landslides in the legislature — no Dem was safe). Whitman was outspent by some 10-to-1, but she expertly tied Bradley to Florio (had she had more money, she might’ve succeeded) and he just ran a terrible campaign (it also destroyed his viability for the ‘92 Presidential race and he was convinced he would lose to Congressman Dick Zimmer in ‘96 that he outright retired).
She didn’t win the nomination for Governor in ‘93 without a sweat, facing Kean’s former Attorney General, Cary Edwards (who held her to a 40-33% margin). Edwards had lost to Congressman Jim Courter in ‘89 for the right to face Florio in the prior Gubernatorial contest. As a Kean Republican, I don’t think Edwards would’ve been much better as a Governor than Whitman. As it was, Whitman never could get a majority of the vote (49% in ‘93 and just under 47% in ‘97), and she only beat both Florio and McGreevey by exactly 1%, pretty poor (especially in the ‘97 race).
Ultimately, yes, she came off as a giant-slayer in the early going with a bright future, but her decided preference for steering a left course and pissing off the base ultimately doomed her. She, of course, remains one of the most reviled RINOs in the country.