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GOP takes aim at record for gubernatorial wins

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Republicans are poised to win more gubernatorial seats in 2010 than in any election during the past 90 years - a feat that would eclipse the 24 seats won during the "Republican Revolution" of 1994, a new study shows.

The GOP also has a good chance to challenge the party's tally of 29 seats it won in 1920, its best showing during the 20th and 21st centuries, according to an analysis by Smart Politics, a nonpartisan blog.

"We are going to see a historic or near-historic year for the GOP" in gubernatorial elections," said Eric J. Ostermeier, a University of Minnesota professor who writes and moderates Smart Politics.

While the 1994 elections are best known for the Republican's 54-seat swing in the House, the two dozen governor seats won by the party that year was the most since the 24 seats it captured in 1966. The GOP also won 24 seats in 1928.

Yet Republican gubernatorial candidates are looking even stronger in 2010 than in 1994. The latest public opinion surveys give Republicans the advantage in 28 of 37 states holding gubernatorial elections this year, says Smart Politics, which is run by the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs.

"A lot of these polls are obviously fluid and a lot of these are within the margin of error, but they're almost all tilting toward the Republicans in a lot of these tossup states," Mr. Ostermeier said. "So 25 [seats] is definitely a number I think that the Republican Governors Association is going to try to hit."

Polling shows that gubernatorial candidates in 15 of these states would win by double digits: Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah and Wyoming.

GOP candidates also have more narrow advantages in Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Maine, Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, Vermont and Wisconsin, the blog says.

Democrats currently lead in the latest polling in just seven states: Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire and New York. Independent candidate and former Republican senator Lincoln Chafee has a narrow lead in Rhode Island, the blog says.

Maryland Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley is in a tight re-election race against former Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. Some pollsters show Mr. O'Malley with a slight advantage, although a Rasmussen Reports survey from early June shows the race as dead even.

The predicted Republican wave is due somewhat to a large number of open gubernatorial seats, political experts say.

"We have some semi-popular Democratic governors who are term limited, which is giving Republicans an opportunity - even in a GOP-leaning year which they may not necessarily have as strong a chance," Mr. Ostermeier said.

Of the 1,775 gubernatorial races from 1900 through 2009, Democrats won 923 times, or 52 percent, while Republicans won 831, or 46.8 percent, Mr. Ostermeier's research shows. Third party candidates won 21 times, or 1.2 percent.

To help its cause, the Republican Governors Association (RGA) says it just wrapped up its largest fundraising quarter in its history. The RGA raised $18.9 million for the second quarter of 2010, which ended June 30. That brings its fundraising total for the year to $28 million.

The RGA says it has $40 million cash on hand after spending $10 million in political expenditures for the year.

"The Republican Governors Association has the momentum, message and money needed to make massive gains this November," RGA Executive Director Nick Ayers said last week.

The Democratic Governors Association (DGA), meanwhile, raised $9.1 million in the second quarter and has about $22 million in cash on hand.

But Democrats contend they're not conceding a Republican gubernatorial landslide without a fight. The DGA says it had its best-ever fundraising for the first six months of the year, bringing in more than $17 million through June.

DGA Executive Director Nathan Daschle said last week that, given the "mass donor exodus" from the Republican National Committee to the RGA, "we never expected to out-raise the RGA."

"But we have marshaled historic resources to compete aggressively across the map," he said. "With marquee states like California, Florida and Texas up for grabs, more Americans could have a Democratic governor after November than ever before."

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