- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 28, 2006

Democrats are quietly poised to win a majority of the nation’s gubernatorial offices in the midterm elections next week, as most of the attention focuses on the battle for control of Congress.

Republicans currently hold 28 gubernatorial seats. However, a number of them are in what are considered liberal states that appear to have stronger Democratic candidates than in recent years.

According to the latest polls, Democrats could win in eight states: Alaska, Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Nevada and Ohio.

“It’s a volatile climate out there,” said Bernie Campbell, communications director for the Democratic Governors’ Association (DGA). “A combination of things is working in our favor — voter confidence in Democrats and building on the past accomplishments of our current governors.”

Gov. Bill Richardson, New Mexico Democrat, said during a recent appearance in Washington that his party is benefiting from a bounce in the polls because of voter dissatisfaction with President Bush and Congress. Mr. Richardson, the president of the DGA, is far ahead in his own re-election campaign.

Republican governors who are running competitive races in the so-called “blue” states this year have been successful by embracing a more independent agenda and distancing themselves from the administration.

“The issues environment has been challenging for Republicans,” said Phil Musser, executive director of the Republican Governors Association (RGA).

Mr. Musser cited gubernatorial races in California and Oregon as evidence that Republicans can still buck the national trend working against others in their party. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is leading his Democratic opponent, state Treasurer Phil Angelides, in the polls. In Oregon, Republican nominee Ron Saxton is running a surprisingly close race against incumbent Gov. Theodore R. Kulongoski.

“You still need the core base, but it’s less about ideology and more about being pragmatic,” Mr. Musser said of their success.

Some Republicans have complained privately that the White House has focused too much on maintaining a majority in Congress and has virtually ignored Republican gubernatorial races, both in fundraising and in appearances by Mr. Bush and other leading party figures.

“They gave up on us a long time ago,” said one source, who asked to remain anonymous because of a continued involvement in Republican campaigns.

“The top priority has been Congress,” Mr. Musser acknowledged, “especially early in the cycle.”

However, he said that the RGA has raised $20 million for its races this year and has an estimated $6 million to $7 million advantage over the DGA.

A significant part of that money will be used to get voters to the polls on Election Day. “Money is critical to it,” he said.

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