U.S. Republicans expect gains in governors races

* Republicans expected to win majority of governorships

* Democrats face historic trend against party in power

* Elections come amid deficits, service cuts, higher taxes

By John Whitesides

WASHINGTON, June 3 (BestGrowthStock) – U.S. Republicans are aiming
for gains in governors’ races in November, when more than half
of all states could elect new top officials in a historic
turnover with long-term implications for politics and policy.

Republicans are expected to win a majority of the 37
governorships at stake in the midterm elections, giving them a
possible edge in next year’s once-a-decade fight over redrawing
congressional district boundaries and in the 2012 presidential
election.

Amid a growing anti-incumbent and anti-establishment voter
mood, the elections could sweep more than 25 new state chief
executives into office — the most in modern history.

“We’re going to get a new wave of leadership at the state
level and there is no doubt it will impact the country for a
decade,” said Nathan Daschle, executive director of the
Democratic Governors Association.

President Barack Obama’s Democrats are fighting historic
voting trends that go against the party in power in the White
House. Typically, the party in power loses seats in Congress
and governorships during a president’s first term.

Republicans, who now hold 24 governors’ offices to 26 for
Democrats, are expected to gain at least two more for a
majority. Their goal is to pick up at least six governorships
to go along with big Republican gains expected in the U.S.
Senate and House of Representatives.

Huge budget deficits and a sour economy have forced some
states to cut services or raise taxes but the anger at
Washington that has fueled the conservative Tea Party movement
is not as big a factor in state-level politics.

SEEKING RETURN TO OFFICE

Only seven incumbent governors in each party are running
for re-election, but five former governors are trying to
reclaim their old offices despite the anti-insider voter mood.

Democrats Jerry Brown in California, Roy Barnes in Georgia
and John Kitzhaber in Oregon, and Republicans Terry Branstad in
Iowa and Bob Ehrlich in Maryland are hoping voters are looking
for proven performers.

“At the end of the day, voters don’t just want a new face,
they want a face that can solve problems,” said Kitzhaber, who
served as Oregon governor from 1995 to 2003.

“It’s clearly much easier to do that as governor. There is
much more vehement anger at the federal government than at the
state level, at least in Oregon,” he said.

The two parties face a fairly even political map in the 37
governors’ races on the ballot, with Republicans defending 19
and Democrats 18.

Democratic retirements in the Republican states of Wyoming,
Kansas, Oklahoma and Tennessee offer good chances for
Republican pickups. Republicans also have strong shots to
reclaim offices amid the stumbling economies in Ohio, Michigan,
Pennsylvania, Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin.

“The election season is about pocketbook issues and if you
look at the vulnerable Democrats, many have raised taxes or
driven up debt or not delivered on creating jobs,” said Mike
Schrimpf, a Republican Governors Association spokesman.

“It’s about more than anti-incumbency,” he said. “Governors
races are about how the incumbent has governed.”

Democrats hope to take advantage of Republican retirements
in Hawaii, Vermont, Connecticut, Minnesota and California,
while taking aim at incumbents in Texas, Nevada and Arizona.

DEMOCRATIC ADVICE: STAY LOCAL

Daschle said Republican criticism of the Democratic-led
Congress was less relevant at the state level, although
Democrats could benefit in a few states from primary battles
where Tea Party candidates are involved.

“There is a huge disconnect between what Republicans are
saying at the national level and what voters are seeing at the
state level,” Daschle said.

“One of the pieces of advice we’ve been giving our
candidates this year is stay local, stay focused on jobs and
don’t get drawn into these federal debates about what is
happening in D.C. It’s not germane,” he said.

Both parties expect to pour record amounts of money, more
than $40 million each, into the races this year given the broad
implications for redistricting and the 2012 election.

Most governors play a role in the state-by-state process of
redrawing congressional lines every 10 years after the national
census to ensure each House district represents roughly the
same amount of people.

The highly political process, which begins next year,
features intensive party maneuvering to inflict damage on
opponents by making a district more reliably Republican or
Democratic.

“It elevates the significance of the races in this cycle,”
Daschle said. “You are talking about long-term structural
changes that could last a decade, so the short-term and
long-term impact of these races is unprecedented.”

Parties also seek the advantage offered by a sitting
governor in years with a presidential race. Governors typically
raise big money and muster a ready pool of volunteers for
national candidates.

Republicans said potential pickups in swing states like
Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Colorado could help
in the 2012 White House race.

“That would make Obama’s re-election prospects that much
more difficult,” Schrimpf said. “A popular governor can point
to his own policies and use the state party to help the
national nominee.”

Investing
(Editing by David Alexander and Bill Trott)

U.S. Republicans expect gains in governors races