US Republicans can shape landscape in governor races

* Governors’ races could reshape politics for decade

* Redistricting, White House race might see impact

By John Whitesides

WASHINGTON, Oct 21 (BestGrowthStock) – Republicans appear headed
for big gains in governors’ races on Nov. 2, dealing President
Barack Obama and Democrats a blow that could dramatically
reshape the U.S. political landscape for a decade.

With governorships at stake in 37 of the 50 U.S. states,
broad Republican victories would give the party an edge in next
year’s redrawing of congressional district boundaries and in
the 2012 presidential race.

Democrats hope to limit their losses and capture
Republican-held governorships in big battlegrounds like
California, Florida and perhaps even Texas.

“Governors races are the main event this year,” said Nathan
Daschle, executive director of the Democratic Governors’
Association. “What happens in these races will have a long-term
impact on national politics through congressional redistricting
and the next presidential election.”

Republicans, who now hold 23 governors’ offices, are
expected to pick up at least six or seven more to go along with
big congressional gains that could give them a majority in the
U.S. House of Representatives and perhaps even the Senate.

Democrats have faced a tough political headwind all year.
The party that holds the White House typically loses
governorships and seats in Congress in a midterm election, and
the budget deficits and sour economy that fueled voter anger at
Obama and Congress forced some states to cut services or raise
taxes.

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The nonpartisan Cook Political Report lists 16 of the 19
races in states currently with Democratic governors as either
toss-ups or tilting toward Republicans. Of the races in 18
states with Republican governors, nine are toss-ups or lean
toward Democrats.

The retirement of Democratic governors in heavily
Republican Wyoming, Kansas, Oklahoma and Tennessee give
Republicans good chances for gains. Ailing economies in
Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin give
Republicans a shot at more pick-ups.

‘A VERY BIG DEAL’

“Republicans are going to walk away from this election
holding 30 or more governorships,” said Jennifer Duffy, an
analyst with Cook. “Given that this is a redistricting year,
that is a very big deal.”

Governors play a critical role in next year’s
state-by-state process of redrawing congressional lines, which
occurs every 10 years after the national census to ensure each
House district represents roughly the same number of people.

Many governors have influence or veto power over plans
drawn through an often highly politicized process that is
designed to inflict maximum damage on opponents by making a
district more reliably Republican or Democratic.

Much of the population shift in this census has been from
Democratic states in the Northeast and Midwest won by Obama in
the 2008 presidential election to more conservative states in
the South and West. Texas is expected to gain four House seats,
and Arizona, Utah, Georgia and South Carolina one each.

Memories are still fresh of the contentious 2003 Texas
redistricting engineered by former House Republican leader Tom
DeLay, which cost Democrats five congressional seats.

The big role in redistricting for Texas has heightened
interest in its governors’ race, where incumbent Republican
Rick Perry faces a strong challenge from Democrat Bill White.
Of the 18 states projected to gain or lose congressional seats
in redistricting, 15 are electing governors.

“If the margin of either party’s majority in the House
turns out to be five or 10 seats, that’s a margin that can
shift through the redistricting process,” said Republican
Governors’ Association spokesman Mike Schrimpf.

Governors’ races are also crucial to national political
parties because of the fund raising and party organization a
sitting governor offers to presidential candidates.

In the decisive state of Florida in 2000, Republican
Governor Jeb Bush helped deliver the White House to his brother
George W. Bush. In 2004, the election turned on Ohio, where a
Republican governor helped deliver Bush the winning margin.

Democrats may have learned their lesson. Obama recently has
campaigned for Democratic candidates for governor in Ohio,
Wisconsin, Massachusetts and Maryland. He was in Oregon on
Wednesday on behalf of Democratic gubernatorial candidate John
Kitzhaber.

“The foundation of President Obama’s re-election rests on
the shoulders of Democratic governors,” Daschle said. “The
governor’s party is one of the most important factors in which
way a swing state will go in a presidential election.”

(Editing by Will Dunham)

US Republicans can shape landscape in governor races