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Analysis: What Election 2007 means for '08

  • Story Highlights
  • Republican Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher lost his seat
  • Republican Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour won a second term
  • Neither race should have national impact, political analyst says
  • Virginia could be important as Democrats gain control of state Senate
  • Next Article in Politics »
By Paul Steinhauser
CNN
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Election 2007 is in the record books. But can this election, overshadowed by the early start to next year's presidential contest, tell us anything about the 2008 contests?

The answer is yes and no.

It was a split decision when it comes to the two gubernatorial contests decided Tuesday. Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher was voted out of office.

He acknowledged his defeat, saying "The voters have made up their minds and I accept their decision."

The incumbent Republican was ousted by Democrat and former Lt. Gov. Steve Beshear. Fletcher was dogged by an investigation into political interference in state hirings that led to his indictment. The charges were dropped after Fletcher admitted to wrongdoing in his administration, but by then, he was damaged goods.

It was a different story for another Republican governor -- Mississippi's Haley Barbour. He easily won a second term -- thanks in part to praise of his handling of recovery efforts following Hurricane Katrina. Barbour beat Democrat John Arthur Eaves Jr. by nearly 20 percent. Eaves, a lawyer, ran as a conservative evangelical Democrat. Video Watch what this year's results could mean for '08 »

Although both races were interesting, neither should have any national impact.

"The Kentucky and Mississippi contests were so state specific that I don't think that there were any national lessons," says nonpartisan political analyst Stuart Rothenberg, editor-in-chief of the Rothenberg Political Report.

Virginia could be a different story. Democrats there made major gains, winning control of the state Senate for the first time in 12 years. Although Republicans retained control of Virginia's State House, Democrats won back a couple of seats.

If you couple Tuesday's results with victories by Virginia Democrats in the 2001 and 2005 gubernatorial elections and last year's U.S. Senate battle, where Democrat James Webb ousted incumbent Sen. George Allen, it's another sign that the once reliably red state is up for grabs.

Democratic voters are pouring into suburban northern Virginia, and Democratic candidates there made the elections a referendum on President Bush and Republicans in Washington.

"It's just not a good year for Republicans...and we're seeing that all over the state," said Republican Jean Marie Devolites Davis, who failed in her bid for a state Senate seat.

Virginia will be in the spotlight next year as Democrats try to win the seat of retiring U.S. senator and Republican John Warner. Democrats will also try to win the state in the presidential election, something they haven't been able to do in over 40 years.

"Republicans now have to start worrying about Virginia. They can't take it for granted anymore," Rothenberg said.

After the failure of immigration legislation in Washington this summer, many of the Republican candidates in Virginia made battling illegal immigration one of their top issues. But the jury's still out on whether that strategy succeeded or backfired.

"I still think Republicans will continue to use illegal immigration as an issue in 2008," Rothenberg added.

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Several big cities held mayoral contests. Baltimore, Maryland, elected a black woman as mayor for the first time. Sheila Dixon was appointed to the job after Martin O'Malley left office when she won Maryland's governorship. She was elected Tuesday.

Michael Nutter won the mayoral election in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and voters in Houston, Texas; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and San Francisco, California, re-elected their mayors. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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