Analysis: GOP set to win big in statehousesBy Bill Schneider/CNN
WASHINGTON (October 23) -- Republicans in Congress are rapidly lowering their expectations for next month's elections. Instead of a blowout, Republicans now expect only modest gains the U.S. House and Senate.
In the statehouses, however, it's a different story. Republican governors already outnumber Democrats by nearly two to one. Next month, even more states are likely to end up under GOP control.
You want to see a blowout? Look at Texas. Gov. George Bush is leading by 46 points. His opponent is barely getting a quarter of the vote. Will the last Democrat in Texas please turn out the lights?
Granted, Texas is a conservative southern state. How about Michigan -- land of auto workers, labor unions and Motown? That should be a Democratic bastion, right? Not any more. Republican Gov. John Engler leads by 32 points.
Check out New York, the homeland of liberalism, FDR and RFK. Republican Gov. George Pataki, the giant killer who finished off Mario Cuomo four years ago, is leading by better than two to one. Only 21 percent for a Democrat in New York? Get outta here.
What's going on? Incumbency is part of the story. State economies are booming. Revenues are flowing in. Incumbents of both parties are thriving. But Republicans are doing well in open races, too.
In the five states where Democratic governors are not running for re-election Republicans are even or ahead in every one of them, including Georgia, which may elect its first Republican governor since Reconstruction. It's the same in Florida, where another Bush -- younger son Jeb Bush -- is flourishing.
And look at six states where GOP governors are not running for re-election. Republicans are even or ahead in five of them. Unfortunately for Republicans, the one exception is a big one -- California, where Republican Dan Lungren now trails his Democratic Opponent Gray Davis.
In fact, of the few GOP governors in tight races, two are Deep South Republicans with strong ties to the religious right: David Beasley in South Carolina and Fob James in Alabama.
Republicans are likely to come out of this election with more governors and state legislatures than at any time since the 1930s. That will put the GOP in control of congressional redistricting for the first time in decades.
What's the secret behind the success of so many Republican governors? Most of them are moderates and pragmatists, with an inclusive appeal. They're not like congressional Republicans, who often come across as harsh and divisive.
The big winners in this election could be a couple of guys named Bush, who try very hard not to sound like Washington Republicans.
"I'll make you proud. I've got an agenda that's good and decent," George W. Bush tells a crowd of voters in Texas.
"My experience tells me that we have a lot more in common with a broader audience than what people in Washington might imagine," says Jeb Bush, who is making his second run at the governor's seat in Florida.
Why are governors more moderate and pragmatic than members of Congress?
Governors are elected statewide. They have to represent large and diverse constituencies as do senators, of course. But governors have to solve real problems. They can't just take positions.
That's why voters often turn to governors like Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton when they look for a president. Or maybe another Bush.
Friday, October 23, 1998
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