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« The Beginning Of The End Of Bipartisanship? | Blog Home Page | Timeline For Massachusetts Senate Election »

Dems Confident On '09 Gov Races, Eye '10 Pickups

The Democratic Governors Association sounds increasingly confident about the two gubernatorial races being held this fall, citing recent developments in the New Jersey and Virginia contests that have voters taking a second look at Republican candidates who have lead in the polls.

In Virginia, officials say that this weekend's Washington Post report about Republican Bob McDonnell's thesis was "devastating," and will go down as the point in the campaign when his "persona as a moderate came crashing down." "He knows that's the ticket to success in Virginia," DGA executive director Nate Daschle said. "But the fact is, he is not" a moderate.

Meanwhile, Republican Chris Christie's favorable numbers are rising and his long-standing lead is "evaporating" after a series of stories that have New Jersey voters questioning his character, the party says.

"This is a candidate who entered the race talking about how he's the ethics candidate. Unfortunately for him, since then ethics have dogged his campaign," Daschle said. He mentioned "a string of ethical lapses," from reports of contacts with Karl Rove, to an undisclosed loan to a subordinate, and to recently revealed driving violations. "If this were the kind of thing where it was just one two or three events in isolation, you could chalk it up to a lack of judgment. But this is a string, a pattern of events that calls into question his character," Daschle said.

Speaking with liberal bloggers on a conference call this afternoon, officials said their internal tracking shows Corzine narrowing the gap quickly, and say other factors give them additional reason for optimism. First, DGA political director Ray Glendening said, there is a historical trend in New Jersey that shows polls tend to understate Democratic support. Plus, he claimed that polling is not factoring in the hundreds of thousands of new Democratic voters who registered as a result of the 2008 presidential primary.

"The lag in polling for Democrats coupled with that I think is going to make up another 3-5 points in the state before election day," Glendening said. Daschle added that the Democratic base "s really coming back to Corzine," which is "something that I think Christie wasn't counting on."

Turning to 2010, Daschle conceded that the party faces a stiff "head wind" as it seeks to hold onto its majority of governor's seats, citing not just the fact that the party in the White House tends to lose seats in mid terms, but also the tough economy and its impact on federal and state budgets. He singled out Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, Iowa Gov. Chet Culver, Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, and potentially Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley as incumbents who will face tough races.

"We're going to do everything we can to make sure they win," he said.

Daschle also said the DGA currently is eyeing six states where Republicans now hold the governor's mansion as strong pickup opportunities: Vermont, Florida, California, Hawaii, Nevada and Minnesota. Circumstances may put another group of states in play, including Georgia, Alabama, Arizona, Alaska and Rhode Island.

Georgia and Alabama Georgia and Alabama, in particular, represent battlegrounds that are promising in part because of President Obama's presidential run. "I think Democrats nationally are giving another look at the south and seeing some opportunities where they didn't exist in the past," Daschle said.

He stated no preference in the wide Georgia Democratic primary field, which includes former Gov. Roy Barnes. Nor did he in Alabama, where Rep. Artur Davis (D-Ala.) will face Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks. But he does have a dog in the Republican primary, citing a recent poll that showed former State Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore leading.

"If the Republicans went that way, then it's even more likely that this would be a competitive race in the fall," Daschle said.