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« Barbour Criticizes Obama's Health Care Haste | Blog Home Page | White House Softens Tone On Health Care Town Halls »

Would Gubernatorial Wins Signal GOP Comeback?

If Bob McDonnell and Chris Christie win gubernatorial elections this fall, some Republicans will be eager to call it the first sign of a comeback for the party. One person who won't be, apparently, is Gov. Haley Barbour, chair of the Republican Governors Association.

Asked specifically about the contest in New Jersey on a conference call today, Barbour said: "Chris Christie is ahead in the polls in New Jersey because people in New Jersey don't like what Jon Corzine's done." It's the Democrats who are eager to nationalize the race, he added, while Republicans like him "think that race, and I hope that race, is decided very much on local and New Jersey issues."

It's not surprising in New Jersey, where Republicans have not won a statewide election since 1997. Christie is hardly calling attention to his partisan affiliation, something national party leaders praised. And even in a blue state, they don't think President Obama will make a difference.

"Barack Obama didn't get Jon Corzine's job approval down to 35 percent," Barbour said. "Christie's ahead in the polls in New Jersey because people in New Jersey look over the four years that Corzine has been governor, and they don't like the results."

This week, the RGA hosted 29 candidates who will be running in 2010 races around the country, as well as nine incumbents. These governors are being encouraged to, like Christie, shape their message not on any national message but based on what are the top concerns in their states.

"I think the Republicans are going to do surprisingly well in 2010 based on the caliber of the people we've been talking with," said Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle, herself a Republican governor in a deep blue state.

UPDATE: Check out DGA Executive Director Nate Daschle's response after the jump.

Governor Barbour's right - this race will be decided on local issues. Local issues like Chris Christie giving multi-million dollar no bid contracts to his friends and political allies, or his failure to lead when it comes to budget issues, or his right-wing views on guns and choice that are just too far out of the mainstream for New Jersey.

Governor Corzine has made tough decisions during a national recession that will put New Jersey on the path to recovery as our economy rebounds. But it's strange that Barbour would take that position - national Republicans have defined New Jersey as a must-win for themselves. After three straight election cycles of big gubernatorial and national losses, they're calling it the start of their hoped-for comeback.