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« McDonnell Makes Surprise Appearance At CPAC | Blog Home Page | The Week Ahead: Health Care Summit »

Markell: Gubernatorial Races Could Be Bright Spot For Dems

In what is shaping up to be a difficult climate for Democrats in the midterm Congressional races this fall, there's reason for optimism outside Washington, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell told RCP this morning.

"We really believe that the governor's races could be a bright spot for Democrats in November," Markell, chair of the Democratic Governors Association, said. In those races, voters are focusing not on Washington but what is being done in their states to "put people back to work and manage spending well to improve schools."

He rattled off a list of states where he feels the party is well-positioned to pick up seats, including California, Texas and Florida. And in many states, Markell said voters will have "stark choices" between Democratic candidates who "are trying to lead forward and take the country to a better place, and Republicans who want to just turn the clock back."

As for states where the party is on defense, Markell conceded that it is a "very tough environment" to be running in. But he advised fellow incumbents to be visible, "directly communicating with their constituents and not hiding behind the trappings of the office."

"It's not just about making tough decisions," he said. "People vote on their aspirations and their future rather than on their fear. So people have got to have a sense that you get it, that you're going to fight for them, and that you have a plan. And that plan has got to be ... very much about jobs, but also about spending money wisely and about schools."

Democrats continue to see retirements in Congressional elections, most recently Sen. Evan Bayh's (D) stunning decision. Gov. Bill Ritter (D-Colo.) was the latest in the gubernatorial arena to decide against another term, but Markell said he doesn't expect any more such announcements.

Gov. Haley Barbour (R), chair of the Republican Governors Association, told a group of reporters last night that his party remains "fired up and optimistic" about their position entering a year when 37 states hold gubernatorial elections.

"I think it's indisputable that today, the political environment is better for Republicans than it was in February 1994," he said, a year when the party ended the year with 31 governors. He offered his own list of states where Republicans are well-positioned, even where the party is running against sitting Democratic incumbents.

"I'd rather have our side of it than their side of it today," he said.

We'll have more from the interview with Markell in the coming days.