Anyone following what's going on in politics right now knows the obvious: President Bush has all sorts of problems and the Democrats are the gang that can't shoot straight, right? Not necessarily. Democrats hope to turn the tide and look toward taking back the states first.
While taking back control of the House or Senate is an uphill climb for Democrats in 2006, the real traction could come at the statehouse. A majority of statehouses across country could potentially become home to Democratic governors after the November elections.
If such a shift occurs, the ramifications will likely be felt in the 2008 presidential contest as well, which is why partisans on both sides of the aisle are paying close attention to these top-tier races in the states. Thirty-six states will hold gubernatorial contests in November. Republicans will have to defend the 22 seats they currently hold. Democrats are looking to hold on to their 14 seats. But what really gives the Democratic Party high hopes is that in all but one of those 14 states, Iowa, the incumbent is one of theirs.
Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a potential 2008 presidential candidate and chairman of the Republican Governors Association, said last weekend, "All incumbents have better chances. That's what makes our map discouraging -- [of if] not discouraging ... a disadvantage."
At a weekend news conference, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Romney's counterpart at the Democratic Governors Association, predicted Democrats would end up with 26 to 27 governors after Election Day and cited Ohio, Massachusetts, Maryland and New York as strong possibilities for Democratic gains. Richardson went on to boast about his party's chances in Florida and California too, but Republican chances of holding on to those seats seem to be somewhat greater.
For their part, Republicans see several opportunities to turn blue statehouses red. Michigan's lagging economy, combined with a well-funded Republican challenger, may cause Gov. Jennifer Granholm some trouble in her re-election campaign. Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle and Gov. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania, both Democrats, also find themselves in tough re-election races. And the one Democratic open seat in Iowa most likely represents the Republican Party's greatest chance of picking off a Democratic seat.
Bush and adviser Karl Rove would probably be first to say that having a Republican governor at the helm of a battleground state during a general election is invaluable. The Republican Party infrastructure in both Florida and Ohio (in 2000 and 2004, respectively) gave the Bush-Cheney campaign a clear advantage in building grassroots support and in its ability to flex its organizing and financial muscles.
Bush will do his part to buck up Republican governors -- and their campaign coffers -- at a fundraising event at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., on Monday evening. The president's appearance is expected to bring in $9.6 million at the Republican Governors Association's "America's Majority Dinner." Primary season begins next week in Texas.