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US Political Focus on Tuesday's Governor's Races


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President Barack Obama and leaders from both major U.S. political parties are keeping a close watch on a handful of elections next Tuesday that could serve as a preview of next year's mid-term congressional elections.

Voters will elect governors in Virginia and New Jersey and will choose two members of Congress in special elections in New York and California.

President Obama has been doing some campaigning for Democratic candidates including Creigh Deeds, the Democratic nominee for governor in Virginia.

"I hope that you are going to be voting based on his track record and the fact that he stood with families like yours for years," said President Obama. "That is the kind of governor Creigh Deeds is going to be!"

Last year, Mr. Obama became the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry Virginia since 1964. But even the president may not be able to help candidate Deeds, who trails Republican Bob McDonnell by a wide margin in public-opinion polls.

Democrats are more hopeful about the governor's race in New Jersey, where incumbent John Corzine is locked in a tight race with a Republican and an independent candidate.

Most political experts doubt Tuesday's election results will have a major national impact. Governor's races tend to be decided on the basis of local issues and candidate personalities.

But analyst Norman Ornstein says Republican victories in both New Jersey and Virginia would be a warning signal to the president and his fellow Democrats.

"If there is a Republican sweep, then the task of getting a health-care bill through becomes tougher because you do have a lot of people who are nervous," said Norman Ornstein. "It is a natural phenomenon that occurs as we approach midterm elections. The president's party almost invariably in that first midterm loses seats in the House and often in the Senate."

The elections come at a time when polls show continuing popularity for President Obama personally, but less so on his specific policies.

Karlyn Bowman monitors public opinion at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.

"Looking at the early to mid-October polls, however, it appears that the president's ratings have stabilized," said Karlyn Bowman. "They have even risen a bit in some polls in that they have settled into the low to mid-50's range."

Bowman says economic concerns continue to generate a pessimistic outlook in public-opinion polls, a view that worries Democrats concerned about holding onto their congressional majorities in next year's midterm elections.

"And while Americans say that the national economy may be stabilizing, they are much more pessimistic about their local communities," she said. "And therein lie the trouble spots for the president. His handling of the economy, the deficit and taxes, in each of those areas his ratings have taken a dip since January."

The White House and congressional Democrats were encouraged by new figures released Thursday that show the U.S. economy began growing again during the past three months, after more than a year of decline.

Republicans are looking for a boost from Tuesday's governor's races as they continue to battle the president's push for health-care reform in Washington.

Republicans are also keeping a close eye on a special congressional election in upstate New York where a close three-way race has developed between a Democrat, a Republican and a conservative challenger.

Some prominent Republicans, including former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, have thrown their support behind the Conservative Party candidate in the race, raising the possibility of further splits between traditional Republicans and activists trying to push the party in a more conservative direction.

Political commentator and strategist James Carville says a recent survey by his Democracy Corps organization found conservative voters in a combative mood, eager for Republicans to stand up to the president and Democrats in Congress.

"If anything, these Republican focus groups said that what they are doing is not enough," he said. "they want more opposition."

In the New Jersey governor's race, Republicans also worry a centrist independent candidate will draw votes away from the Republican challenger and could help re-elect Democratic Governor Corzine.

These various splits could have an impact next year when Republicans hope to gain seats in the House and Senate in congressional mid-term elections, says political analyst Norman Ornstein.

"Having these third-party candidates, or independent candidates, and having candidates especially who are dissatisfied with the Republican nominees is complicating matters enormously for the Republican Party," he said.

Both parties are already busy raising money and recruiting candidates for next year's midterm congressional elections.

President Barack Obama and leaders from both major U.S. political parties are keeping a close watch on a handful of elections next Tuesday that could serve as a preview of next year's mid-term congressional elections.

Voters will elect governors in Virginia and New Jersey and will choose two members of Congress in special elections in New York and California.

President Obama has been doing some campaigning for Democratic candidates including Creigh Deeds, the Democratic nominee for governor in Virginia.

"I hope that you are going to be voting based on his track record and the fact that he stood with families like yours for years," said President Obama. "That is the kind of governor Creigh Deeds is going to be!"

Last year, Mr. Obama became the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry Virginia since 1964. But even the president may not be able to help candidate Deeds, who trails Republican Bob McDonnell by a wide margin in public-opinion polls.

Democrats are more hopeful about the governor's race in New Jersey, where incumbent John Corzine is locked in a tight race with a Republican and an independent candidate.

Most political experts doubt Tuesday's election results will have a major national impact. Governor's races tend to be decided on the basis of local issues and candidate personalities.

But analyst Norman Ornstein says Republican victories in both New Jersey and Virginia would be a warning signal to the president and his fellow Democrats.

"If there is a Republican sweep, then the task of getting a health-care bill through becomes tougher because you do have a lot of people who are nervous," said Norman Ornstein. "It is a natural phenomenon that occurs as we approach midterm elections. The president's party almost invariably in that first midterm loses seats in the House and often in the Senate."

The elections come at a time when polls show continuing popularity for President Obama personally, but less so on his specific policies.

Karlyn Bowman monitors public opinion at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.

"Looking at the early to mid-October polls, however, it appears that the president's ratings have stabilized," said Karlyn Bowman. "They have even risen a bit in some polls in that they have settled into the low to mid-50's range."

Bowman says economic concerns continue to generate a pessimistic outlook in public-opinion polls, a view that worries Democrats concerned about holding onto their congressional majorities in next year's midterm elections.

"And while Americans say that the national economy may be stabilizing, they are much more pessimistic about their local communities," she said. "And therein lie the trouble spots for the president. His handling of the economy, the deficit and taxes, in each of those areas his ratings have taken a dip since January."

The White House and congressional Democrats were encouraged by new figures released Thursday that show the U.S. economy began growing again during the past three months, after more than a year of decline.

Republicans are looking for a boost from Tuesday's governor's races as they continue to battle the president's push for health-care reform in Washington.

Republicans are also keeping a close eye on a special congressional election in upstate New York where a close three-way race has developed between a Democrat, a Republican and a conservative challenger.

Some prominent Republicans, including former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, have thrown their support behind the Conservative Party candidate in the race, raising the possibility of further splits between traditional Republicans and activists trying to push the party in a more conservative direction.

Political commentator and strategist James Carville says a recent survey by his Democracy Corps organization found conservative voters in a combative mood, eager for Republicans to stand up to the president and Democrats in Congress.

"If anything, these Republican focus groups said that what they are doing is not enough," he said. "they want more opposition."

In the New Jersey governor's race, Republicans also worry a centrist independent candidate will draw votes away from the Republican challenger and could help re-elect Democratic Governor Corzine.

These various splits could have an impact next year when Republicans hope to gain seats in the House and Senate in congressional mid-term elections, says political analyst Norman Ornstein.

"Having these third-party candidates, or independent candidates, and having candidates especially who are dissatisfied with the Republican nominees is complicating matters enormously for the Republican Party," he said.

Both parties are already busy raising money and recruiting candidates for next year's midterm congressional elections.

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