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Evergreen rematch

"Evergreen rematch" Continued...

Issue: "Bleeding economy," Oct. 18, 2008

While Republicans blame Gregoire for the state's projected budget shortfall, she blames George W. Bush, suggesting that a drop-off in tax revenue has resulted from disastrous national economic policy: "This is the worst economic situation we've faced since the Depression. We're going to blame that on the Washington state legislature and the governor?"

In radio commercials, Gregoire has made similar attempts to run against Bush rather than Rossi. The text of one particular ad repeats the refrain "just like George Bush" four times in characterizing Rossi's positions. Another ad refers to the "Bush/Rossi plan" on the economy.

In an apparent effort to combat that association, Rossi has moderated his public statements on lightning-rod issues. His campaign website emphasizes fiscal responsibility, offers some common ground positions "for those concerned about climate change," and does not prominently feature his socially conservative views on abortion or gay marriage.

Democrats believe the Republican nominee is even trying to shuck his party affiliation. Rossi chose the longtime party nickname GOP to accompany his name on the official ballot, a decision Democrats challenged in court. Upon losing that challenge, Democratic Party Chairman Dwight Pelz called the GOP moniker a "confusing and deceptive ballot title" and cited private polling data showing more favorable results for Rossi when thus identified.

Hardly indicative of paranoia, all concerns over ballot minutia hold water in a contest once determined by 133 votes.

Other key races

North Carolina: 
Pat McCrory (R) vs. 
Beverly Perdue (D)

Employing the rhetoric of change is no easy task for North Carolina gubernatorial candidate Beverly Perdue. The Democratic lieutenant governor maintains close ties to popular term-limited Gov. Mike Easley, a connection that could work in her favor given Easley's dominance in the past two election cycles. But poll numbers indicate a much tighter race this time, as Charlotte mayor Pat McCrory argues that Republicans will bring change.

McCrory proposes significant shifts in education, energy development, and health care. He favors a voucher program, supports drilling for oil off the North Carolina coast, and promises to repeal costly reforms to the state's mental health system implemented under Easley. By necessity, Perdue's calls for change must walk a finer line, avoiding criticism of the current administration. Nevertheless, the Democratic candidate's website oozes talk of change, going so far as to villianize her opponent for his "stand-patter" positions.

Advantage: Dead heat

Missouri: Jay Nixon (D) vs. Kenny Hulshof (R)

Barring a disastrous misstep over the final weeks of the campaign, Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon appears likely to grab back the governor's seat from four years of Republican control. Since the announcement from incumbent Matt Blunt early this year that he would not seek reelection, Nixon has occupied the frontrunner role with far less difficulty than many anticipated. U.S. Rep. Kenny Hulshof, the victor of a close Republican primary, has failed to pull within single digits of his Democratic rival in any statewide polls, despite his deep political connections as a six-term congressman.

Nixon's populist message and background as a consumer advocate have helped him curry support from Democrats and Republicans alike. As attorney general, he oversaw the implementation of a tough no-call program, which protects more than half of the state's population from telemarketing calls. Hulshof's message of fiscal and social conservatism has yet to gain traction.

Advantage: Nixon

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