GOP hopes for breakthroughs in Northeast
POSTED: Monday, October 11, 2010 - 1:05pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, October 12, 2010 - 1:53am
BOSTON – Three weeks from midterm elections, Republicans speaking up for fiscal conservatism are making strong runs at governorships across the Northeast, where some of the nation's bluest states went big for President Barack Obama two years ago.
Democratic incumbents face tough fights in Massachusetts and New Hampshire against Republican challengers, and the GOP is making aggressive bids for open seats in Vermont, Maine and Connecticut.
Democrats say they'll prevail in a region where voters eager for solutions to economic woes will be turned off by the surge of tea party activists and extremists driving the GOP rightward. In states dependent on tourism for jobs, they've cast Republicans as too cozy with developers and polluters.
But Republicans are echoing tea party themes of fiscal responsibility, seeking to tap voter discontent over jobs, the sour economy and government spending. GOP gains in the region on Nov. 2 could bolster Republicans nationally, giving the party a stronger hand in congressional redistricting.
In Democratic-dominated Massachusetts, Gov. Deval Patrick is struggling to win a second term against Republican Charles Baker and independent Tim Cahill, whose candidacy helps split the anti-Patrick vote and whose running mate recently bolted for the Baker campaign, sparking allegations of campaign sabotage from Cahill.
"I'm not one of these people who think all Democrats are bad — I'll pick the better man, but this is the year of change, however cliched that sounds," said Jay Doole, 47, who runs a driving school in Lowell, Mass., and favors Baker. "Our current governor is a very nice person, but he's not getting us anywhere."
The state's last four governors before Patrick were Republicans. Massachusetts voters have opted for GOP governors as a hedge against perceived excesses by the Democratic-run state Legislature.
"They've elected lots of Republican governors in the past two decades, expressly to put a leash on free-spending legislatures," said Dante Scala, chairman of the University of New Hampshire political science department. "I think you are seeing that pattern develop across the region."
Northeast Republicans may be more moderate on social issues, but they're fiscally conservative. That's why the tea party furor over high taxes and out-of-control government spending strikes a chord, Scala said, even though many people don't think of the Northeast as tea party country.