Ex-governors rein in Predictions; Two Republicans say incumbents face anger

By Ginger Gibson
The News Journal
May 27, 2010

While confident that the mood of the nation will result in the election of more Republicans this fall, two former Republican governors campaigning in Delaware on Wednesday remained cautious about forecasting a sweeping year.

“It would be a big mistake for us to assume,” said former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman.

Whitman and former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore both expressed caution about November, despite predictions from political observers that Republicans could pick up a host of seats in Congress. Whitman and Gilmore spent Wednesday crossing the state and campaigning for Republican candidate for treasurer Colin Bonini.

As both former governors participate in rallies and events across the nation, they say, jobs and the economy remain the top issues people are talking about.

“It’s spending, it’s taxes and it’s the budget,” Whitman said.

Whitman said she participated in a tea party rally in New Mexico where she heard from Democrats and Republicans who are unhappy with the direction of the nation.

“There is a lot of anger out there,” Whitman said. “They want a change.”

And it’s not just Democrats who should fear losing elections because of the mood of the nation, Whitman said.

“They’re not crazy about incumbents,” she added.

Whitman and Gilmore spent the day campaigning for Bonini, a candidate in a race for a low-profile state office that is likely to be overshadowed by races for the U.S. Senate and House.

After cautioning that you have to look at each district individually, Gilmore said he expects the growing anger by the electorate toward Congress and the White House will impact how people vote for lower offices.

“The public wants something different,” Gilmore said.

Political science professor Sam Hoff of Delaware State University said he thinks Republicans will be successful at winning more than 35 seats in
Congress, but he doesn’t think the GOP will be able to win back control of the Delaware statehouse.

“On a very broad scale I do see, and certainly in the last decade, consistency between control of the U.S. Congress and state legislatures,” Hoff said. “But they simply don’t have candidates in every district.”

Gilmore said he thinks spending by Congress has brought an end to an era, a period of time of accepted big-government spending. He said in his lifetime he’s not seen a movement like the tea party’s that expressed so much anger toward Congress.

“I think the tea parties are a symptom,” Gilmore said.

Candidates are beginning to prove that the tea party movement has the ability to alter elections. Kentucky Republican Rand Paul bested Trey Greyson in the GOP’s U.S. Senate primary last week. Greyson had been the party-picked candidate while Paul aligned
himself with anti-establishment, libertarian and tea party ideals.

Gilmore said it’s still too early to make judgments about Paul’s campaign, and discounted projections that his tea party connections will hurt him in November.

“I think we have to watch Rand Paul run the race,” Gilmore said.

Whitman, who headed the Environmental Protection Agency during the Bush administration, also spoke briefly about the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

She said it’s important for politicians to stay out of the issue and let BP work to stop the spill as quickly as possible.

She said turning it into a political issue too soon will distract the company from its primary responsibility — stopping and cleaning up the spill.

Whitman and Gilmore said they still support off- shore drilling and cautioned against having one event derail positive efforts.

“I would hate to see us repeat what we did with Three Mile Island,” Whitman said. “We’ve got to go back to the drawing board.”