Governors Weigh GOP Dominance; Ideology Seen Unlikely, but 'Ideas Matter'

Article excerpt

Byline: Ralph Z. Hallow, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Many of the nation's governors in both parties are reluctant to credit ideology as the reason Republican governors have a 28-22 majority over Democrats.

"If you look at it from the ideological standpoint, most blue states are now governed by Republicans, yet some of the most-red states are governed by Democrats," Virginia Gov. Mark Warner said in an interview at the National Governors Association's four-day meeting at the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Washington.

Republicans have held a majority of governors for a decade - a feat not achieved by the party since 1910. The Republican electoral dominance since 1994 has been widely described as a "conservative revolution," but when asked if ideology explained the GOP's continued success, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour chose another word.

"It's policy - ideas matter," said Mr. Barbour, who was Republican National Committee chairman from 1992 to 1996. "Republicans regained their reputation as the party of ideas in the mid-1990s, which was crucial to gain the majority in the House, Senate and among governors."

At least on the issue of balanced budgets, Democratic governors seem influenced by the conservative trend.

"Many of the Democratic governors actually run on fiscally conservative platforms - Warner in Virginia, [Bill] Richardson in New Mexico and [Jennifer M.] Granholm in Michigan," said Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Republican. "Even if they tend to be a little to left on social issues, when it comes to managing fiscal resources, everybody is a conservative."

But Mr. Warner, chairman of the governors association, warned against such a generalization.

"Are all Democratic governors fiscal conservatives and are all Republican members of Congress fiscally irresponsible because they have run up the biggest deficits in our nation's history?" the Virginia Democrat said. "I don't know if you can paint either with that broad a brush."

Some Republican critics agree with Mr. Warner, saying that fiscal-policy inconsistency helps explain why the GOP's gubernatorial majority has declined since 1994, when sweeping wins boosted the party from 19 governorships to 31.

"Republicans have figured out a way to erode their majority," Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist said after a private dinner for GOP governors over the weekend. …