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Governors see GOP’s Midwest gains as path to presidency

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Republican governors meeting in San Diego said Thursday their statehouse victories in the Midwest leave the party well positioned for 2012 in the battlefield that often determines the presidency.

The party watched Democrat Barack Obama all but clean the region’s electoral table in the 2008 presidential race, winning every state except Missouri. On Nov. 2, Republicans claimed four Midwestern governors’ offices that had been held by Democrats.

“We are the heartland, we represent common sense, we are the heartbeat of the country,” said John Kasich, the Ohio governor-elect who defeated Democrat Ted Strickland. The Midwestern gains were celebrated at the Republican Governors Association's annual meeting as a key element of the party’s revival and its bid to recapture the White House.

Scott Walker, who will take over as Wisconsin’s governor in January, said he doesn’t expect Obama to alter his policies in response to the Nov. 2 electoral defeats.

“If this economy stays moribund like it is today, Obama’s not going to be re-elected,” Kasich predicted. “Why do we matter? Because our states are all in trouble.”

The economy has battered the Midwest, delivering jobless rates as high as Michigan’s 13 percent in September, which compared with the national average of 9.6 percent that month.

In addition to winning governors’ offices from Democrats in Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa, the Republican Party rolled to legislative dominance in Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Such change is a reason to be cautious about what the electorate may do in 2012, said Indiana Republican Governor Mitch Daniels, who is considering a presidential bid.

“It could just as easily move back in the other direction,” Daniels said in an interview.

Nonetheless, Indiana, which went with Obama in 2008, had a jobless rate of 10.1 percent in September.

It would be a “very tall order” for Obama to win the state again, Daniels said. “A lot of people are in play and in flux, and they proved their independence this time,” he said.

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