Bickering Backlash

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Interesting perspective from EJ Dionne in the Washington Post. While nationally people are seeing a problem with what direction the country is going in, on a local level, people are seeing positives.

Consider the latest WMUR Granite State Poll by the University of New Hampshire's Survey Center. Asked the classic question about whether "things in New Hampshire" were going in "the right direction" or were "seriously off on the wrong track," an astonishing 79 percent saw their state moving the right way; only 14 percent saw it on the wrong track.

But when asked exactly the same question about how their country was doing, according to findings released yesterday, only 34 percent of New Hampshire residents said "the right direction"; 56 percent said "the wrong track."

That is good news for Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat who leads his Republican opponent, Jim Coburn, by a margin of 69 to 14 percent in the latest survey. It is bad news for Bush, whose approval rating in New Hampshire is 36 percent.

Lynch is among a cadre of moderate Democratic governors around the country who find themselves in commanding positions — even outside Democratic-trending New England. Among them: Kathleen Sebelius in Kansas, Dave Freudenthal in Wyoming, Janet Napolitano in Arizona and Brad Henry in Oklahoma.

For his part, Lynch can hardly utter a sentence without including the word "bipartisan." He prides himself on having worked well with a Republican legislature and speaks with amazement at how Washington has become a place of "ongoing partisan bickering."

It may be no accident that Lynch's ratings are high while Bush's are low. Nick Clemons, the executive director of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, sees voters here consciously contrasting the peaceable political kingdom their state has become with what's happening several hundred miles to the south. "Washington," he says, "is the foil for New Hampshire."

This is very interesting in it's implications. Dionne, of course, sees it as bad news for Republicans and couches the whole column in those terms. But it may just illustrate the problem that all incumbents may face this year, no matter what party. That may well mean that the Democrat's strategy to nationalize the elections may come back to haunt them. Some so-called "safe" seats for the Dems may not be. (Ahem, New Jersey Senate). That might just be something to think about.

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