Perdue influence shows in GOP governors' strategy

Perdue influence shows in GOP governors' strategy

February 8th, 2010 by Matt Wilson in Politics National

The national Republican Governors Association is taking a Georgia-style approach to this year's gubernatorial elections, largely because of the influence of Gov. Sonny Perdue.

"Until 2007, the RGA, basically, whatever they raised in the year was spent in the (election) cycle," said Mike Schrimpf, spokesman for the association.

But (Gov. Perdue and his staff, he said, "put in a four-year plan knowing that, with the political environment, and just the natural way these races unfold, many of our best opportunities to pick up these seats would be at the end of the four-year plan," Mr. Schrimpf said.

That meant the association would hold onto most of the funds it raised so it could use them in 2010, the fourth year of the plan. It also meant those funds would be spent only in races where "we could make a game-changing impact on the outcome." He declined to discuss specific strategy.

Previously, the association spent equally on each race, whether you were "20 points up, 20 points down or within the margin of error," Mr. Schrimpf said.

Gov. Perdue served a year as chairman of the association starting in late 2006. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour is the chairman now, but RGA executive director Nick Ayers, a former Perdue campaign manager, and political director Paul Bennecke, a former Georgia Republican Party chairman, are deeply involved in strategy.Charles Bullock, a professor of political science at the University of Georgia, said that strategy has a history in the Peach State.

"Georgia's got some experience with that kind of targeting," Dr. Bullock said. "(Gov. Perdue) had a very targeted strategy himself."

In his 2002 election campaign, Gov. Perdue targeted 70 of Georgia's 159 counties for extra campaign effort, Dr. Bullock said. He won 65 of those.

Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, said the method of targeting key races is a sound one.

U.S. GOVERNOR'S RACES

* 37: Total Races

* 19: Open seats with no incumbent

* 10: Open seats now held by Republicans

* 9: Open seats now held by Democrats

Source: Rasmussen Reports

"Why would you waste money?" he asked. "You've got 37 races across the country, some in states where the candidates will spend $50 million or $60 million. It makes perfect sense to me. You've got to allocate your resources efficiently."

Emily DeRose, spokeswoman for the Democratic Governors Association, said the Democrats also will be funneling money "into races where it can be most effective."

She said it's still early, though, so the group is keeping an eye on all races.

"We don't want to write any states off," she said. "Races are developing and changing."

Gov. Perdue's second term ends next year. He cannot run for re-election because of term limits.