NYT – A Tilt Away From Social Issues – GOP govs. are optimistic

After two bleak years, Republican governors gathered here on Thursday to assess their political future — and they liked what they saw. With 37 governors’ seats open in 2010, the party is looking to topple some big-name Democrats.

What was most striking about the Republican governors was not simply their sense of optimism — a sentiment that would draw no Democratic quarrel these days — but exactly how they saw their road back to power and unity. The talk here was of the health care plan being debated in Congress, increased spending under President Obama, the climbing deficit and concern among Americans about jobs and the education of their children.

“The focus should be on bread-and-butter, kitchen-table, quality-of-life issues,” said Robert F. McDonnell, the Republican who was this month elected governor of Virginia, a seat that had been held by a Democrat, and whose victory is being held up as a formula for Republican reconstruction. “I think that really helped us. We ended up with a two-to-one margin with independent voters because of our focus on the economic problems.”