A Democratic Party stuck to playing defense in House and Senate races is focusing anew on a handful of key gubernatorial battles as its best chance to make its mark in this year's midterm election. The party's biggest potential prize: Knocking off highly touted Republican governors before they become a threat in the next presidential campaign.
Officials at the Democratic Governors Association are running a first-strike operation against a collection of GOP White House hopefuls like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, two possible presidential candidates-in-waiting who face a reelection campaign at home first. Other likely presidential contenders, like Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, aren't running for relection this year, but nonetheless fall into the DGA's sights.
"If Democrats really care about the things we said we cared about, we need to take these guys out," said Lis Smith, a DGA consultant. "These will be same issues that will come up in 2016."
DGA strategists stress they're not thinking about 2016 and care only about winning races this year, especially in important battleground like Pennsylvania and Florida, where vulnerable Republican governors don't have national ambitions. But they are also keenly aware that their efforts could nonetheless have a big impact on the next presidential election — a reality not lost on them when they try to recruit attention and money to fight this year's races.