Republicans Win Kentucky, Mississippi Governorships

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:30 PM EDT

( - Since President Bush campaigned for the Republican gubernatorial candidates in Kentucky and Mississippi, some analysts see the Republicans' victories on Tuesday as a major public relations boost for Bush.

With slightly more than 90 percent of all precincts reporting their results, election officials in Mississippi reported that former Republican National Committee chairman Haley Barbour had captured 53 percent of the vote compared to Musgrove's 45 percent, a margin eclipsing that of late pre-election opinion polls.

In another southern state, former Republican Rep. Ernie Fletcher pronounced it "a new era in Kentucky," after he defeated Democrat Attorney General Ben Chandler with 55 percent of the vote.

Kentucky hasn't had a Republican governor for 32 years. The incumbent Kentucky governor, Democrat Paul Patton, was term-limited and did not appear on the ballot.

Barbour, well known in Washington as a lobbyist, told his supporters Tuesday, "Tomorrow is a day to move on and put this day behind us and get ready to accentuate the positive."

Twenty-nine of the nation's governors are now Republican.

Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie said the Democrats succeeded in making the Kentucky race a referendum on President Bush's leadership, but it may have backfired on Democratic strategists.

"The Democrat strategy was negative attacks and tying Ernie Fletcher to President Bush and making this race a referendum on the president's economic policies," wire reports quoted Gillespie as saying. "The Democrats had their referendum and got their answer," he added.

President Bush carried both states in the 2000 election and campaigned for both Republican candidates as Election Day neared. Bush defeated former Vice President Al Gore in Kentucky by 16 points, and carried Mississippi by a 17-point margin three years ago.