WASHINGTON — WITH just over a month left until the November congressional and gubernatorial elections, Republican expectations are running high.
``Even though we've had the wind at our backs for a long time, the national environment has gotten even better,'' a confident Haley Barbour, chairman of the Republican National Committee, told reporters at a Monitor breakfast yesterday.
Across the country, Mr. Barbour says, ``Republicans are running on the issues, and Democrats are running on personal attacks.'' President Clinton is a drag on his own party, he says, adding that ``Clinton is unpopular, his policies are unpopular,'' and the same goes for ``the Clinton Congress'' and its record.
In his Mississippi-speak that would make the Animal Humane Society wince, Barbour says the ``Democrats are running from Clinton like scalded dogs,'' but they will be tough to beat in some states because they have ``enough money to burn a wet mule.''
Barbour welcomes Mr. Clinton's plans to campaign in Michigan and elsewhere. That ``delights me,'' he says, with a grin, ``the more they're out there, the happier I am.'' He identifies key races where his party's prospects are particularly strong.
In Massachusetts, where Republican Gov. William Weld ``is strong for reelection,'' he sees a ``dead heat'' race between Sen. Edward Kennedy and Republican challenger W. Mitt Romney.
He also calls Pennsylvania's Senate race between Democrat incumbent Harris Wofford and Republican Rick Santorum a ``dead heat.'' And, in New Jersey, Republican Chuck Haytaian is a tough challenge against incumbent Democrat Frank Lautenberg.
In Virginia, Republican Oliver North will gain momentum as Sen. Charles Robb's ``move to the left'' continues to hurt his reelection prospects, Barbour says. The Texas race for governor is too close to call, he says, as Republican challenger George W. Bush Jr. is running hard against incumbent Ann Richards.
Over the next four and a half weeks, Democrats will spend $3.5 billion in broadcast and print campaigns that Barbour predicts will be ``totally negative.'' The RNC chief says Clinton's leadership is a negative campaign against Democrats.