Why Presidential Elections Matter to States

A handful of critical states probably will decide the race between Barack Obama and John McCain on Nov. 4, but what the next president does over the next four years will steer policies in all 50 states.

A president is many things: a world leader, commander in chief, head of the federal government. For those running states, he also sets a tone on virtually every issue that touches them, from education to immigration to health care.

Obama and McCain will be nominated for president of the United States in back-to-back party conventions that begin Monday (Aug. 25). The Democrats are up first, meeting in Denver to choose Obama. A week later, the Republicans will nominate McCain in Minneapolis-St. Paul. Both conventions are in states that could be key to winning the election on Nov. 4.

Hundreds of state officials, including governors, legislators and other officeholders, will attend the four-day conventions. Many of them are scheduled to speak, including at the Democratic convention Govs. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas, Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania and Chet Culver of Iowa.

Obama of Illinois and McCain of Arizona will cap their respective parties' events with prime-time speeches to sketch their vision of the nation's future.

Nowhere will the president's leadership matter more to states this year than on the economy.

At least 29 states are coping with budget shortfalls by reducing services, cutting jobs, dipping into reserves and in some cases raising taxes. The states' distress was triggered by a downturn in the national economy caused by high gasoline prices, falling home values and a stubborn mortgage crisis.

“The subprime mortgage crisis has had a ripple effect throughout our national and state economies,” Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm said at a recent National Governors Association meeting. “Citizens are now feeling the pinch in everything from home sales to classroom sizes.”

Read the full report Why Presidential Elections Matter to States on Stateline.org.

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