GOP governors post record haul for 2011

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The numbers came despite — or perhaps because of — some of the RGA's most prominent members proposing dramatic cuts to state budgets and working to limit union bargaining power for state workers. Those moves have created some backlash, especially in Ohio and Wisconsin, where popular state governors have found collective bargaining issues dominating the state's politics.

It's those issues that Democrats hope to exploit in 2012 elections.

"Democratic governors prevailed in tough contests in Kentucky and West Virginia because they focused on what matters most to the American people: creating jobs and expanding opportunity now," DGA Chairman Martin O'Malley said in a statement.

But the battles have also rallied conservative and Tea Party support behind GOP governors — and created a deep bench for the GOP. Governors like New Jersey's Chris Christie and Louisiana's Bobby Jindal were considered potential presidential candidates before the primaries began, and they could be considered alongside others, like McDonnell, when the eventual nominee is looking for a running mate.

“The RGA’s strong fundraising is a reflection of our governors’ position as leaders of our party,” McDonnell said. “While President Obama racks up trillion-dollar deficits and creates uncertainty for the nation’s job creators, Republican governors are making the tough choices to balance budgets and make their states more competitive.”

There will likely be 14 races for governor in 2012; Democrats will be defending nine seats, versus five for Republicans.