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   At state level, GOP, Dems learn to get along

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6/22/2007 12:00 pm

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General

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Entered 6/22/2007, Updated 6/22/2007

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A wave of political cooperation is springing up in state government as Republicans and Democrats work together in places where they had fought over nearly everything for years. The biggest shift has come in Florida and Ohio — the two key swing states in the 2004 presidential election — where new governors and veteran legislative leaders are singing each other's praises and getting things done. "We're not quite holding hands and singing Kumbaya, but it's pretty close," says Ohio Senate President Bill Harris, a Republican. "We are getting things done for the people of Ohio." State-level bipartisanship is partly a response to deep national divisions, especially over Iraq, says pollster Ken Blake, who conducts the Middle Tennessee State University Poll. "State politicians are staying away from abortion, the death penalty, the war and other divisive issues that they can't do anything about anyway," he says. Ohio's Republican-controlled Senate passed Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland's budget, with few changes, on a 33-0 vote last week. The Republican-controlled House had earlier passed the budget 97-0. Harris says it's been at least 50 years since a budget was approved unanimously in Ohio. Key compromise: Strickland did not challenge a tax cut approved before he took office and Republicans accepted the governor's key spending priorities. The new bipartisanship is a big change from recent election cycles, pollsters say, and it's paying huge rewards for politicians practicing it. Their approval ratings are soaring, some to record levels. "It's not unusual for a governor to have high approval ratings from his own party," says Florida pollster Peter Brown of Quinnipiac Poll, which surveys in many states. "What's extraordinary is the love fest from the opposition party." Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, a Republican, has a 70% approval rating, including 63% approval from Democrats.


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