Gubernatorial races in two southern states and a mayoral contest in California today will indicate whether last year's Republican landslide was a fluke or part of a lasting realignment among the electorate.
Republicans today will seek to expand on their 1994 victories, when they captured control of the U.S. Congress and a majority of governorships and state legislatures.
Gubernatorial races in Mississippi and Kentucky are being closely watched by pundits, as these two southern states often reflect the strength of conservatism across the country.
Over the past 25 years, the Democratic Party's base in the South has steadily eroded, and the area increasingly is seen as a Republican stronghold.
In recent years, southern Republicans have used negative images of liberal Democrats to woo voters into the Republican camp. This year, Democrats are returning the favor, trumpeting negative images of House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) in an attempt to recapture voters.
Mississippi and Kentucky
Both strategies are being employed in Mississippi and Kentucky, and party leaders view the races as refining grounds for messages to be used in the 1996 presidential election.
The Mississippi governor's race pits incumbent Republican Gov. Kirk Fordice against Democratic Secretary of State Dick Molpus.
The race is important for Democrats as they try to prove that they still have a chance to win statewide in the Deep South by relying on their traditional coalition of blacks, women and union members.
Fordice began the race up more than 15 points in the polls, but Molpus has pulled within striking distance in recent weeks, according to pre-election polls.
Kentucky Republicans are stressing the need for change as they attempt to wrest the governorship from 24 years of Democratic control. Larry Forgy, an attorney, is running under the Republican banner and challenging current Lt. Gov. Paul Patton.
While local issues are playing a small role in the debate, much of the race has become a microcosm of national themes.
Patton has attacked Republican cuts in Medicare and social programs, and Forgy has blasted the Clinton administration's stances on a variety of issues.
Meanwhile, two liberals are ganging up against incumbent San Francisco Mayor Frank Jordan, a moderate conservative, in what has shaped up as the most raucous race in the country. Speaker of the California Assembly Emeritus Willie Brown and former San Francisco City Supervisor and former Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) official Roberts Achtenberg are both campaigning to unseat Jordan.
Speaker of the California Assembly Emeritus Willie Brown and former San Francisco City Supervisor and former Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) official Roberts Achtenberg are both campaigning to unseat Jordan.