By SHANNON McCAFFREY
ATLANTA -- In an election year of the angry electorate, former governors in five states are hoping that a deja vu appeal sells better than the anti-establishment pitch.
The candidates -- some a little grayer, others a little balder -- say they want a second chance after taking a hard look at the seemingly intractable challenges their state was facing and concluding they were the best qualified to take them on. If elected, they would inherit states hemorrhaging jobs and staring down massive budget gaps.
The former governors in California, Georgia, Iowa, Maryland and Oregon are betting that a dose of nostalgia for better economic times, combined with a desire among some voters for a steady, experienced hand, will help them prevail in November.
All but one has already made it through a primary. And polls and political experts say that two months from the general election, races in each of the states appear close.
In Georgia, Democrat Roy Barnes has been on the campaign trail hammering home the theme of "no on the job training necessary."
The 62-year-old Barnes was ousted in 2002 after just one term in part because of anger in rural parts of the state over his push to shrink the Confederate battle symbol on the state's flag. On the stump, Barnes argues that Republicans have been leading the state on the road to ruin, focused on frivolous fringe issues -- like roadkill and microchip implantation -- while the state's schools have suffered and its roads have grown ever more clogged by traffic.
"I don't want another line on my resume," Barnes told supporters at a recent fundraiser. "History's going to judge me pretty well the way I am right now."
In California, Jerry Brown -- once dubbed "Governor Moonbeam" for proposing that satellites be launched into space -- has been playing up his old-school credentials.
"At my age, I just want to get the state working again," said the 72-year-old Brown, who unsuccessfully ran for president three times. "I don't have to prove anything to anybody. I don't have to make any more money."
Brown served as California governor from 1975 to 1983, first winning the office when he was 36. He briefly left the political scene, traveling to Japan to study Buddhism and working with Mother Theresa in India after a bitter defeat in the 1982 Senate race.
In Maryland, Republican Robert Ehrlich was ousted from office after just one term. He is facing a possible rematch against the man who sent him packing, Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley.
He says Maryland's economic struggles could be pivotal in helping him overcome a 2-to-1 advantage in the state of registered Democrats over Republicans.