Election 2012: The GOP’s Swing-State Governor Problem
The bad economy, Democrats’ terrible political handling of health care reform and an unusually high number of positions up for election allowed a wave of Republican governors to be swept into office across the country last year. Yet this wave of success, and the poor economy which enabled it, could become a real political headache for the GOP in 2012 as the try to take the White House.
In most of the countries biggest and important swing states (Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa) there are currently new Republican governors that have poor job approval numbers.
- Florida Gov. Rick Scott: 29 approve – 57 disapprove (Quinnipiac 5/17-23)
- Ohio Gov. John Kasich: 33 approve – 56 disapprove (PPP 5/19-22) 38 approve – 49 disapprove (Quinnipiac 5/10-16)
- Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker: 43 approve – 54 disapprove (PPP 5/19-22)
- Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder: 32 total positive – 60 total negative (EPIC-MRA 4/27-5/3)
- Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad: 41 approve – 45 disapprove (PPP 4/15-17)
*The big exception to this trend is the swing state of Virginia where Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell remains popular.
While Branstad’s numbers aren’t terrible, and the Republicans could, in theory, afford to write-off Wisconsin and Michigan, there really isn’t a good potential path for a GOP victory without winning Ohio and/or Florida.
This means whoever the Republican nominee is during the general election, they are going to be making dozens of campaign stops in these states while also trying to heavily distance themselves from the taint of their party’s unpopular governors. That is going to be a real political headache for the campaign.
With Scott and Kasich so deeply unpopular, probably the only way their numbers would get to a semi-acceptable is if there were strong economic improvement in their states. Of course, for that to happen it would require a strong national recovery, and the GOP nominee would face the much bigger problem that strong growth would likely make Obama unbeatable anyway.