Political Animal


April 09, 2013 11:05 AM 2014 Gubernatorial Landscape: GOPers Not Exactly Kicking Out the Jams

By Ed Kilgore

As most of the chattering class continues to meditate ponderously on Margaret Thatcher’s legacy today, here’s some eye candy for political junkies: at FiveThirtyEight, Micah Cohen looks at the job approval ratings of governors up for re-election in 2014. Here’s the main takeaway:

The two most unpopular governors up for re-election in 2014 are Gov. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, an independent, and Gov. Pat Quinn of Illinois, a Democrat. But the remaining eight governors with net negative job approval ratings are Republicans, including four who rode the Tea Party wave to power in blue and purple states in 2010 and now appear to be in some danger: Gov. Rick Scott of Florida, Gov. Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania, Gov. Paul LePage of Maine and Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan.

The other four GOP chief executives in net negative job approval territory are Sam Brownback (KS), Nathan Deal (GA), Nikki Haley (SC) and Rick Perry (TX). None have made definitive statements about their 2014 plans, though only Perry has been widely rumored to be considering retirement.

Brownback is an interesting case. Best known for his theocratic tendencies, the former senator’s getting battered in Kansas polls in no small part because his proposal to phase out the state’s income tax (in part by cancelling a scheduled reduction in the state sales tax) is about as popular as Bobby Jindal’s parallel plan in Louisiana. With Jindal having withdrawn his proposal just yesterday, and Brownback facing stiff bipartisan resistance in the Kansas legislature, things aren’t looking good for the national conservative campaign to stampede states into a race-to-the-bottom with such alleged job-creator paradises as Texas.

As for the other less-than-wildly-popular GOP governors in red states:

* There are consistent rumors of a primary challenge to Nathan Deal, who is tied to a new Atlanta stadium deal that’s very unpopular outside metro Atlanta. Georgia Democrats, already being awakened from their slumber by the wingnut hoedown going on in the GOP primary to replace Sen. Saxby Chambliss, might find themselves a viable gubernatorial candidate while they are at it.

* Nikki Haley barely defeated Democrat Vincent Sheheen in the GOP wonderland of 2010; a PPP survey late last year showed Sheheen ahead in a potential rematch.

* And Rick Perry, of course, is in his customary position of heading into a re-elect year with sagging popularity. He may, however, pass up the prospect of a fourth full term (he succeeded to the governorship in 2001 when the U.S. Supreme Court lifted George W. Bush to the presidency) and instead see if he can improve on his disastrous 2012 presidential campaign, which wouldn’t be hard.

What makes all these developments especially interesting is that 2014 ought to be a fine year for the GOP nationally, what with the return of a midterm electorate that skews heavily in their direction, compounded by the historical pattern of poor performance by the party controlling the White House in second-term midterms (1998 being the sole exception). It may still wind up that way, but despite the enduring CW about “pragmatic” GOP governors being the salvation of their party, as a group they are not exactly kicking out the jams when it comes to the approbation of their constituents.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • T2 on April 09, 2013 11:19 AM:

    state after state elected hard-line conservative governors, and buyers remorse has definitely kicked in. Scott, Jindal, the guy in Wisconsin, Perry to name a few. How can this possibly bode well for mid-terms? People look at the situation at state and national level and see the TeaParty types looking like morons.

  • c u n d gulag on April 09, 2013 11:24 AM:

    Again, let's not write-off the US House and Senate in 2014, yet.

    There's a lot that can happen:
    -Obamacare fully kicks in. And the Republican rubes in their Red States may wonder why their cousins in Blue State, are able to get better and more affordable health care?
    -Republicans keep getting stupider in their state's primary races on a whole raft of issues - mostly women and guns.
    -The continued attempts to put Jesus into every piece of legislation, and into everyone's bedrooms.
    -That nut-job in North Korea does something stunningly stupid.

    Of course, the reverse is true, too - if there's a massive terrorist attack again on the US, like Conservatives have been praying for, for over 4 years, their proven ablility to demonize and smear President Obama and the Democrats, could lead them to sweep the Congress.

  • Mimikatz on April 09, 2013 11:46 AM:

    The most important thing the Obama folks could do is popularize the idea that voting is an every two years thing, not just for presidential elections. If the midterm electoral could come to look more like the presidential, the Dems could make big inroads and maybe stop the assault on voting. Especially Dems should concentrate on turning out women. Older women on the GOP love affair with guns and shooting people and younger women on the reproductive health issue. If the midterm electorate was 53% women like e presidential, it would make a huge difference.

    One thing I always tell newer voters is that they don't have to vote for everything. Vote for the Dems at the top of the ticket and a few propositions they have heard about, leave the rest blank rather than not vote at all because the ballot is intimidating, It isn't a test.

  • c u n d gulag on April 09, 2013 11:49 AM:

    As I understand it, that's exactly what OFA's out there still trying to do, after the President's successful reelection.

  • danimal on April 09, 2013 11:56 AM:

    It seems that every election cycle has 1 or 2 base assumptions that 1) everyone knows and 2)are completely wrong. I will continue to hold that the "Dems are facing disaster because it's a mid-cycle election and old Republicans are going to flock to the polls while lazy Dems sit on their asses drinking Kool-Aid as they get their asses handed to them" is the fallacy for 2014.

    This is not 2010. And people are not impressed with the Tea Party. And Dems are energized. And the GOP can't walk and chew gum at the same time.

  • Blue Girl on April 09, 2013 12:43 PM:

    Mimikatz, I noticed that my daughter had a new bumper sticker the other day that boiled what you just said down to five words:

    When Women VOTE, Democrats WIN

  • MuddyLee on April 09, 2013 1:06 PM:

    Nikki Haley can be beaten in South Carolina by Vincent Sheheen - the Sarah Palin endorsement magic won't work twice. She is not pragmatic, and many people can sense that the state government doesn't work as well as it used to (yes she turned something bad into something worse). If Elizabeth Colbert Busch can beat Mark Sanford, there will be a lot of energy among Democrats - and possibly a lot of campaign contribution money will start flowing to the Sheheen campaign. He is more talented and trustworthy than the last Democratic governor (Jim Hodges - who appeared to be too close to the video poker king Fred Collins) - and comparing him to Nikki Haley is like comparing Obama to Palin.

  • purplehawk on April 09, 2013 1:40 PM:

    Ed, shouldn't Jindal be in that net negative group?

  • low-tech cyclist on April 09, 2013 2:20 PM:

    I'm with c u n d gulag: let's not give up on 2014.

    One more thing to add to his list: usually sixth-year blues happen due to some combination of overreach, corruption, or loss of direction on the part of the party in the White House. (Also economic downturns, but those can cause any-year blues.)

    If you see any of these things present in the Obama Administration, I've sure missed them.

    If anyone, it's the GOP that's overreaching, as c u n d points out. Really, the question is whether the Dems are up to taking advantage.

    My take is that the more nationalized this midterm is, and the more that Dems everywhere are running against the GOP's across-the-board craziness, the more winnable 2014 is for Democrats.

    The more they go with an all-politics-is-local approach, the more likely 2014 will be a wash in the House, governorships, and state legislatures, and the more likely we are to go into 2016 with a much smaller Senate majority.

    It's time for Dems everywhere to remind voters that the GOP is mf'ing CRAZY. Because, you know, they are.

    It may be impolite to say it, but this isn't the time for politeness that hides the truth.