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Governors Doyle, Culver Getting Low Marks While Pawlenty Prevails

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As economic concerns continue to fuel pessimism about the near future, Democratic Governors Jim Doyle (Wisconsin) and Chet Culver (Iowa) face the lowest ratings of their gubernatorial careers. Meanwhile, Minnesota Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty has managed quite successfully to remain fairly popular with his statewide constituency.

Culver, who comes from a family of politicians, was sworn into office 15 months ago, and has seen his approval ratings fall to 45 percent in mid-March—down 14 points from 59 percent in early January 2008 (SurveyUSA) when the Iowa caucuses were being held in his state. Culver stayed above the fray and did not endorse a candidate at that time, although his wife did endorse John Edwards. (Governor Culver endorsed Barack Obama a month later).

Doyle (who also has endorsed Obama), meanwhile, has never been a popular governor in the Badger State, winning close elections in both 2002 (3.7 points) and 2006 (7.4 points). The polling firm SurveyUSA has found Doyle to boast an approval rating of above 50 percent in just 2 of its 34 consecutive monthly polls dating back to May 2005. The firm recently measured Doyle's approval rating at an abysmal 39 percent, just one month after being re-elected, in December 2007. Rasmussen's late March poll of likely Wisconsin voters found only 33 percent considered Doyle to be doing an "excellent" or "good" job—another all-time low for the Democratic governor.

Tim Pawlenty, meanwhile, continues to remain relatively popular with Minnesotans, despite the state's recent history of voting Democratic in the majority of statewide and district races. Pawlenty seems to have gained favor with the state by adhering to his strong anti-tax stance (which resulted in a veto override recently by the state legislature). Pawlenty's latest approval rating numbers show him hovering at just above 50 percent (51 percent in mid-March), and the GOP governor has dipped below that mark just 5 times in 34 consecutive monthly polls by SurveyUSA. The trend line does show some concern for the Governor, however: 59 percent approval in August 2007, 57 percent in September and November, 56 percent in December 2007 and January 2008, 52 percent in February, and 51 percent in March.

None of these Upper Midwestern Governors are up for re-election in 2008, though their relative popularity or unpopularity could impact the presidential races in these battleground states at the margins.

Previous post: Economic Conerns Continue to Dominate Upper Midwest
Next post: Extended Democratic Primary Gives McCain a Boost in Wisconsin

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Remains of the Data

No Free Passes: States With 2 Major Party Candidates in Every US House Race

Indiana has now placed candidates from both major parties on the ballot in a nation-best 189 consecutive U.S. House races, with New Hampshire, Minnesota, Idaho, and Montana also north of 100 in a row.

Political Crumbs

Gubernatorial Highs and Lows

Two sitting governors currently hold the record for the highest gubernatorial vote ever received in their respective states by a non-incumbent: Republican Matt Mead of Wyoming (65.7 percent in 2010) and outgoing GOPer Dave Heineman of Nebraska (73.4 percent in 2006). Republican Gary Herbert of Utah had not previously won a gubernatorial contest when he notched a state record 64.1 percent for his first victory in 2010, but was an incumbent at the time after ascending to the position in 2009 after the early departure of Jon Huntsman. Meanwhile, two sitting governors hold the record in their states for the lowest mark ever recorded by a winning gubernatorial candidate (incumbent or otherwise): independent-turned-Democrat Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island (36.1 percent in 2010) and Democrat Terry McAuliffe of Virginia (47.8 percent in 2013).


An Idaho Six Pack

Two-term Idaho Republican Governor Butch Otter only polled at 39 percent in a recent PPP survey of the state's 2014 race - just four points ahead of Democratic businessman A.J. Balukoff. Otter's low numbers reflect his own struggles as a candidate (witness his weak primary win against State Senator Russ Fulcher) combined with the opportunity for disgruntled Idahoans to cast their votes for one of four third party and independent candidates, who collectively received the support of 12 percent of likely voters: Libertarian John Bujak, the Constitution Party's Steve Pankey, and independents Jill Humble and Pro-Life (aka Marvin Richardson). The six candidate options in a gubernatorial race sets an all-time record in the Gem State across the 46 elections conducted since statehood. The previous high water mark of five candidates was reached in seven previous cycles: 1902, 1904, 1908, 1912, 1914, 1966, and 2010.


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