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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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Strike Three for Miller-Meeks

Iowa Republicans had a banner day on November 4th, picking up both a U.S. Senate seat and one U.S. House seat, but Mariannette Miller-Meeks' defeat in her third attempt to oust Democrat Dave Loebsack in the 2nd CD means the GOP will not have a monopoly on the state's congressional delegation in the 114th Congress. The loss by Miller-Meeks (following up her defeats in 2008 and 2010) means major party nominees who lost their first two Iowa U.S. House races are now 0 for 10 the third time around in Iowa history. Miller-Meeks joins Democrat William Leffingwell (1858, 1868, 1870), Democrat Anthony Van Wagenen (1894, 1912 (special), 1912), Democrat James Murtagh (1906, 1914, 1916), Democrat Clair Williams (1944, 1946, 1952), Democrat Steven Carter (1948, 1950, 1956), Republican Don Mahon (1966, 1968, 1970), Republican Tom Riley (1968, 1974, 1976), Democrat Eric Tabor (1986, 1988, 1990), and Democrat Bill Gluba (1982, 1988, 2004) on the Hawkeye State's Three Strikes list.


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Larry Pressler may have fallen short in his long-shot, underfunded, and understaffed bid to return to the nation's upper legislative chamber, but he did end up notching the best showing for a non-major party South Dakota U.S. Senate candidate in more than 90 years. Pressler won 17.1 percent of the vote which is the best showing for an independent or third party U.S. Senate candidate in the state since 1920 when non-partisan candidate Tom Ayres won 24.1 percent in a race won by Republican Peter Norbeck. Overall, Pressler's 17.1 percent is good for the second best mark for a non-major party candidate across the 35 U.S. Senate contests in South Dakota history. Independent and third party candidates have appeared on the South Dakota U.S. Senate ballot just 25 times over the last century and only three have reached double digits: Pressler in 2014 and Ayres in 1920 and 1924 (12.1 percent). Pressler's defeat means he won't become the oldest candidate elected to the chamber in South Dakota history nor notch the record for the longest gap in service in the direct election era.


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