Could Republican governors be the key to the 2012 presidential race? Maybe.
WILLIAMSBURG — As the general election nears, some have argued that President Obama may have Republican governors to thank for the fact that the unemployment rate in many swing states is below the national average.
But Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) argued Saturday that the improving economy in some states led by Republican governors could actually be a boon for presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
In a gaggle with reporters at the National Governors Association’s annual meeting, Walker seized on a new report by Examiner.com that shows among the 17 states that elected Republican governors in 2010, the unemployment rate has gone down since January 2011.
“In fact, it’s gone down substantially lower than the overall national unemployment rate,” Walker said. “I think that’s an important point, and that’s something that we touched on very briefly (among Republican governors Saturday morning) — that in swing states like Virginia, like Wisconsin, like Iowa, where the president’s coming in and trying to ride a little bit of the wave of better unemployment numbers, most of us point out that those unemployment numbers only started to go down dramatically after Republicans were elected as governor.”
A closer look at the report cited by Walker shows that the numbers can be interpreted as good news for both parties.
Among the eight states where Democratic governors won in 2010, the unemployment rate has decreased in seven, according to the report; New York has experienced a 0.4 percentage-point increase.
Moreover, the report states that the average decline in the unemployment rate in those states that elected Democrats two years ago is 0.95 percentage points, while in the states that elected Republican governors have experienced an average decline of 1.35 percentage points, a difference of four-tenths of a percentage point.
Republican governors this election cycle have at times butted heads with national Republicans when it comes to messaging on the economy in their states. Asked by a reporter whether he thought that muddies the waters for Romney this year, Walker acknowledged that “it’s a challenge, but I think voters are smart; I think voters are smarter than most politicians give them credit for, and if you lay the facts out and you lay them out clearly, I think voters can understand it.”
“Every one of those (17 states that elected Republican governors) has seen the unemployment rate not only go down, but it’s a mixed bag among the other states that elected Democrats in 2010,” Walker said. “I think we have to make that argument. You have to make it repeatedly and point out to people: You elected a Republican governor in your state. The unemployment rate went down. The budget got better. Imagine how much better it could get if you elected a new president to invoke the same sorts of policies.”