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Unpopular GOP governors loom in many key swing states

at 02:18 PM ET, 06/09/2011

Yesterday we wrote about the nine states that Republicans see as crucial to unseating President Obama.

As part of his memo, Republican National Committee political director Rick Wiley noted that many states that Obama won in 2008 have swung significantly towards Republicans since then.

That’s true, but is that a good thing?

Almost all of the states that will determine the next president in 2012 feature a Republican governor, and in many cases, that Republican governor is increasingly unpopular thanks the budget problems and other issues.

The question is, if the trend holds does it hurt the GOP’s efforts to win the White House?

Many experts say the jury is out.

“In a presidential year, the parties tend to be defined by their nominees for the White House, which is why (Barry) Goldwater was such a disaster for down-ballot Republicans and (George) McGovern was such a problem for down-ballot Democrats,” said Stu Rothenberg of the Rothenberg Political Report.

Nathan Daschle, the former executive director of the Democratic Governors Association, said he doesn’t see much of a connection either. But he also noted that the number of unpopular governors right now “is pretty unprecedented.”

“My gut tells me that there’s an impact, but it’s probably indirect,” added Daschle now heads up the political engagement website Ruck.us.. “These GOP governors are creating a narrative about Republican executive leadership. So its more of a brand problem.”

The plight of GOP governors across the country only seems to be getting wore, however.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has the worst approval ratings of all — 29 percent approved of the job he was doing while 57 percent disapproved in a Quinnipiac poll a couple weeks ago — and comes from an extremely important state for both parties’ electoral calculus.

Ditto Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R), who posted a a 38 percent job approval score in the latest Quinnipiac poll. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) also saw his disapproval spike up recently in a Q poll.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) disaapproval rating outweighs his approval too, and he’s facing a potential recall after he and his GOP legislature moved to rein in collective bargining rights for unions.

There’s also a budding recall effort against Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R), though his problems don’t appear as significant as the other governors at this time.

To be fair, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania are tough states for the GOP to win, and if any of them swing Republican, Obama would likely be a one-term president. Also, none of the five governors mentioned above will actually be on the ballot in 2012 (unless a recall election is held the same day).

But the two most unpopular governors in the country — Scott and Kasich — happen to come from the two biggest swing states. And that has to be at least somewhat concerning for Republicans.

At the very least, that could make things awkward when the GOP presidential nominee comes into town for one of what are sure to be numerous campaign swings. And given how close these two states often are, a slight shift could mean the difference between winning and losing in 2012..

Of course, all of this should be taken with a very sizeable grain of salt, because we’ve still got lots of time before the 2012 general election begins in earnest. For all we know, Scott and Kasich will be very popular by then and they could be a net positive for the GOP nominee.

In fact, Republicans think that, once these governors are able to balance their budgets without stimulus funds and without raising taxes, they will reap significant political rewards in future years — perhaps in time to even benefit whoever the GOP presidential nominee is.

“Several of those governors inherited states that were a fiscal mess and had to make tough choices which will pay off in the long run,” predicted one GOP operative familiar with Republican governors.

But the fact is right now that we have a very rare case in which a bunch of governors — including Democrat Bev Perdue in North Carolina who unlike the others will be on the same ballot as Obama in 2012 — who are very unpopular and are creating (mostly negative) headlines on the national level.

Whether these governors actually become a part of the conversation in the presidential race remains to be seen. But it’s something that is worth keeping an eye on as the presidential race lurches to a start.

It’s an unusual set of circumstances, to say the least.

 
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