- - Wednesday, July 31, 2019


It’s long been political conventional wisdom that governors tend to make the best presidential candidates — think Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Jimmy Carter. So far, not this time around, however. Several Democratic governors past and present are vying for their party’s nomination for the presidency. Yet they’ve made nary a splash. In the debate in Detroit earlier this week, former Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado and current Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana were nothing but also-rans, outshone by not only Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts but also new age guru Marianne Williamson.

Why aren’t any Democratic governors breaking out? It turns out there may be a reason for that: Democratic governors just aren’t particularly popular.

The polling outfit Morning Consult recently surveyed citizens across the country about their opinions about their states’ respective governors. And guess what: The top 10 most popular governors across the country are all Republicans. You can’t attribute this to mere partisanship, by the way: Many of those Republican chief executive officers govern quite liberal states. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, Larry Hogan of Maryland, and even Republican Gov. Phil Scott of Bernie Sanders’ own Vermont are among the country’s most popular governors, for instance. (That’s particularly impressive given that Mr. Scott may in fact be the only Republican living in the Green Mountain State.) Other beloved governors include Chris Sununu of New Hampshire, Greg Abbott of Texas and Bill Lee of Tennessee.

The list of the 10 most unpopular governors, meanwhile, is dominated by Democrats, who take 7 of the 10 ignominious slots. Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island, Kate Brown of Oregon and Andrew Cuomo of New York, among other Democrats, are all wildly unpopular among their constituents. (Matt Bevin, the Republican governor of Kentucky who has clashed often with members of his own party, is the country’s most unpopular governor, the survey found.)

Every state has its own internal dynamics, of course, and each governor is popular or unpopular for distinct reasons. But the wild popularity of Republican governors over their Democratic counterparts is clearly a trend that extends coast to coast.

We suspect there are a few reasons for these findings. For one, conservatism sells at the state level. Almost all states, for instance, have a legal requirement that their budgets be balanced — a mandate that rewards conservative, parsimonious leadership that is the traditional province of Republicans. Republicans are also less in hock to the public sector unions that dominate Democratic states, and that lead to bloat, high taxes and perennial budget crises. Republicans have an easier time building roads and bridges on budget and on time, for example, because they are less concerned with pandering to their union constituents than Democratic governors are. They can also reform school systems for the same reason.

Voters also tend to appreciate divided government. The wildly popular Republican governors who run blue states — think Gov. Baker in Massachusetts or Gov. Hogan in Maryland — tend to have Democratic legislatures to contend with. Despite what voters tell pollsters, they, in many regards, are actually quite fond of gridlock. Divided government, after all, tends to make radical policy moves difficult to achieve. (At the federal level, voters tend to get sick of undivided control by one party quite quickly.) Republican governors, too, are insulated from the daily drama of politics in D.C., and are apparently quite able to simply focus on delivering for their constituents. Imagine that.

Sign up for Daily Opinion Newsletter

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide