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“Products Of Today’s Republican Party”: The Only Way GOP Governors Can Run For President Is By Shafting Their Own States

Given that there are currently 31 Republican governors, it’s natural that more than a few of them would be both successful enough and ambitious enough to run for president. Two more governors are about to formally enter the race: Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal will announce his candidacy today, and New Jersey’s Chris Christie is reportedly ready to join as early as next week. There will end up being as many as four current governors in the race (those two, plus Scott Walker and John Kasich), plus four former governors (Jeb Bush, Rick Perry, Mike Huckabee, George Pataki).

Let’s put the former governors aside for the moment. There’s something curious going on with the sitting governors: three of them are extremely unpopular at home, and the fourth may be the one who provides the explanation why.

Let’s start with the new entrants. Bobby Jindal has long been regarded as a future presidential candidate, but his current profile makes you wonder why he’s bothering to run for president. It’s not just that he’s currently averaging 0.7 percent in presidential polls, putting him in 15th place. Jindal just got through a budget crisis with a ridiculous tax gimmick that made him an object of national ridicule, and nobody is arguing they need to emulate Louisiana’s record of success. One recent poll put his approval in the state at 31 percent.

Chris Christie isn’t doing any better. His approval is now at 30 percent, and it’s pretty clear his tough-guy schtick wore thin a while ago, even in New Jersey (let alone in places like Iowa).

Then there’s Scott Walker, who’s in the first tier of presidential candidates, but has the approval of only 41 percent of Wisconsinites. As the New York Times describes today, he’s in a battle with Republicans in the state legislature:

Leaders of Mr. Walker’s party, which controls the Legislature, are balking at his demands for the state’s budget. Critics say the governor’s spending blueprint is aimed more at appealing to conservatives in early-voting states like Iowa than doing what is best for Wisconsin.

Lawmakers are stymied over how to pay for road and bridge repairs without raising taxes or fees, which Mr. Walker has ruled out.

The governor’s fellow Republicans rejected his proposal to borrow $1.3 billion for the roadwork, arguing that adding to the state’s debt is irresponsible.

And therein lies part of the problem: appealing to the GOP primary electorate means, among other things, never raising taxes, even when refusing to do so initiates a budget crisis. It also means rejecting the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid, which shoots your state in the foot for the purpose of ideological anti-Obama purity.

In many ways, Walker has governed from the outset like someone thinking about a presidential primary. He set out to destroy the state’s public employee unions, and now wants to slash hundreds of millions of dollars from the University of Wisconsin budget, not to mention going after tenure (take that, elitists!), which would make it much harder to recruit quality faculty to the state’s beloved university. Those kinds of moves guarantee that he’ll always be a divisive governor, cheering members of his own party and alienating those in the opposing party.

But that’s how you need to govern if you’re going to be able to mount a presidential campaign that isn’t consumed by explaining your heresies. Which brings us to Ohio governor John Kasich, who not only accepted the Medicaid expansion, he invoked a religious imperative to explain his decision to do so. “I don’t know about you, lady,” he told a GOP donor who criticized him for it, “but when I get to the pearly gates, I’m going to have an answer for what I’ve done for the poor.”

Chris Christie accepted the Medicaid expansion too, but at least he can argue that he did so under pressure from a Democratic legislature. And he has attempted to make up for his sin of allowing 400,000 low-income people to get health insurance by proposing to cut Social Security. But Kasich could find himself explaining over and over that he’s a real conservative despite his accommodation to the ACA.

Kasich might try this argument: If this was so terrible, how come I’m the only governor in this race with approval ratings at home over 50 percent?

The problem is that GOP primary voters will probably reply, Who cares? As far as they’re concerned, “success” isn’t defined by whether your constituents are happy with the job you’ve done. Practical achievements like improving the health of your state or even fostering strong job creation are all well and good, but they have to take a back seat to ideological achievements like crushing a labor union, fighting Obamacare, or resisting tax increases.

Governors who run for president are happy to tell you that being a governor is the best preparation for being president, and they have a point. While senators can get away with just making self-aggrandizing speeches without actually accomplishing anything (see Cruz, Ted), governors have no choice but to make similar kinds of decisions to the ones presidents make. They have to set priorities, formulate budgets, and work with a legislature, not to mention the fact that most governors eventually face some kind of crisis that tests their ability to act in trying circumstances. While senators can say “I sponsored some nice bills,” governors have lengthier records to run on.

But it may be no accident that most of the Republican governors currently running for president aren’t popular at home. They’re products of today’s Republican Party, where unflagging commitment to conservative doctrine is what counts as success.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, June 24, 2015

June 27, 2015 - Posted by | Election 2016, GOP Presidential Candidates, Governors | , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Reblogged this on Bell Book Candle.

    Like

    Comment by walthe310 | June 27, 2015 | Reply


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