WASHINGTON (AP) – Republicans are very optimistic about the change of governors’ offices in key states next year, boosted by President Joe Biden’s plummeting approval ratings, Democratic congressional struggles and surpassing results in Virginia and New Jersey.
The Democrats were already ready for a tough race, but a regretful loss in the race of the Virginia governor and an imminent victory in the dark blue race in New Jersey confirmed the tough conditions ahead. In both places, the party has been largely caught off guard by the power of the culture war debate around schools and has struggled to keep voters who once pushed former President Donald Trump away from migrating back to Republicans.
“Biden’s endorsement is pulling Democrats everywhere,” said Charles Franklin, a researcher at Marquette Law School, who published a poll this week showing that Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers’s approval rating has fallen further. “There is no doubt that national forces play a big role.”
Democratic leaders will play defense in Michigan and Wisconsin, which are closely watched, and will try to hold on to a vacant seat in Pennsylvania. The three governorates are seen as the Democrats’ best chance to slow down the GOP dominance in the “belt of rust.” The Republican Party currently serves as governor in 27 states compared to 23 states for Democrats. 36 states will grow across the country next year.
These races can turn into costly and intense competition as voters and political parties increasingly rely on state leaders to promote – or block – consistent policies. Evers and Democratic Governments. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan and Tom Wolfe of Pennsylvania have become major national figures credited with blocking efforts by Republican-controlled legislatures to impose voting restrictions and containment precautions during the coronavirus pandemic.
Democrats see additional urgency in keeping the three gubernatorial posts, in part because of their role in the presidential election. Trump and his supporters pushed state governors last year to appoint voters who would vote for Trump on the Electoral College, even though Biden won their states. Everyone refused, but a new generation of Trump-friendly governors may act differently if the next presidential race is also challenged.
Turning Michigan and Wisconsin over and winning Pennsylvania – Wolf has a limited term and cannot run again – is also likely to give Republicans a boost by 2024, regardless of whether that year’s election results are ultimately challenged.
“Having Republican governors on key presidential battlefields like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan could be worth a point or two in the presidential election,” said Phil Cox, former executive director of the Republican Governors Association, who advises GOP nominees for governors. for 2022. In 2024, Republican governors can play an important role. ”
Republican strategists say Wisconsin and Michigan have some of the best chances of winning next year, along with Kansas – usually a crimson state where Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly won the 2018 three-way race by a narrow margin. They say Nevada, Maine and possibly New Mexico may be within reach.
GOP candidates across the country are likely to try to inspire conservative parents by denouncing “critical race theory” schools, the academic basis of systemic racism that has become a universal phrase for teaching race in US history. Protecting “parental rights” to counter attempts by school districts to teach such things as institutional racism helped Republican Glenn Youngkin win the governor’s race in Virginia, Biden State, which won 10 percentage points just last year, and may generate further resonance. states.
“When you talk about governors, you’re talking about the people who are actually responsible for what ends up in our children’s schools,” said Rick Hess, director of educational programs at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. “For senators and members of Congress, it’s a little more difficult. But this is such a conversation on an intuitive level, based on values, it will still motivate. “
Democrats, meanwhile, see growth opportunities in open governorships in Maryland and Arizona, where Biden became only the second Democratic presidential candidate to win since 1948 last year.
Marshal Cohen, political director of the Democratic Governors Association, said the party is also eyeing Ohio and Texas, where former Senate and presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke is expected to challenge Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.
Both parties, meanwhile, are also focused on Georgia, which narrowly picked Biden in 2020 and elected two Democratic senators in January. Acting GOP Governor Brian Kemp faces a potential major challenge from a Trump-backed Republican.
“Nobody knows what the environment will be like in the fall of 2022,” Cohen said. “This race will not take place tomorrow.”
For now, however, Biden’s approval rating has plummeted since the early months of his presidency, dropping to 48% in the October AP-NORC poll from 59% in July.
This, plus the fact that the party is slow to implement its internal agenda, can become a brake on the achievements of state governors. Congress approved a $ 1 trillion White House-backed infrastructure package late Friday, but it was too late to help the party during the Virginia and New Jersey elections.
“A lot of the things we see and hear in the Build Back Better infrastructure are what Democratic governors are already doing in their states,” said Wendy Wallace, deputy executive director of the Democratic Governors Association, referring to the spending bill. approved by the White House, which has not yet been approved by Congress. “Our domestic efforts are sometimes overshadowed by what is happening in Washington.”
Meanwhile, the Biden issue could increase pressure on Democratic governors, facing a tough re-election battle, to distance themselves from the White House in the coming months. For the most part, this has not happened, although the reaction to Biden’s demand to vaccinate all Americans who work for companies with more than 100 employees may provide some hints that a split is possible.
Polls show that such demands are popular with Democrats and unpopular with diehard Republicans, but the choice of governor is likely to be decided by independent and hesitant voters.
In Kansas, Kelly argued that requirements such as the Biden administration’s requirements for vaccines for large businesses “usually don’t work.” Whitmer and Evers said little about politics.
A former Wisconsin school principal, Evers defeated Republican Governor Scott Walker in 2018, who was re-elected by two terms less than 30,000 votes.
A poll by Marquette law school last week found that 45% of respondents approve of Evers, an indicator weighed down by approval among independents and coinciding with the pessimism of about half of registered voters about where the state is heading. Nonetheless, the poll found that most of Wisconsin’s registered voters approve of the work that Evers has done to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
Whitmer comfortably won her first term in 2018 and became the face of the country, imposing restrictions to slow the spread of the pandemic last year. But in recent months, she has softened a little.
Democratic strategist Amy Chapman said Whitmer has long known that, given the backlash she and other Democratic governors have faced over efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19, 2022 will be a challenge. Whitmer was repeatedly threatened and federal authorities thwarted the kidnapping plan.
“I don’t think Michigan ever thought it would be easy,” said Chapman, who was Barack Obama’s director of state in 2008 and senior advisor in 2012. “The Governor knew she really needed to do this. Be carefull “.
Beaumont reported from Des Moines, Iowa.