Rick Scott, John Kasich, Scott Walker, and a GOP Problem for 2012

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
March 15 2011 11:02 AM

Rick Scott, John Kasich, Scott Walker, and a GOP Problem for 2012

I was talking the other day to a Democrat who'd been battle-scarred by the 2010 Florida campaign, in which Democrats lost everything. Everything. Alan Grayson's career died quickly. Kendrick Meek became a trivia question. One of the people Palin endorsed, Pam Bondi, actually won. And Rick Scott pipped Alex Sink, the most talented statewide Democratic candidate since Lawton Chiles, to become governor.

This Democrat's spin was that Sink's loss wasn't so bad after all. Scott was pissing off too many people -- the Orlando-Tampa train he'd killed was popular -- and Democrats could win back independents in 2012, saving the state for Barack Obama.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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I haven't seen a good poll of Scott's popularity, but he's one of three new Republican governors of swing states who have rejected infrastructure cash; two of them have pushed through anti-public union bills. How're they doing? John Kasich in Ohio :

We find him with just a 35% approval rating and 54% of voters disapproving of him. His approval with people who voted for him is already all the way down to 71%, while he's won over just 5% of folks who report having voted for Ted Strickland last fall. Particularly concerning for him is a 33/54 spread with independents.

Voters in the state are having significant buyers remorse about the results of last fall's election. In a rematch 55% say they would now vote for Ted Strickland to just 40% who would vote for Kasich.

Scott Walker in Wisconsin:

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker won his job last November with 52% of the vote, but his popularity has slipped since then.

A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Wisconsin Voters finds that just 34% Strongly Approve of the job he is doing, while 48% Strongly Disapprove.

Now, Walker, Scott, and Kasich are doing exactly what they should do, and exactly what Barack Obama did in 2009. They won power; they're using the power to push through structural political and economic changes that
will be hard to reverse. They're making the same bet Obama did -- if they do this, the economy will rebound, and their political opponents will have been weakened in a way they may never recover from. If the economy does rebound in 2012, they're going to be in better shape politically. But so will Obama. In the long run, breaking down the power of public unions is going to help Republicans in Ohio and Wisconsin. In the short run, if it fires up activists and alienates independents, it puts the next GOP presidential candidate in a tougher spot.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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