For Republicans, 2010 was a Tea Party, with Republicans winning more elected offices than at any time since before the 1929 crash. Key parts of the coalition that elected Barack Obama — minorities and young people especially — stayed home. And the voters who showed up to vote in the midst of the worst of the Great Recession decided to give Republicans a shot.
But with the Tea Party constantly hitting new lows in popularity and Republican Party identification falling as Democratic membership grows, many of the statewide GOP candidates — especially those in purple states — are facing stiff headwinds as they seek re-election in 2014.
The New York Times‘ Micah Cohen points out that “an incumbent governor’s job approval ratings have been shown to be strongly correlated with how constituents vote.” Cohen looked at those ratings for the FiveThirtyEight blog and found that 8 of the 10 most vulnerable governors are Republicans. Of those eight, six especially benefited from or cloaked themselves with the Tea Party.
Here are the most vulnerable Tea Party governors.
Photo: Dwight Burdette
As Texas’ longest serving governor and the worst presidential frontrunner in American history, Rick Perry has quite a legacy. The state unemployment situation is better than most of the country, however, its graduation rates and health care results are some of the nation’s worst. Perry has taken on the state’s Planned Parenthood, and in doing so deprived thousands of women and children of basic care. Though Perry sees himself as a Tea Party icon, the candidate he supported for U.S. Senate in 2012 was defeated by Mr. Tea Party — Ted Cruz. But the governor has been working for the government since 1984 — when he was elected as a Democrat. Even though his approval rating is -1, he likely has nothing better to do than seek a fourth term.
Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr.com
South Carolina’s governor was boosted to prominence with a timely endorsement from Sarah Palin. As a GOP governor in a blood-red state, she should face a pretty easy path to re-election, even though she has a -3 approval rating. She barely bested her Democratic opponent Vincent Sheheen in 2010 when rumors of infidelity dogged her campaign, and a recent poll shows that a rematch could be just as close. Her endorsement of Mitt Romney helped Newt Gingrich win her state in the 2012 GOP primary and she’s enraged some of the state’s old guard, who say she’s employing an “us v. them” mentality.
The current governor of Michigan seems to have avoided a GOP primary challenge by giving in to the right wing’s dream of enacting a “right to work” law designed to crush the state’s unions. Since then he’s tried to moderate himself by supporting Medicaid expansion, which was then killed by Tea Partiers in the legislature. Synder’s ultimate problem is that most of the state’s economic recovery was due to the auto rescue, which he played no part in. His policies of cutting taxes for business while raising them on pensioners haven’t been connected to any job creation. But even with a -8 approval rating, Snyder does have some hope of keeping his job if no Democratic candidate who can be competitive in the whole state takes him on.
AP Photo/Paul Sancya
Maine’s governor first earned his -12 approval rating by hiring his 22-year old daughter as his chief of staff. He then refused to attend any Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrations and had a pro-labor mural removed from the Maine Department of Labor. He also referred to the IRS as “the new Gestapo,” which is exactly the kind of rhetoric that killed in 2010, but falls a bit flat in 2013. LePage won a three-way race in 2010 and his advisors believe he could do so again next year.
Photo: Jason Savage
Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett has a -14 approval rating, and the only reason he has any prayer of defeating his likely opponent, congresswoman Allyson Schwartz (D-PA), is that his election will take place in 2014, not 2016. The Keystone State has gone Democratic in presidential elections since 1992. Corbett’s red-state governance is tremendously unpopular in urban areas of the state. And even rural voters don’t seem think they’re getting their money’s worth from the nation’s highest-paid governor.
Photo: Jenn Grover
The Florida governor is so unpopular that when a storm pulled him away from the Republican National Convention, some thought it was gift from God. His -20 approval rating and recent attempt to pander to the center by trying to convince Republicans to accept some parts of Obamacare mean he’s probably at risk for a primary challenge. If he survives that, he likely will face former governor Charlie Crist, a recent Democratic convert. This would be sweet justice for Crist, who lost to Tea Partier Marco Rubio when seeking the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate. What could be a better a exclamation point on the end of the Tea Party’s moment in national politics?
Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr.com