Josh Goodman is a former staff writer for GOVERNING..E-mail: email@example.com
Economics recessions are bad for lots of reasons. Quite far down the list of reasons is this: They make it hard to tell which politicians are truly vulnerable and which aren't.
The approval ratings of a bunch of governors have been hurting. Voters seem increasingly upset with state government. And why wouldn't they be? People are losing their jobs and homes, state services are being slashed and tax increases are under discussion across the country.
The question, then, is whether we should be grading politicians on a curve. Presumably (hopefully), the economic climate will be better in November 2010 than it is right now. Does that mean that governors who have seen their approval ratings completely tank might still have a shot to be reelected? And, does that mean that governors whose approval ratings are somewhere on the spectrum from mediocre to pretty good are actually safe bets for another term?
One person who, I'm guessing, would like to know the answer to that last question is Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland. A new poll from the University of Cincinnati confirmed that the Democrat's numbers have declined somewhat, with 56% of adults approving of the job he's doing. Earlier this year, Public Policy Polling and Quinnipiac both also showed Strickland with good numbers, although not quite as good as he enjoyed earlier in his term.
Strickland has drawn a top-tier challenger in former congressman John Kasich. Republicans would love to win the Ohio governorship for the sake of redistricting, presidential politics and the power that comes with the top executive office in the nation's 7th most populous state. They'll challenge Strickland aggressively if they think they can win.
Still, I can't shake the suspicion that, in the midst of the worst economy in recent memory, in a state where the unemployment rate is close to 10%, if a governor nonetheless has a positive job approval rating, his chances for reelection must be pretty strong -- assuming, of course, that the economy does get better.
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