Politics

02.25.14

Is Jindal the Least Popular Guv?

If home state approval ratings are any indication, likely presidential candidate Bobby Jindal of Louisiana doesn’t stand a chance.

Past performance is supposed to predict future results. In politics, this should mean that winning over constituents in your home state makes you an immediate national figure, the kind of person who’s talked about as a potential president, and whose every appearance outside the borders of one’s home state sets tongues wagging.

This was supposed to be Chris Christie’s calling card. The New Jersey governor boasted a 74 percent approval rating in his strongly Democratic state only a year ago. His supporters said once the rest of the nation came to know Christie like Jersey did, he would see similar numbers everywhere.

They could point to past performance for proof: George W. Bush boasted of a 76 percent approval rating two years before he began running for president. And the previous two governors to win their party’s nominations—Bill Clinton and Michael Dukakis—similarly boasted high approvals back home.

And so we can hardly wait for the 2016 presidential contest between Indiana’s Mike Pence and Arkansas’ Mike Beebe.

Why? Because the Indiana Republican boasts a 63 percent approval rating, higher than any of his fellow Republican governors, according to a polling average analysis by The Daily Beast. And the Arkansas Democrat, despite presiding over a state that is trending Republican, gets the nod of approval from 66 percent of Arkansas voters, the highest among any of his fellow Democrats. Meanwhile, Montana Democratic Governor Steve Bullock sports the lowest disapproval rating of any state executive, with a mere 14 percent of voters in his state voicing displeasure with his tenure. The Republican with the lowest disapproval rating is Nathan Deal of Georgia, with an average of only 24 percent, a figure that is likely to rise after he botched the clean-up from a recent snowstorm.  

None of the four, however, are mentioned in any conversations about becoming the next president of the United States, and aren’t even considered likely to run. If anyone, Pence’s name may get tossed around, but only if it’s quickly followed by the phrase “dark horse.”

Indeed, one would have to toggle a third of the way down our list of the 36 most popular governors (recent polling data didn’t include 14 governors) in order to find the first governor getting ready for 2016, and that would be Rick Perry of Texas, who after forgetting about the existence of the Department of Energy when he ran for president in 2012, is something of a dark horse himself this time around.

Still, Governor Oops boasts a 55 percent approval average, with just 33 percent disapproval, putting him 22 points in the black.

That puts Perry over other supposed ’16 hopefuls like New York Democrat Andrew Cuomo (58.5% approve/37 percent disapprove), Ohio Republican John Kasich (51.5/34.5), Maryland Democrat Martin O’Malley (55/39) and Colorado Democrat John Hickenlooper (50/42.5.)

That’s the thing about maintaining a high profile, and keeping yourself in the national conversation: It has a tendency not to wear well on the home front.

Those four, however, are considered to be on the fence—at best—about a ’16 bid.  ‘O’Malley and Hickenlooper would likely step aside if Hillary Clinton runs, as expected, and Cuomo certainly would too, rather than challenge a beloved figure in his home state. Despite his decent overall number, Kasich is considered too low-wattage to be a serious contender for the crown, especially when there are other, more high profile contenders vying for it.

But that’s the thing about maintaining a high profile, and keeping yourself in the national conversation: It has a tendency not to wear well on the home front. Take Scott Walker, the Wisconsin Republican who is considered a top tier presidential contender after besting the Badger State’s public sector unions in a 2011 showdown. He has just a six percent net approval rating.

In New Jersey meanwhile, just four percent more voters approve of the job Chris Christie is doing than disapprove, a number that could sink further as he tries to slough off his GW Bridgegate scandal.

But there is no better argument for tending to your present job than Bobby Jindal. The Republican Governor of Louisiana was heralded as the new face of the party practically since he was first elected in 2007. He flirted with running for president in 2012, and is making all the moves for 2016.

All the moves, that is, except managing his state properly—at least according to Bayou voters. Jindal has a 35/53 approval/disapproval number, putting him 18 points under water, a figure only better than Illinois’ Pat Quinn and Rhode Island’s Lincoln Chafee, who are not seeking re-election.   

Back home, Jindal has faced widespread backlash in his own party from lawmakers who either don’t like his tax plans or his education initiatives. According to another recent poll, a majority of Louisiana voters do not want Jindal to seek the presidency in 2016, and he trails former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee in early polls.

Should Jindal run, and win the nomination, he could be the first nominee for either party to lose his home state in the primary.

Jindal meanwhile found himself in more hot water on Monday. He was at the National Governor’s Association annual meeting in Washington, rubbing shoulders with his fellow chief executives and his fellow ’16 hopefuls, and he broke from the usual bi-partisan script by accusing President Barack Obama of waving “the white flag of surrender” on job growth. One of his fellow governors, Dan Malloy of Connecticut, who, it should be noted has an even 47/47 record, and is not on anyone’s short list for president, took to the microphone and called it “the most insane statement I have ever heard.

With Brandy Zadrozny reporting