First, let’s start with the ideas. If the majority of voters in a state decide to elect a governor of a particular party, wouldn’t that fact bode well for a presidential candidate of the same party? According to a study released by Smart Politics, it doesn’t at all.
Obama did not lose any of the battleground states in which Democrats fell flat in gubernatorial races two years ago.
In fact, almost all of the closest races in the country saw a presidential nominee carry a state with a governor in office from the opposite party – including all seven key GOP gubernatorial pickups in 2010.
Of the 16 states decided by single digits in 2012, 11 voted for the presidential nominee of a party other than its sitting governor, including each of the five states with the narrowest margin of victory.
As Chris Heinze at GOP 12 points out
Quickly think of some of the 2012 evidence: Scott Walker didn’t help Romney win Wisconsin, John Kasich didn’t help Romney win Ohio, McDonnell didn’t help Romney win Virginia, Terry Branstad didn’t help him win Iowa, Tom Corbett didn’t help him in Pennsylvania.
Romney essentially avoided Florida Gov. Rick Scott, so this should silence the throng of critics (no one) who think Romney should have hooked up with Scott.
There is obviously some truth to this, especially in the wake of the presidential election. Many people, including myself, took the 2010 midterm elections and a slew of GOP governors in battle ground states as indication of a friendly environment for Mitt Romney. Particularly, Scott Walker’s successful recall in Wisconsin, in addition to Paul Ryan on the ticket tended to make many consider Wisconsin was in play. In the final analysis, that proved not to be the case.
There are a few factors worth pointing out to helps us reconcile the idea of governor influence.
First, the state economies in states such as Ohio, Virginia, and Florida were doing well comparatively speaking. While this increased the favorability of the Republican governors, it didn’t do a lot for Romney. On the the other hand, it helped Obama since the economy was a very important issue. It allowed Obama to campaign in those states and point to their growing economies as taking place on his watch. In a sense, Romney was an outsider on the issue and behind the eight ball with voters.
Secondly, it’s a trite statement but a true one: Politics is local. State politics is a different animal when trying to compare how someone, who votes locally, will vote nationally. The issues are different and the interests expand. Furthermore, the 2010 midterm elections were about high turnout in districts that were already favorable to GOP voters. Obviously in a state wide election, the playing field expands as total population comes to account. Take Virginia, for example, Romney did extremely well throughout the state but lost the heavily populated northern counties. It happened in Ohio too. More voters turned out for Obama than they did for Democrats in 2010.
Thirdly, which is an extension of the previous point, the issues are different in national elections. The voter who voted for Walker or McDonnell as their governor may not choose to vote for them if they ran as president. Therefore, they probably did not vote for Romney based on whatever reasons they happen to be.