Democrats face tough job in 2022 governor’s races | Government and Politics


By THOMAS BEAUMONT and WILL WEISSERT Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) – Republicans are increasingly optimistic about the toppling of governor’s offices in major battlefield states next year, supported by lower approval ratings for President Joe Biden, internal struggles Democrats in Congress and better-than-expected election results in Virginia and New Jersey.

Democrats were already armed for tough races, but the upset loss in the Virginia governor’s race and a narrow victory in deep blue New Jersey confirmed the tough conditions ahead. In both places, the party has been largely caught off guard by the power of the culture war debates in schools and struggled to prevent voters once put off by former President Donald Trump from migrating to Republicans.

“Biden’s approval is bringing Democrats down everywhere,” said Charles Franklin, the Marquette Law School pollster, who released a survey this week showing Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers’ approval rating still had more lowered. “There is no doubt that national forces play a big role.

The incumbents Democrats will play in defense in Michigan and Wisconsin, closely watched, and will try to occupy a free seat in Pennsylvania. The three governorates are seen as the best chance for Democrats to slow the GOP’s ascendancy in the Rust Belt. The GOP currently holds the governor’s office in 27 states, compared to 23 for the Democrats. Thirty-six are up next year across the country.

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These races are poised to become expensive and intense competitions, as voters and political parties have increasingly relied on heads of state to advance – or block – consistent policy. Evers and democratic governments. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan and Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania have become major national figures, credited with thwarting efforts by Republican-controlled legislatures to add restrictions on voting and reduce precautions during the coronavirus pandemic.

Democrats see increased urgency in holding the three gubernatorial positions, in part because of their role in the presidential elections. Last year, Trump and his supporters pushed swing state governors to nominate voters who would vote Trump to the Electoral College, even if Biden won their states. All refused, but a new generation of governors more pro-Trump might act differently if the results of the next presidential race were also challenged.

Returning Michigan and Wisconsin and winning Pennsylvania – Wolf is on a limited time and can no longer stand for re-election – would also likely give Republicans a boost until 2024, whether that year’s election results are ultimately challenged. or not.

“Having Republican governors in key presidential battlefields like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan can be worth a point or two on the presidential ballot,” said Phil Cox, former executive director of the Republican Governors Association, which advises on presidential elections. 2022 GOP governor candidates. “Republican governors can make a difference in 2024.”

Republican strategists say Wisconsin and Michigan are among their best pickup chances next year, along with Kansas – a normally dark red state where Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly narrowly won a three-way race in 2018. Nevada , Maine and perhaps New Mexico could be within reach, they say.

GOP candidates across the country will likely try to energize conservative parents by denouncing schools that adhere to “Critical Race Theory,” an academic framework on systemic racism that has become a catch-all phrase for teaching race. in the history of the United States. Standing up for ‘parent rights’ to push back efforts by school districts to teach things like institutional racism helped Republican Glenn Youngkin win the governor’s race in Virginia, a Biden state boosted by 10 percentage points last year , and might resonate more in the draw-up states.

“When you talk about governors, you’re talking about people who are actually in charge of what’s going to happen in our children’s schools,” said Rick Hess, director of education programs for the conservative American Enterprise Institute. “For senators and members of Congress, it’s a little more difficult. But it’s such an instinctive and values-driven conversation that it will always be motivating.”

Democrats, meanwhile, see resumption opportunities in open gubernatorial positions in Maryland and Arizona, where Biden last year only became the second Democratic presidential candidate since 1948.

Marshall Cohen, political director of the Democratic Governors Association, said the party is also considering Ohio and Texas, where former Senate and presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke is expected to challenge Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.

Both parties, meanwhile, are also focusing on Georgia, which narrowly opted for Biden in 2020 and elected two Democratic senators in January. Outgoing GOP Governor Brian Kemp faces the potential of a main challenge from a Trump-backed Republican.

“No one knows what the environment will look like in the fall of 2022,” Cohen said. “These races are not taking place tomorrow.”

For now, however, Biden’s approval rating has plummeted since the early months of his presidency, falling to 48% in an October AP-NORC poll from 59% in July.

That, added to the party’s slowness in adopting its national platform, may be a drag on the achievements of governors in the state. Congress approved a $ 1,000 billion White House-backed infrastructure package Friday night, but it came too late to help the party in elections in Virginia and New Jersey.

“A lot of the things we see and hear in Build Back Better infrastructure are things that Democratic governors have already done in their states,” said Wendi Wallace, deputy executive director of the Democratic Governors Association, referring to a project of expenditure law. approved by the White House which has not yet authorized Congress. “Our efforts in the state are sometimes overshadowed by what is happening in Washington.”

Biden’s troubles, meanwhile, could increase pressure on Democratic governors facing stiff re-election fights to distance themselves from the White House in the months to come. This has generally not happened, although reactions to Biden’s mandate to vaccinate all Americans who work in companies with more than 100 employees may suggest that schisms are possible.

Polls show such demands are popular among Democrats and unpopular among staunch Republicans – but governor’s races are likely to be decided by independent voters and swing.

In Kansas, Kelly argued that mandates like the Biden administration’s vaccine requirements for big business “tend not to work.” Whitmer and Evers have said little about politics.

A former Wisconsin public school superintendent, Evers defeated two-term Republican Gov. Scott Walker by less than 30,000 votes in 2018.

The Marquette Law School poll conducted last week showed that 45% of those polled approve of Evers performance, a measure weighed down by the approval of independents and in line with the pessimism of around half of registered voters about the direction taken by the state. Still, a majority of registered voters in Wisconsin approve of the work Evers has done to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the poll.

Whitmer won his first term comfortably in 2018 and became a national face for imposing restrictions to slow the spread of the pandemic last year. But she has softened some of them in recent months.

Democratic strategist Amy Chapman said Whitmer has long known that, given the backlash she and other Democratic governors have faced in efforts to control the spread of COVID-19, 2022 would be a challenge. Whitmer has been the subject of multiple threats and a foiled kidnapping plot by federal authorities.

“I don’t think there was ever a presumption in Michigan that this was going to be easy,” said Chapman, who was Barack Obama’s director of state in 2008 and senior adviser in 2012. “The governor knew that ‘she really had to be careful about this.

Beaumont reported from Des Moines, Iowa.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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