With polls showing a drop in Barack Obama's job rating and sinking support for the Democrats' health care plans, there is evidence of collateral damage where you might not expect to find it: in the standing of Democratic governors. Pennsylvania's Ed Rendell suddenly is getting negative job ratings in both the Quinnipiac University and the Franklin & Marshall College polls -- his lowest marks in seven years as governor. Ohio's Ted Strickland, who has spent most of his first term working amicably with Republican legislators, scores less than 50 percent in the latest Quinnipiac poll and has only tenuous leads over two Republicans, John Kasich and Mike DeWine, who may run against him next year.
In the two gubernatorial races being contested this year, Republicans seem to have advantages. In Virginia, Republican Bob McDonnell has led Democrat Creigh Deeds in all but one poll and picked up the support of Black Entertainment Television billionaire Sheila Johnson, one of the biggest contributors to the incumbent, Democratic National Chairman Tim Kaine. New Jersey incumbent Jon Corzine, who spent more than $100 million on narrow wins for senator in 2000 and governor in 2005, is 15 points behind Republican Chris Christie. Corzine will not be helped by the indictment of multiple Jersey pols, most of them Democrats, in a case initiated by Christie when he was a U.S. attorney.
There's an argument that these results hold little relevance to the standing of the national parties. Almost every state faces severe fiscal problems, and standoffs between a governor and a legislature can drag the governor's ratings way down, as in the case of California's Arnold Schwarzenegger. Moreover, a governor's personal strengths and weaknesses can override party identification; one of the nation's highest-rated governors is Dave Freudenthal, a Democrat in very Republican Wyoming.
Even so, these numbers should be troubling for Democrats. Rendell and Strickland are attractive personalities with some penchant for centrist policies. Both were suggested as possible running mates for Barack Obama. (Both sensibly swatted away those suggestions.) Corzine is running in a state that, with a rising immigrant population and an outflow of affluent residents, has been solidly Democratic for a dozen years. Altogether, these states have 69 electoral votes, and Obama won all four by comfortable margins last November.