I couldn't get much more than a tweet out yesterday about the Public Policy Polling [pdf] survey of Minnesota (It was my last day on the beach. What can I say?), but I don't want to let the results go by without comment.
First of all, PPP at least one-upped the Texas poll released a day earlier, by asking the hypothetical 2012 general election question with two candidates (Tim Pawlenty and Sarah Palin) instead of one (Mitt Romney). It would have been nice if they would have included all of the primary prospective candidates the organization has been polling on the national level. [Speaking of which, be on the lookout Sunday for an updated and long overdue version of the trial-heat graphs I started a while back to account for the changes from June.] But PPP didn't ask the hypothetical, "if the election were held today" question with Gingrich, Huckabee or Romney alongside Obama.
Oh well. I'm not going to get picky. This isn't 2011.
But PPP did provide us with some interesting information about the state of play in Minnesota:
Obama: 51%President Obama, then, is ahead of the state's outgoing (as of 2010) governor by roughly the same margin he bested John McCain by in the North Star state last November and he's leading the soon(er)-to-be outgoing Alaska governor by nearly twice as much. Now, this isn't earth-shattering news here. Minnesota has been a reliably Democratic state throughout much of the last few decades, but has tightened some in recent elections until 2008. As others have pointed out (here and here), the approval numbers for Obama, Pawlenty and Palin may be another number to focus on, but I'll stick with the election question.
Not Sure: 8%
Not Sure: 9%
What these results tell me is that 2012 is going to be a very difficult year for sitting or recently term limited/"stepping down" governors to do well in the presidential primaries. There is just too much for them to answer for, it appears. Granted, things could turn around on the economic front, but this past few years won't necessarily be kind to governors in the near future. Tim Pawlenty is exhibit one: a Republican governor in a blue state who is trailing the incumbent president in a poll of said state. And the speculation surrounding his decision not to seek a third gubernatorial term places him squarely in the 2012 sweepstakes discussion. It isn't as if John Hoeven was the prospective Republican candidate and the poll was conducted in North Dakota. Pawlenty is at least a legitimate candidate for the GOP in 2012. He may not win the nomination, but he is legitimate. To come up so far behind the president, then, is a bit of an eye-opener. Yes, this is still just one poll, but I do think it speaks to this larger point about governors in the next cycle. The task is going to be a daunting one with all the red ink at the state level these days. And for Pawlenty (and Palin, too), he won't be around to reap any rewards if things start turning around in any noticeable way between now and 2011-12. I mean, we're not talking about George W. Bush in the late 1990s here (popular governor of a populous state during an economic boom).
So let's put this idea on the shelf for the time being and revisit it when the field of candidates starts to take shape. Governors from states that are doing relatively well may have an advantage over those who either are from states that are doing worse or have since left office. Does Haley Barbour fit in the former category? Who else fits in the latter (other than Palin and Pawlenty)?
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