Survey USA released a new batch of approval ratings for governors based on polls taken June 16. Our own Chet Culver was at 42 percent approval and 51 percent disapproval. The previous SUSA poll in Iowa, taken in late April, found similar numbers for Culver: 42 percent approval and 50 percent disapproval. (CORRECTION: I did not realize that SUSA also conducted a poll in late May, which showed somewhat better numbers for Culver: 48 approve, 47 disapprove. Click here to see all of SUSA’s approval numbers for Culver since he became governor.)
Having noticed that Culver’s SUSA numbers bounced up last May and June after being in net negative territory from February through April 2008, I wondered whether a “legislative session effect” might have dragged him down from February through April of this year. Either that was not the case, or the weaker economy this year has prevented the governor from getting a post-session bounce.
Approval ratings in the low 40s are outside the comfort zone for an incumbent, but I wouldn’t hit the panic button yet. SUSA has tended to measure Culver’s support at lower levels than some other pollsters, and most governors have seen their approval ratings slip during the past year, presumably because of the economy and the fiscal problems affecting almost every state.
I couldn’t find any breakdown of Culver’s support among Democrats, Republicans and independents either at this site or on Survey USA’s site. If anyone has those numbers, please post a comment or send me an e-mail (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com). I still think a large number of Democrats and independents who may not “approve” of Culver would choose him in a heartbeat over Chris Rants or Bob Vander Plaats, who are most committed to running for governor.
We’ll have a better idea of the governor’s re-election prospects when we see polling of head-to-head matchups with potential Republican challengers. Some of the Republicans considering this race would be stronger than others in terms of personal appeal or fundraising (though Culver will probably be able to outspend even the best GOP fundraisers).
Finally, keep in mind that despite ups and downs in the economy, Iowa hasn’t voted an incumbent governor out of office since 1962.
Share any thoughts about Culver’s chances or the GOP gubernatorial primary in this thread. Who has the potential to overcome Vander Plaats’ head start on campaigning? Can Rants reinvent himself as a likable politician? Who would benefit from a more crowded Republican field? Will the GOP primary be negative enough to do lasting damage to the eventual nominee?
UPDATE: Culver is bringing his campaign train to several stops in western Iowa tomorrow.