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Margie Omero Headshot

Buyers' Remorse Over New GOP Governors

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Voters across the country have buyers' remorse about the Republicans they elected to office. The big stands House Republicans have taken so far--defunding Planned Parenthood, keeping tax breaks for the wealthy, nearly shutting down the government, and ending Medicare as we know--have all been wildly unpopular. Even with Republicans. In upstate New York this week, Democrat Kathy Hochul won by running a campaign focused on the Republican Medicare plan. Seeing the writing on the wall, the next day five Senate Republicans defected and voted against it. And don't even get me started about the paucity of the GOP presidential field despite the 2010 "shellacking."

But it's not just candidates and insiders who are sensing voters' dismay with how things are going. Polls show voters in battleground states regret having voted for their new Republican Governors. Since February, Democratic firm PPP released surveys in eight states asking voters "if you could do last fall's election for Governor over again, how would you vote?" In seven of the eight, the Democrat now would win, with all seven showing double-digit improvements in their margin. (Only Rory Reid in Nevada still trails.) The chart below shows both the actual 2010 margin and the new margin, sorted by the shift.


Beneath the surface, these Republicans are losing ground with independents. Nationally in 2010, independents gave Republicans a +19 advantage. In the five states above for which we have exit poll data (FL, IA, OH, PA, WI), the Republican won among independents. Yet in six of these eight re-do polls, independents now say they would vote for the Democrat.

While there are no Senate re-do polls, there is likely some buyers' remorse in Wisconsin for the state's new Republican Governor and Senator. Not only do voters say they would now vote for Democrat Tom Barrett, just half (50%) support recalling Governor Scott Walker (47% oppose). Former Senator Feingold actually does better in a future matchup against Walker (+10) than does Barrett (+7), and Feingold now has a wide lead (+12) in a potential matchup against then-Congressman Mark Neumann, after besting him by three points in 1998.

No doubt Democrats will face some challenges next fall. But in just a few short months, Republicans have alienated the voters who just brought them sweeping victories. Once again, Republicans mistakenly believed they would be greeted with sweets and flowers. Instead of "yes we can" voters are saying "we did what?!"

UPDATE 5/27: This Maine survey by Critical Insights suggests some buyers' remorse of Governor Paul LePage. A quarter (24%) would change their vote if they "had the opportunity to vote again;" nearly half (45%) of those would vote for independent Eliot Cutler, along with 15% for Democrat Libby Mitchell. Only 4% of vote-changers would change their vote to the guy who actually won. Unfortunately, the publicly released data have the vote among those wouldn't change their minds, and calls to Critical Insights went unreturned. But since LePage's 2010 margin was just under 2 points, I think we can add Mainers to the remorseful list.

  Obama Romney
Obama Romney
332 206
Obama leading
Obama won
Romney leading
Romney won
Popular Vote
33 out of 100 seats are up for election. 51 are needed for a majority.
Democrat leading
Democrat won
Republican leading
Republican won
Democrats* Republicans
Current Senate 53 47
Seats gained or lost +2 -2
New Total 55 45
* Includes two independent senators expected to caucus with the Democrats: Angus King (Maine) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.).
All 435 seats are up for election. 218 are needed for a majority.
Democrat leading
Democrat won
Republican leading
Republican won
Democrats Republicans
Seats won 201 234
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