The Republican National Committee is hopeful it can figure out how to win national elections by following the examples of the 30 Republican governors, according to its new internal review of the 2012 elections, echoing Mitt Romney's advice to the Conservative Political Action Conference Friday. But a closer look at what state those 30 Republican governors govern, and when they got elected, complicates the picture.
The first governor the RNC hailed is Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, who signed a law to save $800 million over five years in Medicaid spending. The Kansas GOP tweeted excitedly about being highlighted as a national model. But the Kansas House of Representatives is 72 percent Republican. The Kansas Senate is 80 percent Republican. That might have something to do with the fact that Kansas looks a lot like the Republican Party. It's 78 percent white. It's a more rural state, but the rural population is shrinking as Latino immigration helps cities grow. According to 2012 exit polls, 39 percent of voters are conservative, 48 percent are moderate, and only 17 percent are liberal. Mitt Romney won with 60 percent of the vote, compared to 47 percent of the vote nationally. There was a big gender gap: 75 percent of white men voted for Romney, while 54 percent of white women did. The state has passed an anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment and has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country (photo of an anti-abortion rally in January, above).
In fact, as The National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru notes, each of those 30 governors "was either elected in 2009–10 or in a state Romney carried or both." The governors who won in 2009 are particularly interesting. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell were the beginning of the Tea Party wave. McDonnell was not invited to speak at CPAC after raising taxes in a transportation bill this year. Christie wasn't either, after criticizing the gun lobby, hugging President Obama after Hurricane Sandy, and blasting House Republicans for not passing a Sandy relief bill.
The RNC also praises the governors of Georgia and Louisiana, states Romney won with 53 percent and 58 percent of the vote, respectively, for enacting conservative education reforms. Ten of the 30 GOP governors lead states in the old Confederacy. No exit polls were conducted in Georgia or Louisiana in 2012, but there were in nearby Mississippi. Does the GOP have a lot to learn from a state where 89 percent of the white population voted for Mitt Romney?
In less reliably red states, governors' conservative policy records are more mixed. Eight Republican governors have backed Obamacare's Medicaid expansion, though Florida's senate blocked it. Maine Gov. Paul LePage, the only Republican governor in New England, is wavering. Four of those were in states with large Latino populations. (Obamacare was very popular among Latinos.) Two more of the governors, Ohio's John Kasich and Michigan's Rick Snyder, lead blue states. In 2011, after Ohio voters overturned a law to curb union power, Kasich noted, "It's time to pause... The people have spoken clearly."