There's no question that Republican governors are more popular as a group than is the party's congressional wing. But the approval ratings of individual Republican governors vary dramatically. New Jersey's Christie, with an approval rating around 70 percent, scores the highest of any GOP governor in a major state. Martinez and Sandoval have strong approval ratings at this point and could improve on their 2010 performances with minority voters and others in their 2014 reelection campaigns.
Another group with solid ratings — around 50 percent or above — includes Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell (who cannot run for a second term) and Kasich, who has rebounded after a tough first year in office. Walker, who survived a recall election last year, is at 50 percent in the most recent poll in the state. Louisiana's Bobby Jindal, who says Republicans should not be "the stupid party," is at about that level as well. Walker and Jindal could be two of a number of governors who become presidential candidates in the future.
There are other governors who are on shakier ground. Texas's Perry, South Carolina's Haley and Iowa's Terry Branstad have approval ratings in the low-to-mid 40s. The numbers for Perry and Haley are notably unimpressive, given that they govern in deeply conservative states. At the bottom of the list of GOP governors are three from major states and who are up for reelection next year: Florida's Scott, Michigan's Rick Snyder and Pennsylvania's Tom Corbett. All are below 40 percent at this point.
Because most of these Republican governors have GOP majorities in their legislatures, they can do what their congressional colleagues can only talk about: they can enact the conservative agendas and test new policies, as GOP governors did in the 1990s on welfare and other issues. As a group, they are giving the country models of conservative governance: spending cuts, tax cuts (or avoiding tax increases), reining in public employee pensions and benefits, and business friendly regulatory policies.