Governors are having a bit of a moment as the country fights the coronavirus. Poll after poll suggests the public trusts their state’s chief executives and, generally speaking, thinks they are doing a good job in marshaling the state’s resources to address the pandemic.
Not so with Republican Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp.
In a new Washington Post-Ipsos national poll, respondents were asked whether they approved of the job their state’s governor was doing in dealing with coronavirus. More than 7 in 10 (71%) approved of their own state’s governor nationwide.
But the Post drilled down further – pulling out specific numbers for the 12 states where they had “sample sizes large enough to break down results.” And it’s there where you see how poorly Kemp’s performance is regarded by Georgians.
Eleven of the 12 governors in the states with large enough samples to offer statistically sound conclusions – California, Georgia, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia – saw a majority of their constituents approving of the job they had done on the virus. (Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo had the highest approval ratings at 86% and 81%, respectively.)
Who was the one exception? Kemp. And his numbers were disastrously bad: 39% approved of the job he was doing while 61% disapproved. The second worst rating? Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott at 57% approve/41% disapprove.
That’s stunning. In a moment in which governors are looking like the most popular politicians around, Kemp can’t even get 4 in 10 Georgians to say he is doing a good job in responding to the coronavirus. (Reminder: Donald Trump won Georgia by 5 points in 2016.)
Well, Kemp drew negative attention both for how he shut down his state and how he decided to open it back up.
He was one of the last governors to issue a shelter-in-place order for his state, finally announcing it on April 2 – two full weeks after California became the first state in the country to do so. Asked why he had waited so long and what finally convinced him to shut the state down, Kemp said this:
“Finding out that this virus is now transmitting before people see signs, so what we’ve been telling people from directives from the CDC for weeks now that if you start feeling bad, stay home … those individuals could’ve been infecting people before they ever felt bad. But we didn’t know that until the last 24 hours.”
Uh, what? Asymptomatic transmission of the coronavirus – you can pass along the virus without showing any signs you have it – had been a well-known reality for weeks when Kemp said that.
So, bad start.
A few weeks later, Kemp was at it again – announcing, against the advice of virtually every public health official in the country, that he would begin reopening the state on April 24, making Georgia the first state to do so. While Trump reportedly offered his support to Kemp for the plan initially, the President turned on Kemp publicly.
“I told the governor of Georgia Brian Kemp that I disagree strongly with his decision to open certain facilities which are in violation of the phase one guidelines for the incredible people of Georgia,” Trump told the media the day before the reopening began.
While it still remains too soon to analyze whether Kemp’s premature move led to a surge in cases – read this to understand why – there’s no question in looking at the Post-Ipsos data that Kemp has taken a major hit from the way he dealt with the coronavirus crisis to date.
And when you consider that he won the governorship in 2018 by just about 55,000 votes (out of almost 4 million cast), you can imagine that with numbers like these Kemp will be at or near the top of Democrats’ target list in two years’ time.