Political scientists talk about the “median voter theorem” to explain why politicians that want to get reelected govern from the center of the electorate. A bunch of GOP governors elected in 2010 are trying to defy the theorem by pursuing agendas that are extreme by the standards of their states. Nate Silver explains the result.
So just a year ago, there were plenty of moderate Republican governors -- most of them in liberal or moderate states, where they were often quite popular. Now there are almost none, save some borderline cases like Mr. Daniels and Mr. Herbert.
The unsurprising result is that Republicans now have a group of extremely unpopular governors -- particularly Mr. Scott of Florida, Scott Walker of Wisconsin, John R. Kasich of Ohio and Paul R. LePage of Maine, all of whom have disapproval ratings exceeding 50 percent. Other Republican governors in crucial swing states like Michigan and Pennsylvania also have below-average ratings.
Nearly all the most unpopular governors are Republicans in moderate states. The median voter theorem is a powerful thing. If these governors want to get re-elected in 2014, you will see them pivot sharply toward the center (and hope that voters forget their policies from their first year in office — not an impossible hope). If they keep governing the way they are, the phrase “former one-term governor” will be seen before their names whenever they get mentioned.