Gov. Terry McAuliffe has strong approval rating: Why?

Governor-McAuliffeA poll out last week from the Wason Center at Christopher Newport University has Gov. Terry McAuliffe with a solid approval rating.

The poll put McAuliffe’s approval among Virginia voters at 52 percent, marking the first time that the Democrat had topped the 50 percent mark in Wason Center polling, according to CNU professor Quentin Kidd.

Kidd didn’t offer speculation as to why in his report on the polling, which wasn’t limited to McAuliffe and his standing with voters.

(Other tidbits: Virginians think the sentence handed down to former Gov. Bob McDonnell on his ethics convictions was fair, support an increase in the minimum wage, want governors to be able to run for a second term, and want delegates and state senators to have term limits. Oh, and they support medical marijuana.)

Back to McAuliffe: wherever you stand on his term, now in its second year, you can’t name one thing he’s achieved in his time in the Mansion. Seriously, don’t even try. And no, pushing Medicaid reform doesn’t count, because he’s still losing that battle, and honestly, the way he’s fighting it, there’s no way he’s going to come close to winning.

McDonnell, for all his foibles, left office in 2014 having achieved a historic transportation funding compromise that he was able to pass with bipartisan support. Predecessor Tim Kaine had bipartisan backing on early childhood education initiatives that he could point to as his legacy. Mark Warner got Republican majorities in the House and Senate to agree to a billion-dollar tax increase.

McAuliffe’s legacy right now looks like it’s going to be … uh, you know, well, he got elected.

Supporters will point to the various economic-development announcements that have been made on his watch, but it’s absurd to give an individual governor credit for economic deals that are often the result of years of hard work spanning several administrations.

State revenues are healthy and unemployment is down, but again, it’s hard to credit McAuliffe for those, which are more a function of the health of the national economy as it has to do with anything that a second-year governor has done.

The hallmark of his term to date was the protracted fight over Medicaid that sent budget passage into late June last year and ended with Republicans getting their way. McAuliffe’s move to double-down by raising the issue again this year is clearly being done with the November elections in mind, and it makes some sense to get the issue on the table with an eye toward influencing swing voters in key State Senate districts to vote Democrat.

But even if the Ds regain a majority in the Senate, there’s no way in h-e-double-hockeysticks that they’ll get anywhere near a majority in the House, and the House has been and for the foreseeable future will be where anything remotely progressive goes to die an ugly death.

Medicaid reform, in other words, is DOA; and the longer McAuliffe stakes his gubernatorial term on Medicaid, the more likely he is to get absolutely nothing done as governor, other than cut a few ribbons at grand openings, and avoid being sentenced to prison, which McDonnell has now added to the criteria for helping us separate the wheat from the chaff among our governors.

– Column by Chris Graham

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