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The 5 Most Popular Governors In America

These politicians succeed despite politics, economic downturn


When it comes to governors, there have been plenty of them recently who have fared poorly in the court of public opinion. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is in the middle of a brutal recall campaign following his efforts to pass a budget bill that severely curtailed union collective bargaining rights. Ohio Gov. John Kasich attempted to similarly curtail union rights in his state, only to have the proposal put to referendum and be resoundingly defeated by voters. And who can forget former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour’s parade of pardons, including 19 to those convicted of murder?

However, there are several governors, quiet and not so quiet, who have successfully navigated state politics and the economic downturn to lead their states well. Here are the five most popular governors in the United States, according to the Washington Post.

5. Mike Beebe, D-Ark.

Who? While Beebe doesn’t have the national profile of predecessors like Bill Clinton and Mike Huckabee, what he does have is the people’s respect. In polls, only 13% disapprove of the job he is doing, while 72% approve. This after over five years in the governor’s office.

4. John Lynch, D-N.H.

Talk about going out on top. The four-term governor announced that he was retiring at the end of his fourth two-year term in 2013. His current approval rating is at 67%, with just 23% disapproving of him. For most of his term, his approval rating has been over 60%, with a three year span between 2006 and 2009 where it was over 70%.

3. Mitch Daniels, R-Ind.

Even as Daniels prepares to leave office at the end of his current term in 2013 thanks to term limits, he is seen as a rising star in the Republican Party. He gave the rebuttal to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address in January, and has been suggested as a possible vice presidential candidate by several political pundits. His work in Indiana hasn’t been half-bad either. Under his tenure, Indiana became the first new right-to-work state in more than 10 years and successfully leased a state toll road to foreign entities. Despite this contentious moves, Daniels approval rating sits at 63%, with 31% disapproving of his job.

2. Chris Christie, R-N.J.

Despite desperate attempts by several Republicans to draft Christie into the 2012 GOP primaries for president, the popular New Jersey governor sat this nomination cycle out. Still, in spite — or perhaps because — of his brash style, Christie remains popular in a state that is notoriously difficult on politicians. He has a 59% approval rating, compared to 36% who disapprove of him. Fifty-four percent polled said that he was a leader, with just 39% accusing him of being a bully. Considering some of the things he has said and done, that’s doing pretty well.

1. Andrew Cuomo, D-N.Y.

Politics runs in Cuomo’s blood. His father, Mario Cuomo, was one of the most popular New York governors ever back in the 1980s and 90s. Andrew Cuomo has followed in his father’s footsteps, navigating through the state’s cutthroat politics and difficult budget process to great success and popularity. In March, Cuomo oversaw one of the smoothest budget processes in a generation, when the legislature passed the 2012 budget with more than 24 hours to spare for the first time since 1983. Who was governor then? Andrew’s father, in the first year of his first term. As a result, the younger Cuomo has a 73% approval rating and just a 22% disapproval rating that holds steady across Democrats, Republicans, and independents.

For the full list of most popular governors, read this Washington Post article.

–Benjamin Nanamaker, InvestorPlace Money & Politics Editor

The opinions contained in this column are solely those of the writer.

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