Hating On Obamacare Not Really a Great Strategy for GOP Governors

| Mon Aug. 25, 2014 8:40 AM EDT

Does opposing Obamacare hurt you or help you if you're a Republican governor? To find out, Sam Wang took a look at nine Republican governors who were first elected in 2010 and are now running for reelection. The chart on the right tells the story. Governors who have resisted Medicaid expansion—a key part of Obamacare, and the one that most directly affects individual states—are generally doing poorly. Those who accepted Medicaid expansion are polling pretty well. However, Wang notes that Obamacare probably isn't entirely responsible for this divide:

Think of the Medicaid expansion as a “proxy variable,” one that is predictive of stands on many other issues. For example, even as Pennsylvania voters have trended toward the Democrats, Corbett got behind several radical redistricting schemes, cut education funding deeply, and compared gay marriage to incest. In Maine, LePage has called legislators idiots and state workers corrupt, told the N.A.A.C.P. to “kiss [his] butt,” and held multiple meetings with “sovereign citizens” who advocate secession. In short, if you’re too hard-core or offensive, some of your constituents can get turned off.

The Republicans Susana Martinez, of New Mexico, John Kasich, of Ohio, and Rick Snyder, of Michigan, look as strong as they did when they were first elected. All three accepted the Affordable Care Act and its Medicaid expansion....This stance by Martinez, Kasich, and Snyder has been predictive of their support of other issues with that have drawn support from both parties. Martinez and Kasich, for example, have pursued education-reform policies that have gained a lot of traction among both Democrats and Republicans. To the extent that governors hold on to their offices in close races, it may be because they have focussed on issues that are important to the voters in their states rather than the core views of their party.

In other words, refusing the Medicaid expansion is the mark of a true-believing wingnut, and that's not such a great place to be right now. Conversely, accepting the Medicaid expansion is the mark of a pragmatic conservative, and those folks have remained relatively popular.