In the past year, Republicans and Democrats have offered Minnesotans clear and divergent visions.
GOP leaders in the Minnesota Legislature proposed no new taxes, a cuts-only approach to budgeting, and a focus on loading up the ballots with constitutional amendments on issues that poll well for them, such as gay marriage, tax limitation and photo ID.
Meanwhile, DFL Governor Dayton proposed a budget with both painful cuts and tax increases on the most powerful Minnesotans, and has tried to broker solutions on a series of contentious issues such as environmental permits, Obamacare implementation and the Vikings Stadium.
It would seem as if the GOP set the more savvy political course. After all, opposing tax increases is always popular, and “let the voters decide” is reliable crowd pleaser. Score for the Republicans, right?
At the same time, Dirty Job Dayton’s work on environmental permits and cutting social services for vulnerable Minnesotans is extremely unpopular with his liberal base. Obamacare promotion and tax increases are the two most unforgiveable sins in the eyes of conservatives. And Vikings Stadium subsidies are controversial across-the-board, including with the all-important Independents. The Governor has stepped on a lot of toes.
With those two competing policy agendas, you might expect that Governor Mark Dayton would get politically pummeled.
But so far, it’s not working out that way. According to a new Survey USA survey, Dayton’s approval rating is 50%, while the GOP Legislature’s is an astoundingly low 17%.
An approval rating of 50% for one side and 17% for the other doesn’t represent a “a pox on both of your houses” verdict. Clearly, Minnesotans are aiming their pox.
For context, Richard Nixon’s disapproval rating when he resigned in disgrace in August 1974 was 66%. The Republican Legislature’s disapproval rating is a statistically identical 65%. Even conservative Minnesotans don’t favor the GOP-controlled Legislature over Dayton (26% approval for Dayton, 25% for the GOP-led Legislature).
I know, I know. The election is still nine months away, executives tend to be more popular than institutions, and institutions can be unpopular while individuals still get reelected.
Still, these numbers are LOW, and trending in a very bad direction for Republicans. Republicans played what they felt was their best political hand in 2011, and Dayton played a very risky political hand, and somehow Dayton is getting more popular as the Legislature is getting much less popular.
You can’t chalk this up to superior communications skills. Dayton is widely considered to be a below average bully pulpeteer, while legislative leaders are pretty solid and aggressive communicators. So far, Minnesotans just seem to prefer Dirty Job Dayton’s governance approach.