Now that Republican State Senator Jim Barnett has won the August 1 primary, Governor Kathleen Sebelius leads her challenger 48% to 37%, a drop from seventeen percentage points to eleven.
…the incumbent continues to enjoy high favorables and job ratings, with 35% viewing her “very favorably,” only 11% “very unfavorably.” Thirty-two percent (32%) “strongly approve” of her performance as Governor.
Barnett is viewed very favorably by only 19%, and although fewer (9%) see him very unfavorably than see the Governor that way, he’s still an unknown to 18%. By contrast, only 3% are “not sure” what to think of the Governor (and only 1% abstain from assessing her performance).
Governor Sebelius has been very effective at steadying the course of the state over her term, and for a Democrat in Kansas to have such high favorability, and so many people pledging to vote for her again, says a lot about her effectiveness.
In a Salon.com article about Sebelius and her skill at bringing Republicans into the blue fold, former Republican Party Chair and newly Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor Parkinson explains it like this:
“What she has done over the last four years is run the government in an open and independent way … She has appointed Republicans, Democrats, independents, to posts all over the state. It was not a one-shot deal to get elected, but it was her demonstrating a new way of leadership. As so often is the case, I was wrong.”
Wrong, that is, to call her selection of a Republican as lieutenant governor 4 years ago a “gimmick.”
It isn’t. Kansas is changing, and Nadia Pflum is right that this isn’t just Sebelius. It’s a reflection of a state and national party that is abandoning its roots and its membership. The Karl Rove strategy has spread to every race, a strategy of running just far enough to the center to get that one vote past 50%. The Sebelius strategy is to look for the right answer, and follow where it leads. Sometimes that leads to the left, other times it takes policy rightward. Sometimes it just means hammering out a deal, regardless of who can take credit for it.
That’s what happened with school finance. There’s some criticism going around about Sebelius ads in which she takes credit for the school finance compromise. While it’s true that the specific legislation she rolled out never got very far (expanding gambling just didn’t sit right with too many people), she did use her leadership to shepherd a deal through the divided legislature. To do that, she had to get Democrats, moderate Republicans and conservatives to work together and to negotiate with one another. When Barnett’s plan went down, he seemed unwilling to work with other people to build a plan that would pass. The Governor made it work, and is right to take credit.
And the people of Kansas are right to be happy with her.