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The Alabama Governor Meets The Limits Of Partisanship

Gov. Robert Bentley of Alabama has learned that even your political base is willing to put up with only so much. Bentley, facing impeachment for allegedly using his office to start and cover up an an extramarital affair, reportedly agreed to resign on Monday. What’s so amazing about Bentley’s downfall is that it happened in a one-party setting: Bentley is a Republican, and Alabama’s state legislature and electorate are both overwhelmingly Republican. In these uber-partisan times, it can seem like Democrats always back Democrats and Republicans always back Republicans. That didn’t happen in Alabama.

Indeed, Bentley was, as of last fall, the most disliked governor in the nation among his own party’s voters. Last October and November, the Cooperative Congressional Election Study asked respondents in 50 states whether they approved or disapproved of the job their governor was doing. Just 42 percent of Alabama Republicans said they approved of the job Bentley was doing; 54 percent said they disapproved. No other current governor registered greater than 50 percent disapproval among his or her own party’s voters. In fact, no other governor had a net negative job approval rating with their own party. That includes the historically unpopular Chris Christie in New Jersey.

Partisanship goes a long ways these days. But there are limits.

OWN PARTY
STATE GOVERNOR PARTY APPROVE DISAPPROVE NET
Alabama Robert Bentley R 42% 54% -13
Oklahoma Mary Fallin R 48 43 +5
Kansas Sam Brownback R 48 42 +5
Connecticut Dannel Malloy D 47 42 +5
New Jersey Chris Christie R 49 43 +6
Hawaii David Ige D 55 39 +16
Nevada Brian Sandoval R 52 24 +28
Massachusetts Charlie Baker R 63 33 +30
Michigan Rick Snyder R 61 32 +30
Rhode Island Gina Raimondo D 65 28 +37
Ohio John Kasich R 63 26 +37
Kentucky Matt Bevin R 65 24 +41
Pennsylvania Tom Wolf D 65 22 +43
Illinois Bruce Rauner R 69 26 +44
Wyoming Matt Mead R 61 16 +45
New Mexico Susana Martinez R 69 24 +45
New York Andrew Cuomo D 70 21 +49
Georgia Nathan Deal R 70 21 +49
Tennessee Bill Haslam R 71 20 +51
Louisiana John Bel Edwards D 74 15 +59
Wisconsin Scott Walker R 77 17 +59
Utah Gary Herbert R 73 13 +60
Iowa Terry Branstad R 79 18 +61
Arizona Doug Ducey R 74 14 +61
California Jerry Brown D 77 14 +64
Maine Paul LePage R 81 17 +64
Washington Jay Inslee D 76 11 +65
Virginia Terry McAuliffe D 74 10 +65
Idaho Butch Otter R 76 11 +65
Nebraska Pete Ricketts R 77 11 +66
Mississippi Phil Bryant R 79 11 +67
Florida Rick Scott R 81 14 +68
Colorado John Hickenlooper D 77 9 +68
Minnesota Mark Dayton D 82 12 +69
Alaska Bill Walker D 84 13 +70
Oregon Kate Brown D 82 10 +72
Arkansas Asa Hutchinson R 81 8 +73
Maryland Larry Hogan R 84 10 +73
Texas Greg Abbott R 85 8 +77
Montana Steve Bullock D 85 3 +82
South Dakota Dennis Daugaard R 90 8 +82
Robert Bentley was the least popular governor among his own party’s voters

Gov. Bill Walker of Alaska is officially an independent but was elected on a ticket with Democrat Byron Mallott. This list includes only current governors who were in office at the time of the survey. Survey conducted in fall of 2016. Ratings are rounded to the nearest whole number.

Source: COOPERATIVE CONGRESSIONAL ELECTION STUDY

Harry Enten is a senior political writer and analyst for FiveThirtyEight.

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