Virginians’ Approval of McDonnell Dips; Maryland’s O’Malley Compared to Cuomo

BY Samina Uddin Engel  March 21, 2012 at 7:10 PM EST

This is part of our ongoing Divided by D.C. project, exploring 2 Governors, 2 Visions, 1 Election Year.

Republican Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell saw his approval rating slip in a new Quinnipiac poll out Wednesday. Fifty-three percent of registered voters in Virginia approve of the job McDonnell’s doing, down 5 percent since early February. It was the governor’s lowest rating since Quinnipiac began surveying the state’s voters last June.

McDonnell’s dip in the polls comes in the wake of controversial debates in Virginia over gun rights and abortion. In February, he signed a bill lifting the one handgun per month law instituted by Democratic Gov. Douglas Wilder nearly two decades ago. Earlier this month, the governor gave approval to a bill mandating ultrasounds for women seeking abortions.

Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac Polling Institute, said the poll showed that most voters in Virginia disagree with the governor’s new abortion law, and that a majority prefer the one-handgun-a-month restriction compared to no limit at all. On the effect of the measures on McDonnell’s rating, Brown told the NewsHour, “it’s a reasonable assumption that that has something to do with the drop in his numbers.”

Brown cautioned it’s important to keep things in perspective. Compared to most governors, McDonnell’s numbers are “still very good,” he said.

The poll also showed a reversal of fortunes for the Virginia Legislature, which enjoyed a positive rating in February. Only 38 percent of voters now approve of the Legislature’s job performance, compared to 47 percent who disapprove — a 19-point shift from the previous month. In recent weeks, lawmakers made national headlines over the ultrasound issue, and were mocked on late-night comedy shows.

Photo By Tom Williams/Roll CallRoll Call’s Joshua Miller on Wednesday offered a more positive picture of Democratic Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, contrasting his handling of the state’s congressional redistricting process with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, also a Democrat.

With both governors viewed as top contenders for the presidency in 2016, Miller writes, the current redistricting in Maryland and New York “is already being discussed as an early differentiating factor.”

He reports that some New York Democrats on Capitol Hill are disappointed that Cuomo did not do more to pass a map that protects members’ seats:

A federal court drew a new Empire State congressional map after the split Legislature remained deadlocked for a year on drawing new lines with two fewer districts. That court’s map did nothing to shore up vulnerable Democrats — including Reps. Tim Bishop and Bill Owens — and made Democratic Rep. Kathy Hochul’s re-election climb steeper. The districts of Democratic Rep. Maurice Hinchey, who is retiring after battling cancer, and Republican freshman Rep. Bob Turner, who is running for Senate, were eliminated.

In handling Maryland’s restricting process, O’Malley took a different approach, Miller says:

He met one-on-one with every member of his state’s congressional delegation to discuss redistricting, something Cuomo didn’t do. O’Malley signed a map into law in October that may have angered some members but helped Democratic prospects this year and beyond.

The extent to which O’Malley’s actions will help him — or if Cuomo’s inaction comes back to haunt him — remains to be seen.