Across the country, many of those governors who tacked further to the right during their tenure in office are now facing the hardest re-election campaigns. The challenges facing Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, who now leads his Democratic opponent Paul Davus by only .6 percent, have gotten a fair amount of play in the media, especially after a coalition of 100 state Republicans endorsed Davis. At the heart of the Brownback controversy is an apparent revenue shortfall that has followed cuts to both taxes and spending. The state month on month collects much less revenue than predicted, missing revenue targets by hundreds of millions. Experts expect a $238m budget shortfall by July of 2016, and Moody’s has downgraded the state’s credit rating as a result. The promised fruits of the Kansas Red Dawn have not, at least yet, appeared.But as the FT points out, Brownback is not alone:
In Wisconsin, Scott Walker, another Tea Party favourite who used one-party rule to pass key conservative reforms, is struggling against a relatively unknown Democratic challenger. His tax cuts have not produced the economic boom he promised and, like Mr Brownback, he is asking for more time.Michigan’s Rick Snyder is in a similar position, having dismantled union rights in the auto industry heartland. Florida’s Rick Scott, Georgia’s Nathan Deal and Maine’s Paul LePage are also in tough races. Pennsylvania’s Tom Corbett is down 15 points to his Democratic challenger.
Each of these races has their own unique dynamics, and hard-pressed governors have their counter-narratives. In Kansas in particular, defenders of the Brownback approach argue that the budget imbalance only exists because opponents of the governor stopped cuts to inefficient government programs from going far enough—and that this imbalance could be addressed without introducing more taxes or cutting services. But the public doesn’t appear to be buying, in Kansas or elsewhere. If Republican leaders in Kansas can’t convince residents there to go along with the Brownback plan, then any attempt to export that general approach to the whole country in a national election is almost certainly doomed.