Markell popular despite economic concerns

By Jonathan Starkey– The News Journal

Gov. Jack Markell has not lost his appeal with Delaware voters despite lingering concerns that the economy is not on firm footing, according to poll numbers released this week by Rasmussen Reports.

Sixty-four percent of likely Delaware voters surveyed approve of the job Markell is doing as governor.

“The governor is focused on putting Delawareans back to work and expanding economic opportunity. That means helping employers grow here, improving the readiness of our workforce, and building stronger schools,” Kelly M. Bachman, Markell’sspokeswoman, said in a statement.

Rasmussen polled 750 likely Delaware voters by telephone from Sept. 10-12. The poll shows 32 percent disapprove of Markell’s performance. Even 49 percent of Republicans polled said they approved of Markell’s record, compared to 48 percent who noted their disapproval.

President Barack Obama saw similarly positive numbers. Sixty percent of likely voters surveyed said they approve of Obama’s job performance in the Rasmussen poll, far better than the 41 percent who say the president is doing a good job nationally, according to a Real Clear Politics average of polls.

Delaware is a deeply Democratic state, with 125,000 more Democratic voters than Republicans, and 43 percent of the poll’s respondents were Democrats. Thirty percent were Republicans.

“”Delaware is a Democratic state, and there is a huge Democratic advantage,” said Rhett Ruggerio, a Dover lobbyist and former national committeeman of the Delaware Democratic Party. Ruggerio said the approval ratings are nevertheless “unusual” because sitting governors and presidents tend to lose luster as they reach the end of their terms. Markell and Obama are term-limited and will leave office in January 2017. “In Jack’s situation, he’s done the basics in terms of what the voters expect him to do, which are balance a budget, and he really hasn’t had any scandal or big issue hanging over his head,” Ruggerio said, adding that voters might be comparing Markell to governors in other states that have been caught in scandal.”

Elsewhere in the Rasmussen poll, 66 percent of likely Delaware voters view Vice President Joe Biden favorably, while 60 percent say the same about U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del.

Voters were split on their opinion of Obamacare, but 55 percent said they favored a smaller government that offers fewer services. Democrats were split on the question, but Republican respondents overwhelmingly favored small government, poll results showed.

Markell, first elected governor in 2008, was re-elected with 69 percent of the vote against Republican Jeff Cragg two years ago.

Meanwhile, 32 percent of likely voters surveyed rated the U.S. economy as poor, and another 46 percent said the economy was in fair condition.

Just 22 percent of likely voters polled said the economy was in excellent or good shape. Asked about their own personal finances, 56 percent of likely voters said their finances were in fair or poor shape, while 43 percent of likely voters rated their own situation as excellent or good.

“It’s no surprise that people are not feeling strong economically,” said James Butkiewicz, chair of the Department of Economics at the University of Delaware. “The job situation isn’t great. Wage growth hasn’t been strong. People probably feel they’re not making much progress.”

Delaware’s economy has made progress in recent months and years. The unemployment rate was 6.2 percent in July, down from a peak of 8.4 percent in January 2010, and the state’s employers have added more than 23,000 jobs since the depth of the recession.

Sen. Greg Lavelle, a Sharpley Republican, said the state continues to face real challenges that aren’t reflected in the poll. “When you have slow economic growth, when you have budgets that are passed with tax increases and gimmicks, not everybody pays attention to all of that,” Lavelle said. “I understand that. They’re busy with their lives. They’re busy with their families. Congratulations to the governor.”

The same poll found U.S. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del, who is seeking re-election in November, with a 15-point lead over his Republican challenger, businessman Kevin Wade.

Markell, whose political future remains an unknown, has run his last campaign for governor. Democratic Attorney General Beau Biden decided to forgo a third term to pursue the governor’s office. Republican Sen. Colin Bonini of Dover also is considering a gubernatorial campaign.