GOP Governors Associate Economics with Relaxed Approach to Coronavirus | Texas News
By BILL BARROW, Associated Press
JEKYLL ISLAND, Georgia (AP) – Republican governors running for re-election have started trumpeting the party’s more passive approach to the coronavirus pandemic, trying to reverse the script on an issue that helped Democrats win the House Blanche and control of Capitol Hill in 2020.
GOP governors, especially in the populous and diverse Sun Belt states, attribute the resurgence of the economy to their resistance to strict public health protocols they see as shackles. At the same time, Republican challengers are hammering Democratic governors slow to ease trade restrictions, end mask terms and reopen full-time schools. And by and large, Republicans are relishing the blows on Democratic strongholds of New York and California, “locked states” where unemployment remains above the national mark.
Political and economic realities are more complicated than the rhetoric suggests.
States, regardless of partisan control, have benefited from trillions of congressionally approved pandemic aid and vaccines that governors have played no role in developing. Yet Republican leaders believe, at least for now, they can take advantage of the circumstances that last November helped deny Republican Donald Trump a second presidential term.
“Choosing to lock down heavy and hard for an extended period has not proven to be helpful for states in the long run,” said Joanna Rodriguez of the Republican Governors Association. She said GOP governors “spoke to each other throughout the pandemic and talked about what was working. Now we can see the value of this leadership. … Our governors will certainly present themselves on this record.
But it’s not clear that states with tighter lockdowns have necessarily fared worse than others. Economists at UCLA Anderson Forecast in Los Angeles found in a new analysis that among large state economies, those with more pandemic restrictions, including California, generally had less economic contraction in 2020 than states with larger states. more flexible regulations. Researchers argued that there is a correlation between tighter protocols, lower COVID-19 infection rates, and gross domestic product.
But that’s not the Republicans’ argument.
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp recently described his handling of a “measured reopening” as a way to “protect lives from COVID-19, but also protect your livelihood and your paycheck.” Speaking at the state’s GOP convention recently, he hit “Joe Biden and the Liberals” as well as “scientists and medics who were paid to sit in their basements during the pandemic” and urge a closed economy.
Kemp pointed to the most recent unemployment data. Statistics from the United States Bureau of Labor measured an unemployment rate of 4.3% in April in Georgia, up from 6.1% nationally. The US rate fell to 5.8% in May. State-by-state data for May has not been released.
Georgia had “the lowest unemployment rate” among the 10 most populous states, even lower, according to Kemp, than Florida and Texas, managed by the GOP, “and, of course, lower than New York and in California ”, where unemployment reached 8.3% and 8.2%, respectively.
In Florida. Governor Ron DeSantis celebrated his state’s April measure of 4.8%.
“None of this would have been possible if we had lockdown policies in place… if we had done a lot of things that a lot of these other states have done,” he recently told reporters. He dismissed a potential rival in the general election, state agriculture commissioner Nikki Fried, as a “lockdown lobbyist” and insisted she would have closed businesses and schools.
Fried does not have the broad executive authority that DeSantis had in these arenas, but the governor’s blows nonetheless allowed him to mark his first push to reopen Florida restaurants, bars and other hot spots in the heavily touristy economy. of State.
Unemployment numbers alone don’t favor all Republicans, of course.
In Texas, where the oil industry has not fully rebounded from the decline in travel by Americans, unemployment was 6.7% in April, higher than nationally. GOP Governor Greg Abbott is embracing the global economic rise anyway. Abbott made his state one of the first to reject Washington’s additional UI aid on the grounds that “the Texas economy is booming.” The weekly boost of $ 300 per person will end later this month under Abbott’s command. Most of the Republican-led states have followed suit.
As long as the economy continues to recover, Democratic governors will also exercise leadership during the pandemic, likely arguing that lockdowns and strict protocols are working.
“Any governor is going to talk about how he guided his state through this and got people back to work,” said Dave Carney, one of Abbott’s top political advisers, while any challenger, a. -it added, must pierce the story of the holder.
Paul Maslin, a Democratic pollster who has run statewide campaigns across the country, said that upon exiting such a devastating event as a pandemic, these textbook pieces carry risks and rewards unknown to both parties.
Republican governors, he noted, are happy to embrace an economy fueled by federal aid, the biggest chunk coming this year without any Republican votes in Congress. But the same economy, Maslin noted, is showing signs of inflation, a potential red flag that could trap both Congressional Democrats and incumbent governors of either party in 2022 if the national mood is degrading.
Likewise, he said, “what happens to our children” in the next school year could become a flashpoint.
Republicans are already pushing this case with attacks on governors. Laura Kelly, D-Kan., And Gretchen Whitmer, D-Mich., For their earlier position on school closures. The GOP is also testing the scope of parental frustration in Virginia, trying to put Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe on the pandemic policies of incumbent Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam ahead of the state’s election in November.
But Democrats have said Kelly, Whitmer and Northam generally get good marks from voters for taking the pandemic seriously. “It’s a political mirage,” said Jared Leopold, a former senior Democratic Governors Association official who worked for one of McAuliffe’s main rivals. “Trying to piss people off in November 2022 because schools were closed in April or May 2021 is difficult.”
The biggest variable on education, Democrats say is whether the next school year reveals long-term issues with student performance, which Maslin said would put any incumbent on the defensive regardless of their COVID actions. -19.
At the end of the day, said Leopold, “governor races are more about leadership” because “people look for someone they trust in times of crisis”.
Leopold and Carney, Abbott’s Republican adviser, agreed that momentum often benefits governors unless they fail miserably. They also said there was plenty of time for the circumstances to change.
“The key judgment will come on the state of the economy and health in the fall of 2022,” said Leopold. “It’s just kind of a pre-game brawl.”
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