Why We Love Governor Ralph

Governor Northam loving those poll numbers. Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

By Peter Galuszka

He’s been through “coonman,” “blackface,” a muddled interview about late term abortion, and aggressive and controversial steps to stop the pandemic, but Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam has sprinted through a recent statewide poll with flying colors.

According to a new Washington Post-Schar School poll, more than half of Virginia’s registered voters approve of the overall job performance of Gov. Ralph Northam, and an even larger majority support his handling of the novel coronavirus pandemic. “Northam’s job approval rating of 56 percent is up from 49 percent about a year ago and from 43 percent in the wake of his blackface scandal in early 2019, “The Post said.

“His disapproval is also up, at 38 percent from 31 percent last year, with far fewer voters now expressing no opinion. But his ratings remain net positive by 18 percentage points.”

The Governor gets a drubbing on this blog, but not with people who really count, given their numbers.

Northam (D), a physician, gets 2-to-1 approval for his handling of the coronavirus outbreak, with 64 percent of registered voters approving and 32 percent disapproving.

“He seems to have really righted things,” said Mark Rozell, dean of the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University, who added that Northam overcame what seemed like early struggles to articulate his pandemic response messages.

Northam also benefits from comparisons with President Trump, whose overall job performance is rated negatively by a majority of Virginians in the poll.

“The notable contrast in leadership styles and approach between the Democratic governor of Virginia and the Republican administration in the White House worked hugely to the governor’s advantage here in public perceptions,” Rozell told The Post.

Priscilla Carr, 79, an African American and lifelong Democrat who lives in conservative Lynchburg, gives Northam high marks for his job performance generally and his handling of the pandemic in particular.

“So far Virginia’s doing pretty good, as far as the predicament that we’re in,” she said. She praised Northam’s decision to mandate masks in stores and other indoor public spaces as “very good.”

She thinks Trump, by contrast, has badly mishandled the crisis.

 “Oh, Trump doesn’t have an approach. He doesn’t have one,” she said. “He didn’t come out [of] the gate and recognize it for what it was. If he had done that, probably we wouldn’t be in this situation.”

Virginians remain deeply concerned about the coronavirus. Sixty-five percent of Virginia registered voters are “very” or “somewhat” worried about themselves or a family member contracting the disease, while 30 percent are less worried, and 5 percent say they or someone in their immediate family have already caught it, the Post said.

Anyway, I am having some software glitches so I though it might be fun to quote fellow BR bloggers who have a rather more negative opinion of Northam (and apparently, most Virginians) than I do. Let’s just say the Northam bashing stands in marked contrast to the result of the poll. No big surprise there, considering the fact that much of Bacon’s Rebellion resides in a different universe:

“Fact is, two developments in Virginia are so alarming that they scream out for comment.

The first, a story in The Richmond Times-Dispatch Tuesday, showed that a full 20% of Richmond public school kids are considered chronically truant. That is, they’ve already missed 10% of all virtual class time.”

“Finally.

A bill so boneheaded that even Gov. Ralph Northam couldn’t sign it.”

(Everything Northam, a medical doctor, does is boneheaded, you see.)

Here’s a another post:

Northam fiddles while Virginia burns. Ralph Northam has proven adept at governing through decree. He continues to punish small business owners by banning bar seating despite the fact that such seating is allowed in other states like Maryland with proper social distancing. Apparently Covid Virginius is a strain of the virus that specifically seeks out people sitting on barstools. Yet Northam’s fixation with the minutiae of where restaurant patrons sit is not matched by any sense whatsoever of resolving Virginia’s ridiculous, politically driven school reopening approach. Chesterfield will reopen while Henrico remains closed. Loudoun will reopen while Fairfax remains closed.

Back to reality. The Post story continues that: “Those concerns are similar to the country overall in a recent Post-ABC poll, which found 65 percent of voters were very or somewhat worried.

The issue is partisan, but only by degree. Democrats and independents are more likely than Republicans to say they are worried about contracting the coronavirus — 82% of Democrats, 65% of independents. But a slim majority of Republicans — 51% — are also worried they or someone in their household might get infected.

“Among registered voters, more women say they are worried about the disease than men, at 72 percent to 58 percent. And concern is highest in the most populous areas of the state, though even the region expressing relatively low concern — the Northern Virginia exurbs — is at 58 percent.

“While Virginia Republicans have made a case for reopening public schools for in-person classes around the state, the poll shows that most registered voters are not ready for that. Nearly 6 in 10 Virginia voters oppose requiring public schools to reopen for in-person classes five days a week, while 35 percent support mandating schools to reopen.

“Views are sharply partisan, with 85 percent of Democrats and 61 percent of independents opposing in-person school reopenings. By contrast, a 65 percent majority of Republicans support requiring all schools to reopen.

“Students at Highland View Elementary School in Bristol stay socially distant in September. Most registered voters say they’re not ready for schools to be reopened for in-person classes five days a week, according to the Post-Schar School poll. (David Crigger/AP)

“Opposition to reopening schools is highest in the more densely populated areas of the state, but a majority is against reopening in every region save one: In Southwestern Virginia, registered voters are roughly split, with 48 percent against and 44 percent in support of reopening schools.

“Overall, 63 percent of female registered voters and 55 percent of male voters oppose reopening schools.

“Just over half of Virginia voters (53 percent) say the state’s current coronavirus restrictions are “about right,” given the situation. A quarter feel the current restrictions are “not strict enough” and 21 percent find them “too strict.”

“Most Democrats and independents say current restrictions are “about right,” but 47 percent of Republicans say the restrictions are “too strict.” And while 38 percent of Republicans say the restrictions are “about right,” 35 percent of Democrats say they are “not strict enough.”

“Those feelings vary across the state’s regions in a way that tracks with overall concern about the coronavirus, with support for restrictions strongest in urban areas.

“Statewide, 36 percent of Virginia voters say people in their community are not taking social distancing and mask-wearing seriously enough, while just 8 percent say they are taking it too seriously and a 55 percent majority say they are “striking the right balance.”

“The governor has sought to chart a middle-of-the-road course that at times has been looser than what Republican Gov. Larry Hogan has implemented in neighboring Maryland. Northam was quicker to allow doctors to resume elective surgeries, for instance; Hogan initially closed nonessential retailers, while Northam let them remain open as long as they could observe social distancing.

Northam (D), a physician, gets 2-to-1 approval for his handling of the coronavirus outbreak, with 64 percent of registered voters approving and 32 percent disapproving.

Northam also benefits from comparisons with President Trump, whose overall job performance is rated negatively by a majority of Virginians in the poll.

Virginians remain deeply concerned about the coronavirus. Sixty-five percent of Virginia registered voters are “very” or “somewhat” worried about themselves or a family member contracting the disease, while 30 percent are less worried, and 5 percent say they or someone in their immediate family have already caught it.

Those concerns are similar to the country overall in a recent Post-ABC poll, which found 65 percent of voters were very or somewhat worried.

The issue is partisan, but only by degree. Democrats and independents are more likely than Republicans to say they are worried about contracting the coronavirus — 82 percent of Democrats, 65 percent of independents. But a slim majority of Republicans — 51 percent — are also worried they or someone in their household might get infected.

Among registered voters, more women say they are worried about the disease than men, at 72 percent to 58 percent. And concern is highest in the most populous areas of the state, though even the region expressing relatively low concern — the Northern Virginia exurbs — is at 58 percent.

While Virginia Republicans have made a case for reopening public schools for in-person classes around the state, the poll shows that most registered voters are not ready for that. Nearly 6 in 10 Virginia voters oppose requiring public schools to reopen for in-person classes five days a week, while 35 percent support mandating schools to reopen.

Views are sharply partisan, with 85 percent of Democrats and 61 percent of independents opposing in-person school reopenings. By contrast, a 65 percent majority of Republicans support requiring all schools to reopen.

Students at Highland View Elementary School in Bristol stay socially distant in September. Most registered voters say they’re not ready for schools to be reopened for in-person classes five days a week, according to the Post-Schar School poll. (David Crigger/AP)

Opposition to reopening schools is highest in the more densely populated areas of the state, but a majority is against reopening in every region save one: In Southwestern Virginia, registered voters are roughly split, with 48 percent against and 44 percent in support of reopening schools.

Overall, 63 percent of female registered voters and 55 percent of male voters oppose reopening schools.

Just over half of Virginia voters (53 percent) say the state’s current coronavirus restrictions are “about right,” given the situation. A quarter feel the current restrictions are “not strict enough” and 21 percent find them “too strict.”

Most Democrats and independents say current restrictions are “about right,” but 47 percent of Republicans say the restrictions are “too strict.” And while 38 percent of Republicans say the restrictions are “about right,” 35 percent of Democrats say they are “not strict enough.”

Those feelings vary across the state’s regions in a way that tracks with overall concern about the coronavirus, with support for restrictions strongest in urban areas.

Statewide, 36 percent of Virginia voters say people in their community are not taking social distancing and mask-wearing seriously enough, while just 8 percent say they are taking it too seriously and a 55 percent majority say they are “striking the right balance.”

The governor has sought to chart a middle-of-the-road course that at times has been looser than what Republican Gov. Larry Hogan has implemented in neighboring Maryland. Northam was quicker to allow doctors to resume elective surgeries, for instance; Hogan initially closed nonessential retailers, while Northam let them remain open as long as they could observe social distancing.

A sign announces a walk-up coronavirus testing site in Arlington in May. A Post-Schar poll found Virginians remain deeply concerned about the virus. (Salwan Georges/The Washington Post)

Gary McCoy is a Republican and Trump supporter who praised Northam’s approach to containing the virus.

“He was strict, yet not too strict. He was tough but didn’t go to extremes,” said McCoy, 65, a former dump truck driver who lives in Luray, just a mile down the road from the Shenandoah Valley’s famous caverns. “Social distancing and wearing a mask, too — I definitely believe in that. Northam — I think he’s done a good job.”

While McCoy’s a big fan of the president — “Donald Trump, I just love him,” he said — he thinks Trump did not realize the gravity of the threat at first. And he takes issue with Trump’s dismissive attitude toward face masks.

“That’s one thing where I disagree with Trump. I believe the mask is very important,” McCoy said. “As contagious as this stuff is, every time I get out of my car or go in a store, I put my mask on.”

The Post-Schar School poll found that while a 56 percent majority of Republicans disapprove of Northam’s handling of the outbreak, 38 percent approve of his efforts, which is much higher than the share who approve of his overall job as governor (21 percent).

In his overall job performance, Northam enjoys his highest support in the heavily Democratic D.C. suburbs, where 7 in 10 registered voters approve of the governor. Smaller majorities approve of Northam in the Tidewater region (62 percent), Richmond area (62 percent) and in the Northern Virginia exurbs (54 percent).

Northam is least popular in rural Southwest Virginia, where 43 percent approve and 52 percent disapprove.

Joann Cannoy, 77, who lives in Wytheville, is no fan of Northam, who she says hasn’t done enough to bring jobs to the area.

“He’s not too popular around here,” said Cannoy, a retired nursing assistant who also worked in a now-shuttered hosiery mill. “He needs to get these jobs going. The people who live in this area are working people. They don’t like handouts. They want to earn their own living.”

Cannoy, who has a pacemaker, said she is very wary of coronavirus and takes precautions whenever she goes out. She plans to vote for Trump, although he’s rarely worn a mask and holds large campaign rallies with no social distancing — missteps that she attributes to his newness to politics and the newness of the virus.

“Honey, that coronavirus — I don’t think anybody can do better than anyone has done,” she said. “The virus is not his fault. … I think the scientists are really trying hard to get a vaccine and I think they’re doing more than they’ve ever done with any other disease. But it’s just taken a while. It’s not something you snap your fingers and do.”

With six grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren, Cannoy also disagrees with Trump’s push to reopen schools.

“I do not want them in school, not even with masks on,” she said. “If we lose one child, that’s one too many.”

The governor is particularly strong among Black registered voters, with 79 percent approving of his performance, compared with 49 percent of White registered voters. Black Virginians continued to support Northam after a racist photo came to light from his 1984 medical school yearbook page early last year. It depicted one person in blackface and another in Klan robes, and while Northam initially apologized for the image, he later disavowed it and pledged to devote the rest of his term to fighting racial inequity.

Most Democratic leaders at the time called for his resignation, but a Post-Schar poll in February 2019 found 57 percent of Virginia Democrats and 58 percent of African Americans said he should not step down, with most saying they accepted his apology. Today, a large majority of Democrats, 85 percent, approve of Northam’s performance as governor.

Jamil Malone, a Black Democrat from Newport News, said he doesn’t hold the yearbook episode against Northam, who he thinks is doing better job of managing the pandemic than other governors and the president.

“You know, is it something I’m happy about? No,” said Malone, a 29-year-old computer coder. “I do know when people are younger, they make a lot of mistakes.”

Independents are less happy with Northam than Democrats, with 59 percent approving of his performance. There is also a large educational divide among White voters, with 62 percent of those with four-year college degrees approving of Northam, compared with 39 percent of those with some college or less who approve of the governor.

The Post-Schar School poll was conducted Oct. 13 to 19 among a random sample of 1,001 registered voters in Virginia, including 908 likely voters. The error margin among registered voters is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, and among likely voters it is four points. Overall, 71 percent of respondents were reached on cellphones and 29 percent on landlines

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30 responses to “Why We Love Governor Ralph

  1. Wow. More than 2800 words. At least put a page break in, Peter, so the stories downstream are not completely buried. If I use my status as an editor to change any of this, Peter will totally howl….

    I think I’m one of the few who has been saying consistently that Northam has tried to find a middle path, and our economy has not been as shuttered as in some other states. In this case his medical background and perhaps some of the people he is listening to have served us well. He has also charted a middle (and somewhat CYA) course on the schools, not pushing either way. Count me among those who give him higher marks in this instance than overall. But then we once were fairly friendly (perhaps he just liked the shipyard and not me.)

  2. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    Very interesting poll Mr. Peter. I enjoyed looking over that. The Post should have shown the geographic numbers for the sample. Approval of Mr. Northam depends on where you live. I suspect along the I-95 to I-64 Mr. Northam is in good standing. Anywhere else you find a different story. Fauquier Now did a poll back in May. Unscientific with one question. How do you grade Mr. Northam in response to the pandemic. 4,467 respondents. 3,323 graded Mr. Northam with an “F”.
    https://www.fauquiernow.com/fauquier_opinions/question/fauquier-how-do-you-grade-gov-ralph-northams-response-to-the-covid-19-pandemic-2020

  3. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    Fauquier Now polled on March 23rd, “Do you agree with the governor’s decision to close all schools for the semester?” 570 responded. 321 said yes. I wonder what that poll would reveal if asked right now?
    https://www.fauquiernow.com/fauquier_opinions/question/fauquier-do-you-agree-with-the-governors-decision-to-close-all-virginia-schools-for-the-semester-2020

  4. Peter, you routinely criticize BR and its bloggers, yet your pieces continue to be cheerfully posted.

    That’s a good thing, but I’m not sure there’s a reciprocal attitude in other outlets.

  5. What should be included in a poll is whether the individual questioned has school-age children in the home. While both groups would certainly be split, I think you’d find much stronger support from parents and guardians of school-age kids to open the schools at least part time.

    Since my kids are grown, it doesn’t directly affect me to keep the schools closed. But my wife and I imagine an absolute nightmare if my son was in school based on things I’ve learned. My daughter, not so much of a problem. Learning levels have decreased significantly and many students are dealing with increased emotional stress because of isolation and sitting in front of computer screens for 6-7 hours a day.

    And then there is those classes where hands-on participation is needed. Courses that need experiments in the lab or kids studying vocational subjects, such as auto mechanics, welding and the like.

    It would inform the debate if this information was available.

  6. Steve, I will do the line break next time. I used to be able to post art but somehow much current computer won’t let me.

    Willvi,
    I am criticizing ideas not really individuals. Been doing so for years. Plenty weigh in on my. I don’t think there is some kind of loyalty test to participate.

  7. Are there Cliff Notes available to summarize this magnus opus?

  8. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    I like Virginia’s one term governor law. I hope that never changes. I can’t recall a governor in my adult life I wanted to see for another 4 years. But if Virginia was a two term state, would voters reelect Northam next year? That would be the ultimate poll question.

  9. I have no doubt that the Post’s poll is broadly accurate in gauging the sentiments of Virginians. I don’t think Northam has covered himself with glory in his dealing with the COVID epidemic, but he has walked back a lot of his worst decisions, which does show some flexibility in thinking, and he has avoided making any spectacularly awful decisions. He is cautious by nature, and that caution has kept him from engaging in overreach. In comparison to other states, Virginia’s numbers are pretty good.

    One of the goals of the media is to raise issues and ask tough questions. That’s what Bacon’s Rebellion has done throughout the COVID-19 controversy in Virginia. Yes, we’ve been critical of Northam and the Virginia Department of Health — and I think most of our criticism has been fair. When it comes to the national media and President Trump, Peter is all in favor of the press speaking truth to power. But when Bacon’s Rebellion speaks truth to power here in Virginia, Peter suddenly goes all squishy. We’re terrible people for criticizing the Democratic governor!

    If Virginians are sanguine about other aspects of Northam’s tenure as governor, it’s simply because the media has failed (or refused) to cover his top-down force-feeding of Critical Race Theory in Virginia’s public school system. The only coverage has been of local controversies like the Thomas Jefferson High School in Fairfax County enrolling too many Asians. No one but Bacon’s Rebellion has addressed the broader picture. Virginia is undergoing the greatest revolution in its education system since de-segregation and the media is AWOL. No wonder the public thinks well of Northam.

    Northam has embraced Critical Race Theory in atonement for his blackface sins. Perhaps the Washington Post should poll the electorate to ask how many people accept the CRT tenets of white fragility, white guilt, and systemic racism. If Virginians were well informed about what was happening in their state, they might not be quite so satisfied with Northam’s performance.

  10. Good Post Peter! One of the longer ones I’ve seen from you and I suspect DEEPLY disturbing to many BR anti-govt anti-Northam types stalwarts! Steve might have made this into multiple posts!

    I’m sure someone is going to weigh in and say that the poll is biased because.. the “anti” folks had their free speech suppresed or some such.

    And LOOK – they showed their polling methodology – unlike some “polls” being touted these days in BR… what a novel concept!

    😉

    I assume a “randomized sample of Virginians” does include ALL of Virginia geographically but it would be interesting to see a regional breakdown.

  11. Larry. Not really my work. Most of it is cut and paste from WaPo.
    Nathan, I see no reason you can’t contribute at bold dominion. They have sever podcasts. I will ask.

    • Very kind of you, but I was thinking more along the lines of James Bacon or Steve Haner if they were interested. Either of them would bring much more clout.

      I wouldn’t expect them to invite just random people.

  12. Jim. We have a pandemonium c, a huge race problem, a ranking economy and a dangerous,unhinged President. I just buy into the critical race movement. Campus liberalism was 50 or 60 years ago and one of my deans told be to really party check the 1920. On the Cape Henry kerfluffle, I think the faculty was right in the first place. I went to a private, religious high school. If I had spouted what that buy did, the Jesuits would have straightened me out chop,chop. They wouldn’t give a damn. They are there to instill values. You can imagine the turmoil there when Kavanaugh, an accused rapist, was nominated to SCOTUS. Imagine what side I was on.

    • Peter states we have a huge race problem. The problem we have is one political party gets nearly 100% of a certain race’s votes, so has a vested interest in pandering to those votes as well as continuing to inflame racial tensions so that they might retain those votes.

      He also likes to sully Kavanaughs reputation with the accused rapist label. What if I right now accused you of raping me? Would we forevermore refer to you as the accused rapist Peter? My accusation would be about as accurate as Christine Fords. That’s is to say completely fabricated and politically motivated.

    • You should not call the Jesuits as witnesses. The Jesuits would have both thrown you out of school and had you ex-communicated for the “muddled interview about late term abortion” comment, and we both know it.

  13. Kavanaugh’s issue , right or wrong, came before the public as it should have. And no, I have never had sex with you but I did have a fun evening with Ayn Rand.

  14. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    446 more days of loving Ralph Northam. I love countdowns!
    https://days.to/13-january/2022

  15. Peter, re: “muddled interview about late term abortion”.

    You call, as the Governor described it, setting a living baby “aside to see what the parents want to do with it” (Governor) “late term abortion” (Peter)?

    How about 18 months old? 3 years? Do you have a cutoff? If so what is it?

    You didn’t need to go there to make your point here. I am really disappointed in you.

  16. I doubt I would have been thrown out of anywhere. It is a little more complicated. I will have to listen to Northam’s radio again but I do not recall him saying, “the baby’s going to die.” The issue is what are the chances of living? If they are there, try living as long as possible. At least my view. Parents have a say. But this is really tough stuff. Please do n’t prejudge next. You don’t know me.

  17. Peter:

    I appreciate you quoting one of my comments about Ralph Northam in your article. I stand by the points I made. If Trump bumbled a national response to the coronavirus then Northam has bumbled a statewide response to reopening public schools in the face of COVID.

    Your quotes about the percentage of parents who favor or oppose 5 day a week in-person schooling seem designed to obfuscate the questions around hybrid in-person schooling. Five day a week in person schooling is not the only option. Additionally, the question should have included the option for parents to let their children remain as virtual learners even as other children returned to school for in-person education. That was the actual proposal put forth in Fairfax County – 60% of the parents, asked specifically about their children, favored having their kids return to school for hybrid in-person education.

    Finally, almost all American governors are receiving favorable reviews. Nationwide polls showed sky high support for governors in the Spring, a sharp drop in July when the second outbreak occurred and generally favorable results today. As cases surge in Europe (probably Trump’s fault) and lockdowns are imposed in Wales, Ireland, Paris, etc it seems likely that a resurgence will occur in the US as well. We’ll see how old Ralph fares when the second (or is it third?) wave comes to Virginia.

    https://news.gallup.com/poll/320147/governors-cdc-trump-stack-covid.aspx

  18. The bad news for Northam is that Peter has something of a track record of declaring victory on the eve of failure. Who can forget his post about the undeniable successes of Obama’s foreign policy. Its publication came almost to the day that the Obama – Clinton foreign policy imploded, especially in the Middle East. Those failures haunt us to this day.

    https://www.baconsrebellion.com/wp/obamas-undeniable-foreign-policy-successes/

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