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Fix Poll: The most underrated Governor in the country

Given the enormous outpouring of interest over our last two Fix Polls about the most underrated (Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island) and overrated (John McCain of Arizona) Senators, we thought we would do a variation on that theme for today's survey.

Governors continue to have a major impact on the national political landscape -- from those seeking higher office (Florida's Charlie Crist and, potentially, North Dakota's John Hoeven) to those rumored to have an eye on the presidency (Louisiana's Bobby Jindal, Montana's Brian Schweitzer).

Aside from that handful of high-profile governors, most of the nation's 50 chief executives toil in semi or total obscurity -- far from the bright lights of the Beltway.

So, who among them deserves the honorific as the Fix's most underrated governor in the country? Six of the names we hear most from political operatives as perennially underrated pols are included in the poll below. If you have suggestions of people not included in our poll, add them in the comments section.

Let's poll!

By Chris Cillizza  |  October 21, 2009; 3:30 PM ET
Categories:  Fix Poll  
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Next: Morning Fix: The Top 10


Jim Doyle of Wisconsin should be on the list. Unseated a sitting governor; reduced the state deficit while honoring a campaign pledge not to raise taxes; has pushed for more funding for education, welfare and infrastructure; a Dem who has taken on unions to help keep state spending in line. Practical, effective, competent. Also popular -- would get re-elected in a walk if he ran for another term.

A side note -- Jennifer Granholm? Yes, most problems she didn't create, and there wasn't much she could do to reverse huge economic and industrial trends, but just because you feel sympathy for her doesn't mean she's underrated. Michigan leaders were on notice in the 1980s that they were on an unsustainable path, and they doubled-down on the status quo. She knew all that and she still wanted the job of closing the barn door after the horses had left the stable, the stable had burned to the ground, and the entire farm was demolished in a tornado. If you want to vote her "Most Screwed Governor from Day One" you've got my vote, but not "Most Underrated."

Posted by: Axisofstupidity1 | October 22, 2009 3:37 PM | Report abuse

I agree with wyobos about Gov. Freudenthal of Wyoming.

I would also add Gov. Jim Douglas of Vermont. A low-key guy who has quietly done a lot of good policy work over his time in office.

Those are my D and R picks, respectively, for underrated govs.

Posted by: gmart68b | October 22, 2009 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Governor Jack Markell of Delaware took over this year from a dysfunctional regime who left him a gigantic deficit which he had to balance, and many state agencies that were not performing well. In a matter of months he balanced the budget by cutting costs with only modest increases in revenue from taxpayers. He has injected a new spirit of service into the state agencies, which is already being noticed in terms of leadership on issues that concern Delawareans. He is focused on small businesses as well as attracting business to our state. Overall, he is a listener and a doer. Since we are a small state, Governor Markell is under the radar, therefore underrated nationally, but well appreciated here and deserving of recognition for his accomplishments.

Posted by: phood2 | October 22, 2009 1:03 PM | Report abuse

I also suggest Jennifer Granholm as being most underrated.I doubt if there has ever been a governor who inherited as many problems as she. The tax base was destroyed by the former governor, the auto industry was in the process of moving most production out of the country which affected almost every other business in Michigan. She did her best to protect the poorest of the poor, education and traveled anywhere she thought there was a chance of attaining new businesses to the state. She has taken undeserved critisism from all sides when any cuts were unavoidable.I, for one appreciate how hard she has worked to mitigate the harm that could have been done to the state.

Posted by: snobirdm | October 22, 2009 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Alabama's Bob Riley (R) has maintained a careful, low-profile in the midst of "angry white male" ranting in his state. That takes courage, or maybe its because he cannot run again. No matter who wins in 2010, the Governor's race in the Nation's self-proclaimed "most conservative voter state" will be historic and will involve much more ranting, especially as "the Governor's race" takes on a whole new meaning for Alabama voters. Riley will play it cool. Definitely Underated, but not for the same reasons as Barbour.

Posted by: aero66 | October 22, 2009 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Maybe Ted Strickland is the truly most underrated Governor. He is dealing with a totally wrecked budget in a way that makes the Republicans in the Legislature actually take responsibility for the mess they made, instead of doing it the old fashioned, (Gilligan) way and committing political suicide by doing the right thing and "enhancing revenues".

Of course the only thing the republicans have agreed on so far is to let Casinos into the state on the hopes that those casinos will somehow save the budget, and those hopes depend on a pro casino issue passing in November, historically a bad bet. When all that casino money doesn't materialize, it is back in the laps of the republicans to fund the state, and that will take down lots of the John Husteds of the party who have learned only one or two English phrases in their lifetime, "Taxes Bad!" and "Gubbermen Bad" but we all gotta make sacrifices.

Posted by: ceflynline | October 22, 2009 10:45 AM | Report abuse

John Hoeven is an excellent choice. When Republicans consider their future, they should look to him as an example: a pro-business, social moderate who focuses on keeping taxes low and spending within one's means. Even though economic factors outside his control and influence have greatly affected North Dakota's success, his stable leadership has undoubtedly helped the state prosper while others falter.

Posted by: sefo21 | October 22, 2009 9:16 AM | Report abuse

John Hoeven is an excellent choice. When Republicans consider their future, they should look to him as an example: a pro-business, social moderate who focuses on keeping taxes low and spending within one's means. Even though economic factors outside his control and influence have greatly affected North Dakota's success, his stable leadership has undoubtedly helped the state prosper while others falter.

Posted by: sefo21 | October 22, 2009 9:16 AM | Report abuse

John Lynch.. New Hampshire.

He's taken over the mess of former one termer Benson and done an excellent job.. he'll stand up for what he believes in.

Posted by: tru-indy | October 22, 2009 8:45 AM | Report abuse

Markell, Beebe, and Hoeven are less well known than Bredeson or especially Barbour. This is not a criticism of the latter two, but they are not 'underrated'.

Posted by: MoreAndBetterPolls | October 22, 2009 6:14 AM | Report abuse

Dave Freudenthal of Wyoming. Smart guy who doesn't look for the limelight. Knows energy as well as just about anyone in the country.

Posted by: wyobos | October 22, 2009 5:38 AM | Report abuse

Obama's townhall in New Orleans. Give yourself an hour.

Posted by: DDAWD | October 22, 2009 12:20 AM | Report abuse

Linda Lingle in Hawaii has deftly managed an enormous budget crisis and other dilemmas and accomplished quite a bit despite a petty, overwhelmingly opposition legislature and overly powerful public employee labor unions.

Posted by: FredSmiley | October 22, 2009 12:11 AM | Report abuse

I know this will be laughed at- but my governor, David Patterson, is doing a really good job making tough choices and is getting universally slammed for it- particularly for not allowing a no-nothing to be senator here just on family name. I think he is doing a good job considering the situation (he took over from a fallen governor the month before a local company, Bear Stearns, started the sequence that took down the local, national and eventually international economy.

Posted by: NYClefty | October 21, 2009 10:27 PM | Report abuse

Bredesen is underrated as Joseph Stalin was
at some point. His image outside of Tennessee is the best that money can buy. All the "vetting" that appeared to be going
on around him was pure "Bredesen". He has few close political friends. He is one of the most ruthless men in recent history in
TN. Not only did he plan and order the
implementation of the ongoing genocide of
nearly 4,000 poor,disabled,sick,and now
children, he attacked and destroyed any
advocacy agency, advocate, and politician
that tried to intervene. Political and
professional careers of many have been
destroyed. The only way he may be held
accountable would be a Justice Department
investigation and or the Civil Rights and
RICO litigation(it's public record)working its way throughthe courts at this time. He knows little about healthcare,ethics,businss,etc. The
political arena he knows best is the "pay
to play" and as to business skills, he
has a very keen sense of smell for blood.

Posted by: scottishksd | October 21, 2009 7:38 PM | Report abuse

13 dems bail on dingy Harry. That is some lib leadership.

Posted by: snowbama | October 21, 2009 6:58 PM | Report abuse

It is hard to underrate Haley Barbour.

Anyone who says Crist is overrated is announcing that he is a member of the KNRW (know nothing right wing). Crist is no better or worse than his predecessor Jeb Bush.

Posted by: Gator-ron | October 21, 2009 6:03 PM | Report abuse

Haley Barbour is frequently mentioned by the Washington Press corps so he doesn't really merit being considered "underrated". The same with Mitch Daniels. However, John Lynch, Bob Riley and Martin O'Malley are probably merit being considered underrated.

Posted by: WGladstone | October 21, 2009 6:02 PM | Report abuse

CC, Alabama's Bob Riley should be up for consideration. Low unemployment (thanks to strong recruiting of foreign auto makers, German steel maker TheissenKrupp, etc).

Posted by: geeopjon | October 21, 2009 5:49 PM | Report abuse

Barbour gets lots of publicity so I don't see how he is underrated. That doesn't mean he is not a solid Governor, just that with as much attention as he receives, it is difficult to view him as underrated. I also expected to see Daniels---widely considered the most effective Republican Governor, on this list. Bredesen has a strong reputation and Markell is a real comer.

Posted by: OHIOCITIZEN | October 21, 2009 5:39 PM | Report abuse

North Dakota has the strongest economy of any state, and it didn't have to be that way. Not every state could replicate this success, but Hoeven deserves a lot of the credit here.

Posted by: jhz2 | October 21, 2009 5:30 PM | Report abuse

Glad to see that Charlie Crist isn't considered underrated. I'll bet he sweeps the poll for the most overrated Governor in the US. Crsit is waaaaayyy overrated.

Posted by: Artist4 | October 21, 2009 5:25 PM | Report abuse

Phil Bredesen should not be on this list. He systematically dismantled a state plan to insure the uninsurable that was working despite his whining about the cost, threw millions of us off, then reinstated it with what was essentially an HMO with unaffordable premiums, pre-existing condition clauses that prevented others from getting care they needed, and now has pushed others off onto Medicare B--all because his plan proved unpopular. If he were in the House or Senate, he'd be a Blue Dog, if not a DINO. He has an adding machine where his heart should be. He's not underrated; he's unfit to serve.

Posted by: ktartiste | October 21, 2009 5:21 PM | Report abuse

Um, guys? Underrated means someone who's doing a good job but not getting credit for it. Mitch Daniels is a great governor, but everyone knows it, so he's not underrated. Unless you feel he should be made President by acclamation or something like that.

Posted by: mikenmidland | October 21, 2009 5:17 PM | Report abuse

Where's Arnold Shriver?

Posted by: newbeeboy | October 21, 2009 4:57 PM | Report abuse

I'll vote for Barbour for Most Overrated.

Posted by: bpai_99 | October 21, 2009 4:54 PM | Report abuse

Mitch Daniels. Look at the facts. A state in the black and declining unemployment #'s. Rare, for sure.

Posted by: chrisj2009 | October 21, 2009 4:29 PM | Report abuse

John Lynch from NH, should definitely be up there, for underrated governors.

Posted by: jtackeff | October 21, 2009 4:26 PM | Report abuse

Heineman is hardly the most underrated Gov in the country. If anything, quite the opposite. Good politician, terrible governor. Take it from a Nebraskan.

Posted by: huskerindependent | October 21, 2009 4:15 PM | Report abuse

I agree that Mitch Daniels should be on the list.

Posted by: traveler47 | October 21, 2009 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Jennifer Granholm. Seriously, she inherited a disfunctional government and a budget full of tricky accounting. She has had to deal with an opposition legislature for 7 years, and the failing auto industry.

She has led a vigorous effort to bring new industry and green jobs to Michigan, which has started to bear fruit. Unfortunately the auto losses have swamped the gains.

Posted by: mikenmidland | October 21, 2009 4:06 PM | Report abuse

Mitch Daniels really should be in there.

Posted by: kansaskid08 | October 21, 2009 3:52 PM | Report abuse

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