Governors to voters: The state of our nation is bleak, except under me

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, cast his state as the place “where woke goes to die,” to which Murphy, in his State of the State address, responded, “I’m not even sure I know what that means.”

It’s not just the nation’s highest-profile chief executives getting in on the crowing, either. It may be news to most, but Jim Justice, the Republican governor of West Virginia, is aware of “jealousy” about his state, “because now, all of a sudden, we’re the diamond in the rough that they missed.”

“We’re in a never-before-seen era of contrast between red and blue states,” said Rob Stutzman, a Republican strategist. “What state you live in has become a subtext for what your politics must be, and I don’t think that was ever really true until the last six years or so.”

Covid, he said, “has thrown an accelerant on the way governors have presented their states. It became more a point of contrast – open or closed, mandate or no mandate, pro-vaccine or vaccine skeptic. There were very few governors who played it down the middle.”

The governors’ addresses have not been without some introspection about what could improve within their geographic boundaries. In Indiana, Gov. Eric Holcomb, a Republican, pointed last week to the relatively high rates of smoking and obesity in his state, where “our life expectancy in Indiana has declined in recent years.” In Arizona, Katie Hobbs, the newly-elected Democratic governor, warned of “potential catastrophe that will happen in just a few months” if lawmakers do not address an education funding cap, while noting the state is facing a “drought unlike anything in modern times.”

In New York, Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul, after a closer-than-expected election, warned that inflation was harming Empire Staters. “And on top of that,” she added, “how do you pay the monthly rent, or the mortgage? It’s just so overwhelming for our families.”