Tom Vilsack clearly isn't having a very good week, and even before this his home state poll numbers left something to be desired. When we polled Iowa in late May only 37% of voters in the state said they had a favorable opinion of Vilsack while 36% rated him unfavorably, and just four years out of office 27% said they had no opinion- a good reminder of how quickly politicians can be forgotten or at least become points of ambivalence.
At that point Democrats saw Vilsack favorably by a 63/16 margin, Republicans rated him unfavorably 13/57, and independents were pretty evenly divided but slightly positive 36/34.
Vilsack's less than impressive numbers on the home front could speak to a broader problem for Obama appointees who may some day want to run for office again. Our last Arizona poll found Janet Napolitano's favorability at 41/48. You could write that off as a product of bad press for Homeland Security following the Christmas Day incident in Detroit, but even before that last September we had her at an almost equally bad 44/47.
Both those sets of numbers were quite a drop from August of 2008 when we found her approval rating with Arizona voters at 54% with only 37% disapproving of her. A deeper look at Napolitano's numbers is interesting. Her favorability with Democrats now is 78%, just as her approval was two years ago. But her association with the Obama administration has turned her numbers with independents from a positive 59/31 to a negative 39/45. And her one time 32% approval with Republicans is now just 15% favorability.
Serving in Obama's cabinet has not done much for Vilsack or Napolitano's popularity back home, and that could be a problem for either of them in a potential future Senate campaign. Of course that's just based on where Obama is now and by the time they get around to running for something again their service in his administration could be an asset rather than a liability. I'd be interested to see where other former electeds in the administration like Kathleen Sebelius, Ken Salazar, and Gary Locke are in their home states as well.