While we’re waiting for Iowa caucus results, let’s talk about governors

Just went off on a Twitter ramble, so thought perhaps this should be kept for the record.

Governors tend to do better in presidential elections than holders of other offices. Prior to President Obama, four of our past five presidents have been former governors (and the other was a former vice president).

Yet, for all the riches this race has in (or previously in) the governor’s mansion, they’ve all done terribly. On the Republican side, you have Christie, Kasich, Walker, Bush, Perry, Gilmore, Huckabee, Jindal and Pataki. They basically have combined for a fifth place at best, depending on which debate happened most recently. On the Democratic side, you have O’Malley (the other real story is how he never caught fire) and Chafee, and while I can’t tell why Block O’Granite decided to run, they have combined for a total of nothing.

Yet, four of the five realistic potential major party nominees are senators or former senators. In 2008, we noticed a race in which no matter who won, he would be the first senator elected president since John F. Kennedy. That was weird!

And yet, nobody is noticing it happening again. Have we reached a weird change in our politics where the office most likely to get you elected president changed? In the early days of our republic, that office was secretary of state; that hasn’t happened basically since then. But the 20th century was punctuated by the gospel that governors make great presidents, even if you can’t see Russia from your house. Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush: it seemed like a streak that wouldn’t end and a tradition that would settle for another century.

It could be that governors are no longer cromulent candidates. That’s a huge story. Nobody except us has said it yet.

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