For '08, What About the Governors?

Monday, December 18, 2006

For '08, What About the Governors?

So far, this is what the Democratic presidential field looks like for the 2008 presidential primaries:
Declared candidates: Tom Vilsack and Dennis Kucinich

Likely candidates: Hillary Clinton and John Edwards

Potential candidates: Barack Obama, Joe Biden, John Kerry, Wesley Clark, Russ Feingold, Bill Richardson and Christopher Dodd
On Saturday, Evan Bayh declared he would not run. There may be other Democrats out there weighing their options, but this is my best take on the field of candidates at this moment.

Notice anything strange?

Out of the 11 candidates who have announced or may yet announce, only two of them (Vilsack and Richardson) are governors.

In the past 35 years, only two Democrats have been elected president. Both of them, Carter and Clinton, were governors — either sitting governors or governors who had just concluded their term in office.

There's a reason for this success. Unlike congressmen or senators, governors don't produce a long list of recorded votes — including procedural votes — that are easy for political opponents to cherry-pick, attack and misrepresent. On the surface, this would seem to speak well of Vilsack. But I'm not impressed by him. He might be a potential veep candidate, but he lacks the charisma to be at the top of the ticket.

Any other Democratic governors who are presidential timber?

Other than Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, the pickings are damn slim.

Former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner has already declared he is not going to run.

Gov. Sebelius of Kansas is one of the Democratic Party's rising stars, but she doesn't appear to have national ambitions — at least not now.

Gov. Napolitano of Arizona won a resounding re-election this November, but an unmarried woman with a five-syllable surname probably would face an uphill battle. She has already been the subject of rumors that she is a closeted lesbian.

Gov. Schweitzer of Montana is well-liked, and there's even a blog promoting his (presumed) presidential candidacy. Yet Schweitzer would have to abandon the governor's mansion in Helena (he's up in 2008) in order to make a run for the White House. There's no sign that Schweitzer wants to be president badly enough to raise the kind of money that is needed. But he definitely belongs on the list of potential No. 2's on the ticket.

Gov. Rendell of Pennsylvania will probably be on everyone's vice-presidential list, but there are rumors that he's reluctant to run (and that he may have a few skeletons in his closet). On the one hand, Rendell won re-election with an impressive 60% of the vote. On the other hand, his GOP opponent ran perhaps the worst gubernatorial campaign in the country.

West Virginia Gov. Manchin is very popular in his state and could probably pull this swing state over to the Dems if he were chosen as the V.P. candidate, but Manchin is not at all interested in the top job.

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