Watch the Governors

November 19, 2012 - 5:25 AM

We know Romney was too conservative in the primaries and too moderate in the general.

We know Romney didn't run enough ads in the Spring then ran too many ads in the Fall.

We know Republicans depended too much on their turnout operation and too little on messaging.

We know Republicans depended too much on messaging and too little on their turnout operation.

We know the GOP and the Super PACs were too focused on fundraising and we know the Obama campaign raised more than enough money.

We know … well, you know what we know.

We know Republicans lost the Presidency and did significantly worse in the U.S. Senate than anyone might have believed.

But we also know that Republicans held their own in the U.S. House (losing only single-digit seats in the face of a really bad night); and actually gained a governor to make the current total of Republican Governors a 30 out of the 50 available.

It is governors' mansions, not the floor of the U.S. Senate, that tends to produce high-end presidential candidates. In addition to Chris Christie and Bobby Jindal there is a really good bench of very talented men and women who should be looking at the 2016 campaign.

As the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza pointed out over the weekend

"Remember that when the Democratic Party found itself in the political wilderness after the 1988 election, it turned to its governors - including the boy wonder from Arkansas - for ideas on how to remake itself. And we know how that turned out."

Governors are executives. Senators are legislators. Governors have to keep their states running. Senators have to negotiate semi-colons in legislation.

As I have said many times, no Governor in the history of Governors has ever gone to the person running the Department of Motor Vehicles in their state and said:

"I understand we've been handing license plates out the long way to customers at the DMV office. I think we should hand them out with the wide side facing out. Don't you?"

That is, effectively, what Senators and Congressmen do all day, every day.

President Obama didn't fall into the Senatorial trap because he wasn't there often enough, or long enough, to learn the bad habits.

In a complex system like a major Presidential campaign the ability to allow the department heads to do their jobs without tinkering all day, every day is a huge advantage.

Ask anyone who has worked for a Senator.

Secondly, Senators have to vote on things all the time. They have to question witnesses at hearings. They have to introduce legislation and amendments, and speak for or against Federal judges, Ambassadors, and senior Executive Branch officials who are subject to the confirmation process.

Governors don't do any of those things.

Governors propose legislation and then either sign the work product of the state legislature or veto it.

Governors, like the President, can pretty much meet with constituents, supporters, and/or interest groups, make a speech or two, open a senior citizen center, meet with his or her department heads to make sure he or she knows what's going on in the state and call it a week.

Senators may have decades of speeches, votes, and constituent communications as well as hallway gossip from rivals inside and outside their party; and on both sides of the Capitol Building as fodder for a battalion of opposition researchers to use in helping make 30 second attack ads.

Some Governors are, like Arizona's Jan Brewer, activist on controversial issues, and some like Chris Christie, have a knack for getting on camera. Governors have rivals, but their researchable records tend to be thinner than Members of the U.S House and Senate.

That is, unless they have, like Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco after Katrina allowed an entire city to be washed away; or like South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford have to admit to having run away from home to have a tryst with a woman from Argentina - IN Argentina.

As Texas Governor Rick Perry taught them, if they want to be taken seriously as a Presidential candidate they have to know a lot about what is going on in the rest of the nation and the rest of the world so look for potential candidates to hire experts on energy, foreign affairs, agriculture, fiscal and monetary, and especially issues that are not particularly important to their state.

Governors have the responsibility of watching over the health, safety and welfare of every citizen in his or her state. They're used to the whole "buck stops here" thing.

The early line on who will run in the Republican and Democrat primaries for President in 2016 will be heavily weighted toward Senators and Congressmen. Why? Because they work in Washington, DC as to the national political reporters who make up the early lists.

But, if you want to beat the odds, pick a Governor.

On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to the Chris Cillizza column and to the list of current U.S. Governors. Also a pretty interesting Mullfoto showing why live in a big city can be so, so confusing.