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All Politics is… National?

Election time is coming up once again. While I’d love to dive into the horserace predictions and party strategy, you can get all of that at FiveThirtyEight. Instead, I’d like to highlight a little thought you might want to take with you into some of the smaller statewide elections that go on. The most attention, of course, gets paid to the presidential election, followed by that of the Senate and House. But there’s a pretty compelling reason you should think about your state’s gubernatorial election, and not just because it will directly impact your state, or because “gubernatorial” sounds like someone tried to make a five-year-old’s utterance sound intellectual.

The reason is simply that governors = future presidential candidates.

Presidents Reagan, Clinton, and Bush Jr.

Our three most recent governors-turned presidents.

It’s not just that governors like running for president, but we also like electing them. Governors seem like mini-presidents for their states, and people connect with the executive confidence that all of that entails (especially as opposed to Senators, who are seen as much better at talking/arguing than managing/leading). Vice presidents tend to be the only other contenders that can regularly steal the stage from governors when it comes to running for president, but it’s no surprise that after 4-8 years of being ready to step in, people see them as qualified for the position.

Still, my point about governors is not just anecdotal. Over the course of the past 20 presidents we’ve had before Obama, spanning 116 years, we’ve only spent about 42 of those years under presidents who had not been governors previously. Interestingly, of all the gubernatorially-deficient presidents during that time, only Eisenhower served a full two terms.

So next time you go into the voting booth to vote for your state’s governor, or your party’s nominee for governor, just keep in the back of your head that you may very well also be influencing the future batch of presidential nominees. And remember – those governor-turned presidents tend to stick around longer than their counterparts, so choose wisely.

  1. Jameela
    September 24th, 2010 at 21:15 | #1

    so i just moved to mass and i know NOTHING about their politics…got any information???? haha

    i’m just lazy and dont feel like looking up anything right now haha

  2. David Brisson
    September 25th, 2010 at 17:14 | #2

    @Jameela
    Well, in a nutshell, your new governor is Democrat Deval Patrick – he’s a longtime friend of Obama’s and Massachusetts’ first African American governor. He’s up for reelection in November, running against Charlie Baker (GOP) and Tim Cahill (Ind). Patrick has held a very small, but consistent, lead over Baker so far.

    Patrick has had some controversies in the past over personal spending of gov’t money and conflict of interest hiring, but he has reimbursed the money/cut off the ties in the major cases and appears to have made sincere apologies.

    Baker, his Republican opponent, is socially liberal (in favor of gay marriage and abortion rights), but major points of contention exist over the Cape Wind project for the nation’s first wind farm off of Cape Cod (Patrick supports, Baker against), and health care (Baker spent ten years as CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, so he obviously has some well-formed opinions).

    I imagine you’re not registered to vote there if you just moved, but good to be in the know!

  3. Jameela
    September 25th, 2010 at 23:58 | #3

    Thanks David!!!!!! i knew i could count on you :)

    of course they’re already running ads for the election, so i’ve at least heard the names you just mentioned :) And Baker definitely has been playing up his socially liberal side in his commercials.

    nope, i’m not registered yet but i hope to be soon so i can vote in nov!!! i hope you’re coming to visit me in boston soooooooon

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