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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Governors v. Incumbent Presidents

Previous posts have dealt with Newt Gingrich, who hopes to defeat President Obama next year. Professor Saladin Ambar of Lehigh University makes an important point about challengers to incumbent presidents:

Having never been a governor, Gingrich would have to become the first candidate without executive government experience to unseat a sitting president since Benjamin Harrison. And even before Harrison, who defeated President Grover Cleveland in 1888, every other candidate who beat a president had some form of gubernatorial experience.

For those seeking to counter the advantages of presidential incumbency, an outsider's pedigree coupled with an executive background has been close to indispensable. And Gingrich has neither.

A new Associated Press-GfK poll found that what little strong feelings Republican voters had for the current candidates were reserved for former Govs. Huckabee, Sarah Palin, and Mitt Romney. Romney's entry, however, was met with a chorus of groans from conservatives: He'll have a hard time selling himself to a crowd that deems his greatest political achievement - Massachusetts' universal health-care law - an embarrassment.

This explains the fascination with the possibility that New Jersey Gov. Christie or former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush will join the fray. Sure, Rep. Michele Bachmann has intense support among her followers, but Republican strategists know she would be a made-to-order opponent for President Obama.