The Governors Most Likely to Be Elected President

In the wake of the Mark Sanford scandal, Ken Rudin of NPR had a fun idea: Rank all of the nation's Republican governors from ...
by | June 26, 2009

In the wake of the Mark Sanford scandal, Ken Rudin of NPR had a fun idea: Rank all of the nation's Republican governors from most likely to least likely to ever become president. Here's Rudin's list:

1. Tim Pawlenty (MN)

2. Jon Huntsman (UT)

3. Haley Barbour (MS)

4. Bobby Jindal (LA)

5. Charlie Crist (FL)

6. Mitch Daniels (IN)

7. Sarah Palin (AK)

8. Rick Perry (TX)

9. Mark Sanford (SC)

10. Jodi Rell (CT)

11. Bob Riley (AL)

12. Sonny Perdue (GA)

13. Mike Rounds (SD)

14. John Hoeven (ND)

15. Butch Otter (ID)

16. Dave Heineman (NE)

17. Jim Douglas (VT)

18. Don Carcieri (RI)

19. Linda Lingle (HI)

20. Jan Brewer (AZ)

21. Arnold Schwarzenegger (CA)

22. Jim Gibbons (NV)

(Hat tip: Political Wire)

I think this is a pretty good list, although I do have some quibbles with it. Bobby Jindal, who is young enough that he could run for president in 2040 and be younger than John McCain was in 2008, should be higher. He should definitely be higher than Haley Barbour, a former lobbyist who is probably too conservative for the country.

Sarah Palin may seem too low on Rudin's list, but she isn't. Jodi Rell is probably too high -- she's too moderate for the Republican Party. Mark Sanford is too high and Jan Brewer is too low. The female governor of a swing state doesn't have at least some chance of being on a presidential ticket in 2012?

Anyways, this idea was so much fun that I decided to do it for the Democrats. That way, you can quibble with me.

Before you do, though, let me tell you my standards. I considered each governor's popularity, interest in national politics, ideology (some governors are too conservative for the Democrats to nominate) and age. Age is a really important one for the Democrats because none of these people are likely to be running for president before 2016. Any governor who is already in his or her sixties is probably too old.

What's striking is how few of these people really look like serious presidential contenders at this point. The only governors on the list who are clearly future national players are my top two, Brian Schweitzer and Tim Kaine (if Joe Biden decides he only wants to do one term as vice president, I could easily see Kaine as President Obama's running mate in 2012).

In fact, the next three on my list, Martin O'Malley, Bill Ritter and Deval Patrick all could lose reelection this year. But, they rank highly because they are relatively young and relatively talented -- and because the rest of the field is so weak.

There are other Democrats who are big successes as governors (John Lynch and Mike Beebe come to mind), but not many who look like presidential candidates. Contrast that to the Republicans, where the top 7 on Rudin's list all could have a shot at the 2012 Republican nomination (well, maybe not Huntsman).

So, for a party looking for any silver lining, here's one: For the time being, the Republicans have more gubernatorial star power than the Democrats. Here's my list:

Dem Govs President

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer

More from Politics