Puzzling Governors, Part 2

Here's the second part of my series on why Democratic governors have thrived in Republican state and vice versa: Explanation #4: For them to get elected ...
by | October 13, 2006

Puzzle_1 Here's the second part of my series on why Democratic governors have thrived in Republican state and vice versa:

Explanation #4: For them to get elected in the first place in such politically unfriendly terrain, they have to be unusually talented politicians, which allows them to thrive in office.

Pro: It's telling that so many presidential and vice presidential candidates come from this group, from Mark Warner (well, a former candidate), Evan Bayh and Mitt Romney to Kathleen Sebelius, George Pataki and Brian Schweitzer.

Con: If they have to be unusually talented, you'd expect there to be only a few very successful ones. Instead, seven of Kerry's top eight states have Republican governors.

Explanation #5: Since they represent lightly populated states, they get to know voters personally, thereby transcending party labels.

Pro: Vermont, Wyoming, Rhode Island, Hawaii and Montana are about as sparsely populated as you can get.

Con: What about George Pataki in New York or Arnold in California? There are also mid-size examples like Massachusetts, Virginia and Tennessee.

More after the jump.

Read Part 1.

Explanation #6: They're lucky.

Pro: Governors like Brad Henry and Janet Napolitano were only elected because third-party candidates split the opposition vote. Bob Ehrlich and others enjoyed the benefit of especially inept opponents. More broadly, 13 mismatched governors were first elected in 2002, when the economy was sour and voters were ready for a change. Now they've benefited from the improvement in the national economy.

Con: This phenomenon is too well-established to be written off as a fluke or a short-term development. Rhode Island has had a Republican governor for 18 of the last 22 years, in Massachusetts it's 16 straight, while Wyoming has been led by a Democrat in 24 of the last 32 years.

Tomorrow Monday, the thrilling conclusion.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com  | 

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