Why have so many GOP governors fizzled out in the 2016 race?

The governor's mansion was once the preferred stop on the road to the White House. Not this year.

Three governors have dropped out of the GOP presidential race so far.
(Image credit: Illustrated | Joe Raedle/Getty Images, ASSOCIATED PRESS, Richard Ellis/Corbis)

There are lot of axioms about presidential races that are true until they aren't. That's probably because they're often more about correlation than causation, or even simple mythology (for instance, you've probably heard that the taller candidate always wins, but taller candidates actually have a mere 27-22 winning record). But one axiom that seems well-supported is that governors have an inherent advantage in presidential races. Four of the last six presidents were governors, and Barack Obama was the first sitting senator to win the White House since John F. Kennedy.

There are some good reasons why this is true. Governors can argue that they have directly applicable experience to the presidency, having led a state government that resembles a federal government in miniature, with various agencies to oversee, a legislature to contend with, judges to appoint, and so on. They sign bills, give state-of-the-state addresses, have security details, and generally go around doing things that look almost presidential. Senators (or heaven forbid, House members) talk about "leading" when they mean giving a bunch of floor speeches, which isn't exactly the kind of thing that makes people build statues of you.

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Paul Waldman

Paul Waldman is a senior writer with The American Prospect magazine and a blogger for The Washington Post. His writing has appeared in dozens of newspapers, magazines, and web sites, and he is the author or co-author of four books on media and politics.