Governors Give GOP Strong Presidential Bench in 2012 and Beyond

Haley Barbour and friends could be lining up for 2012.

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Quarterly finance reports released today revealed that the Republican Governors’ Association--the national party committee charged with assisting Republican candidates in their bids for the highest office in their state--raised a staggering $19 million dollars in the second quarter of this year alone.

Much of that success is due to the unprecedented fundraising capability of the RGA chairman and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour. In what could have been a disastrous PR episode for the RGA, the organization’s former chief, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, was ousted as chairman for much publicized “personal reasons.” Reacting quickly and decisively, the RGA took lemons and made lemonade, moving to instate Barbour as its chair. The results, as the fundraising numbers show, have proven that move to be a wise one.

[See which industries give the most to Congress.]

Independent political analysis currently shows Republicans poised to win over two-thirds of their 37 races this year. Undoubtedly, the funding from the RGA will greatly assist in those elections. [See a slide show of 11 hot congressional races in November.]

Yet the impending rise of the Republican governors may have more of a national political impact than the casual observer would surmise.

The five presumable frontrunners for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination (Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Sarah Palin, Barbour, and Mitch Daniels) are all current or former governors. (In an interesting and somewhat absurd side note, Nikki Haley, the recently elected GOP nominee for the governor’s race in South Carolina, was asked on the night of her primary victory if she harbored presidential ambitions for 2012.) Dismissing that particular episode, a wave of GOP gubernatorial elections in 2010 may pave the way for strong Republican presidential candidates for many election cycles to come. 

History has shown that governors--both Republican and Democrat--make better presidents than legislators, largely due to their executive experience. Strong odds indicate that a current or former GOP governor will face off against President Obama in 2012.

The once seemingly invincible Obama political team should begin emphasizing (or perhaps spinning) Obama’s year and a half of executive experience in the White House. The problem with that strategy, however, is that the reviews for Obama’s only executive experience so far in his lifetime are, shall we say, less than stellar.

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  • Corrected on : Corrected on 7/6/10: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the Republican Governors' Association fundraising numbers. They have raised $19 million dollars.