From left: Governors Rick Perry, Jeb Bush, and Scott Walker

Goodbye Governors: Voters Look Elsewhere in 2016


From left: Governors Rick Perry, Jeb Bush, and Scott Walker
From left: Governors Rick Perry, Jeb Bush, and Scott Walker

In The Weekly Standard, Fred Barnes observes that this election cycle, despite initial indications, has become a very unfriendly one for governors:

At full tide, 9 of the 17 Republicans running for the 2016 presidential nomination were current or former governors. There was a perfectly good reason so many were in the race: Governors have an advantage with voters. They are executives who make real-life decisions, not just talk about doing so. Governors, more often than not, are regarded as leaders.

At least that was the conventional wisdom as recently as last spring. But it has died this year like many other assumptions about presidential campaigns. Three governors have dropped out, and none of the remaining six is in the top tier of candidates.

A corollary to the notion of a governor’s advantage has also died. Given their dislike of President Obama, Republican voters were supposed to be leery of electing another first-term senator with a thin record. On the contrary, senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are in the top tier, along with Donald Trump and Ben Carson. Rubio has been a senator since 2011, Cruz since 2013.

Republican voters, a large bloc of them, have changed their minds about what they want in a presidential candidate. In March, a Pew poll found that 57 percent of Republicans believed it is more important for a candidate to have “experience and a proven record” than “new ideas and a different approach.” Only 36 percent preferred a candidate with a fresh approach.

By September, the numbers had flipped. Nearly twice as many Republicans—65 percent—said experience is less important than a candidate’s ideas and different style. Those saying experience was more important dipped to 29 percent.

Barnes also highlights another important factor in the demise of many governors’ campaigns: Common Core.

A serious problem for Republican governors has been all but ignored by the media and the political community: Common Core. It requires state standards for K-12 students on what they should know in math and what’s called English language arts. In numerous states, parents have revolted against Common Core for downgrading the teaching of traditional math and literature.

The issue has been unsettling for the campaigns of Bush, Kasich, Walker, and New Jersey’s Chris Christie. They have sought to separate themselves from Common Core after initially endorsing it. Bush, for instance, says the federal government needs to stay out of Common Core. Walker waffled, and this contributed to his demise as a presidential candidate.

You can read Barnes’ full article here.

Paul Dupont is the managing editor for

Paul Dupont

Paul Dupont is editor of

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