Thursday, June 25, 2009

And then there were three

One of the lessons from the past few presidential elections has been that governors do far better as candidates than Senators. George W Bush went from the governor's office of Texas into the White House as Bill Clinton went from the Arkansas Governor's Mansion to the Oval Office. Ronald Reagan's last political job before the presidency was governor of California and even the hapless Jimmy Carter was governor of Georgia. Not all of these men were good presidents, but all of them (evidenced by the fact that they won) were good candidates.

For this reason the GOP has been looking to its governors to provide a credible challenger to Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential race. Chief among the Republican's potential presidential candidates is Sarah Palin, sitting governor of Alaska and an extremely popular figure among the Republican rank and file.

Another popular GOP governor in Louisiana's Bobby Jindal. Jindal's calm and competent leadership was showcased for the nation during the 2008 Republican convention when a hurricane threatened the Gulf Coast. His performance made a striking comparison to the incompetence and dysfunction of his Democrat predecessor's behavior during Katrina.

Rick Perry of Texas is another strong contender for the 2012 GOP nomination. His leadership of Texas during the current economic troubles has been exemplary (his most recent budget is balanced and reduces spending from the state's general fund).

Until yesterday another rising star among the Republican party's governors was South Carolina's Mark Sanford. By now all of you have heard the bizarre tale of Sandord's unexplained absence from Columbia, or anywhere else in South Carolina, and over Father's Day weekend no less. You have heard of the conflicting stories told by his staff and family about his whereabouts and you have seen or heard about the press conference where he confessed that he was in Argentina seeing a woman with whom he was having an adulterous affair.

Strike one name from the GOP's list of potential presidential candidates.

This is unfortunate for the Republican party in that it has lost a popular conservative politician but it is very good for the GOP that this comes out now rather than two years from now when the presidential race is heating up. By 2011 Sanford will only be a dim memory as Republican hopefuls battle it out in the primaries.

To Sanford's credit I'll point out that he made clear in his press conference that his staff did not lie to the press about his whereabouts. He had led them to believe that he was going hiking so they were only giving out the best information they had. And he did not drag his wife up to the podium with him to "stand by him" like the Democrat governors of New York and New Jersey did when they got caught in their scandals.