Oh wait, Dean does have something going for him...

Nice post by Jack Balkin on the age old question of why governors keep getting elected President. Balkin notes two big reasons: governors enter the race with a loyal and tested executive staff already assembled, and they can more easily lay claim to indispensable 'outsider' creds. This scenario has been more than proven again in the Democratic field this year, as Dean's loyal staff has run circles around the Ccongressional candidates' operations, and, of course, he has milked his outsider status to no end. I would just add one thing to Balkin's analysis: one problem for Senators and Congressmen is that they just can't help but try to run on their legislative records, which invariably proves to be deathly boring. The public doesn't really get how one yea, nay, or cosponsorhip is all that impressive, especially since the incumbent or outgoing president has probably already sucked all the credit out of whatever bill Senator X proudly voted for. Furthermore, it opens those candidates up to vote-specific attacks which are near impossible to defend against: "You don't know what the riders were on that measure! The committee bill was a 180 from what passed the House!" Snore.

Governors on the other hand generally use their records in the statehouse selectively--culling a few good bits (i.e. Bush on Texas' education reforms (yeah, it's not true, but you get the point) or Dean on the astounding rates of health coverage in Vermont). No one is really going to make their case against a rival candidate based on the policy vagaries of a one state government, because voters don't want to hear about that, and when it gets picked up by the media, the stories are usually isolated and fizzle quickly. Not too many reporters are going to sit there and Nexis the Montpelier Gazette for juicy front page revelations. And again, governors tend to use their state records selectively rather than using them to prove every point. Can you imagine if Bill Clinton had based his whole campaign on Arkansas (I'll tell you why I'd be good on health care, Bob, because Arkansas was 47th in the nation on child poverty but now we're 43rd! Take that!)


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