The Campaign Trail: Governors

Throughout American history, one of the largest indicators of a potentially successful presidential candidate has been past political experience. This factor, however, may turn out to be much more specific and pervasive than previously thought.

As the field of political study and analysis continues to rise with modern demand for meticulous reporting, increasing amounts of information regarding why the population chooses certain candidates over others is being made known to the public. Chief among that information is the fact that past governors won approximately 1/3 of elections since 1972. Even during the primary phase, they are also more likely to outperform senators for party nominations, according to “The New York Times.” Although none of the governors among the candidates for the 2016 nominations are leading in the polls, they maintain a substantial presence. Therefore, they could end up creating an upset in the current standings.

Past and current governors vying for 2016 presidential election include Chris Christie of New Jersey, Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and Jeb Bush of Florida. Other candidates, such as Martin O’Malley of Maryland, Jim Gilmore of Virginia and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, also qualify under this category. However, Christie, Bush and Huckabee tend to receive by far the most media attention. By an overwhelming majority, governors aiming for the presidency in this race have conservative leanings, with only O’Malley running for the Democratic nomination.

Christie, who announced his presidential run June 30, 2015, has a 2 percent rating as of the latest Real Clear Politics polls. He is currently the lowest-ranking of the three, with Huckabee at 3 percent and Bush at 6.5 percent.

Before serving as governor in 2009, Christie was the federal prosecutor for New Jersey from 2002 to 2008. While he strongly favors military expansion, school vouchers and the expansion of free trade, he leans toward moderate conservatism on many issues. For instance, Christie advocates citizenship for illegal immigrants and the potential for marijuana legalization. One reason provided for his low ranking in the polls is that he is considered by some to be too moderate, alienating both Democrats and Republicans in the process. Another reason often cited for his relative lack of support is the controversy in 2014, in which he allegedly closed lanes on the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee, N.J. due to the mayor failing to support his re-election campaign.

Huckabee, who also ran for presidential election in 2008 under the Republican Party, announced his 2016 run May 5. He was governor of Arkansas from 1996 to 2007 and once hosted a Fox News talk show bearing his name. In spite of his high rank, he has been quoted describing himself as a “Washington outsider.”

As such, Huckabee attempts to differentiate himself from the traditional mold of the Senate-bred candidate. Like Christie, he aims to diversify his voting base by catering both to mainline conservatives and blue-collar workers, which has won him great approval in some states, such as Iowa. His most emphasized platforms include religion in the public sphere, advocacy of gun rights and stricter punishment for criminals. Particular controversy has arisen from his views on abortion and gay rights. Huckabee passionately opposes both, which can prove unpalatable to some more moderate potential voters.

Finally, Bush is notable for being the first brother of a president to run for the position since Robert Kennedy in 1968. He announced his campaign June 15. He was governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007 and won election in his home state on a platform including plans for education reform that would serve as a partial basis for the later No Child Left Behind system.

During his time as governor, he was also notable for his effective hurricane preparation and recuperation system, which remedied much of the damage done during four particularly strong storms in 2004. Among his most emphasized platforms include the use of school vouchers and the opposition of higher taxes on the wealthy. Other facets of his campaign center on potential citizenship rights for illegal immigrants and continued outlawing of marijuana. While he has been praised by the media for his Spanish-speaking skills and focus on gaining the Hispanic vote, he has been criticized in equal measure under accusations within his own party of being controlled by large donors. The Associated Press estimates that half of his fundraising came from the same sources that funded his brother and father’s campaigns.

The next Republican debate will be held Nov. 10 at 8 pm CST on the Fox Business Network.

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