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‘Make Governors President Again’: 2024’s GOP Candidate Field Signals A Return To A Decades-Long Tradition, Experts Say
  • From Jimmy Carter’s presidency to George W. Bush’s, the typical path to the White House was by way of governorship, with one exception, and the past three presidencies have shown different.
  • We could see a return to that tradition in the 2024 GOP primaries, experts told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
  • “That’s actually a good thing,” Thomas Pyle, President of the American Energy Alliance and political analyst, told the DCNF.

The 2024 GOP primaries are likely to resort to a more traditional electoral pattern, as many former and current governors are set to potentially jump in the race, experts told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley is the first state executive officially in the race, while Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former Indiana Gov. and Vice President Mike Pence are some of the other potential 2024 contenders. For decades, governorships paved the way to the White House, with the exception of the past three presidencies, political analysts told the DCNF.

“It’s time to make governors president again,” Thomas Pyle, President of the American Energy Alliance and political analyst, told the DCNF. “It feels like a resurgence of the tradition of strong state executives, seeking the presidential nomination, and I think that’s overall, you know, a relatively healthy thing for the country.”

An entire period of American history, from 1976 to 2008, consisted of governors becoming presidents, with one exception, former President George H.W. Bush, Dr. Charles Bullock, professor of political science at the University of Georgia and an American Enterprise Institute fellow, told the DCNF.

“At that point, it was thought that the stepping stone to the presidency was to show you’ve got executive leadership chops by having governed your state,” said Bullock.

Former Presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were all former governors, while Barack Obama, Donald Trump, and Joe Biden were not. After the period of gubernatorial control, the “momentum shifted to the Senate,” with more senators looking towards the White House, said Pyle.

Former and current governors, by and large, have what it takes to be the chief executive of the U.S., as opposed to senators, in terms of experience, as senators run a lot smaller of an operation, said Bullock. There have only been three senators who’ve directly gone from their office to president, “it is rare.”

It’s a good thing that a lot of the attention is falling on former and current governors, and not career politicians in D.C., said Pyle. He believes the skill sets of these state leaders will serve them well as a presidential candidate.

“All things being equal, I prefer former governors as presidential candidates, especially over former senators. But, like almost everything else, in this case, Trump is the exception, because he did happen to sit in that chair,” said Pyle.

These governors have been “battle tested” in their state, which would make them a better leader of the country than someone who has not, said Pyle. Many of the potential GOP candidates have been or are governors, and “have a story to tell about how well they’ve governed their state.”

“Governors are preferred because they have been executives. They actually run stuff, they pilot people, they run programs, they run policies,” Michael McKenna, president of MWR Strategies, told the DCNF. “Senators are just blabbers, they just talk.”

Pyle also drew a connection with the past regarding former President Bill Clinton’s candidacy in 1992. Clinton came along at a time where there was this desire for a new generation of leadership in the Democratic Party, and Pyle drew parallels to that situation today in the Republican Party.

Clinton’s candidacy “caught fire” from campaigning along the same themes we’ve already seen former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley use, said Pyle. It was a “time to pass the torch” moment.

“Governor Haley proved every critic wrong, turned SC into a manufacturing powerhouse, and was the bold leader her state needed when crisis struck. No job better prepares you for the presidency, and Nikki’s success shows the kind of leadership she’d bring to the White House” Ken Farnaso, press secretary for Haley’s campaign, told the DCNF.

DeSantis has not formally announced his candidacy, and is expected to hold off until Florida’s legislative session ends in May, and Pence likely won’t announce until the summer. Because they have nationwide name recognition, they have the ability to wait.

It’s interesting to see the similarities of the past coming to fruition, with the “resurgence” of governors running, and likely to run, for president, and also the opening for a smaller, lesser-known governor, to “catch fire” in the GOP primaries, said Pyle.

Bullock noted he can see a desire for a new generation of leaders on both sides, as Biden and Trump are 80-years-old and 76-years-old, respectively. A younger candidate with new ideas would stand out against both of them, he said.

So far, the overarching theme of the 2024 elections on both sides of the aisle is a desire for new leadership and a fresh generation, said McKenna. Both the Democrats and the Republicans want to turn the page on “what has been a pretty destructive cycle of geriatric leadership.”

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