In 2008, the
United States will encounter the first
Presidential election since 1952 in which
neither a President nor Vice President will be
of course, Republicans recognize that Dick
Cheney provides the most service to his party
not as an elected official accountable to the
electorate, but as a behind-the-scenes
activist accountable to no one.
What can we
learn from the 14 elections since 1952 that
tell us who will be the next President?
Of the 28
Presidential candidates in the 14 elections,
there are 19 individuals since several
participated in more than one election.
Eisenhower, Reagan, Clinton, and George W Bush
ran in two elections and won both; Stevenson
ran in two and lost both; Carter and George HW
Bush ran in two, each winning one and losing
the second; and Nixon ran in three, losing the
first and winning the next two.
Nixon's two additional successful campaigns as
Vice President under Eisenhower, he joins FDR
as the only Presidential candidates to
participate in five Presidential elections.
Nixon is also the first candidate to lose a
Presidential election and subsequently be
elected since Grover Cleveland lost his
attempt at re-election in 1888 but won his
next campaign in 1892.
Let's look at
the status of each candidate immediately prior
to the election (see Table).
already President. Six won their elections
(Eisenhower, Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, Clinton,
and George W Bush) and three lost (Ford,
Carter, and George HW Bush). All three
Presidential incumbents were defeated by
Governors (Carter, Reagan, and Clinton).
Johnson declined to run for re-election
although he was eligible, making him the first
to do so since Calvin Coolidge in 1928.
candidates were seated Vice Presidents. One
was elected (George HW Bush); the others
(Nixon, Humphrey, and Gore) defeated by,
respectively, a Senator (Kennedy), private
citizen (Nixon), and Governor (George W Bush).
candidates were Senators of whom only one
(Kennedy) was elected.
Governors of whom four were elected (Carter,
Reagan, Clinton, and George W Bush) and three
were not (Stevenson twice, and Dukakis once).
private citizens at the time of their
candidacy. Two were elected (Eisenhower and
Nixon) and one was not (Mondale).
What can we
learn about being elected President from these
1. It's good
to be President. Incumbent Presidents enjoy
the highest election rate of any group.
2. It's not
good to be Vice President. Seated Vice
Presidents have a dismal record for reaching
the Presidency. Even if we include Nixon and
Mondale as former Vice Presidents (although
not holding office at the time of their
campaigns), the record is not attractive. The
Vice Presidency is a stepping stone to
obscurity, not the Presidency.
3. It's worse
to be a Senator. It's worse still to be a
Senator running against an incumbent
President: none have succeeded (Goldwater,
McGovern, Dole, and Kerry).
4. If you want
to beat an incumbent President, be a Governor.
5. In fact,
it's pretty good to be a Governor. Only two
Governors, who ran for a total of three times
(Stevenson twice, Dukakis once), lost while
the other four were successful.
consider being a private citizen. Although a
small and elite group (Eisenhower, Nixon,
Mondale), their success rate rivals that of
importantly, avoid public exposure on national
issues; especially avoid voting on national
issues. The success rate of Presidents, Vice
Presidents, and Senators (44 %) does not
approach that of Governors and private
citizens (60%). If we exclude incumbent
Presidents from this list and count Governor
Stevenson only one, the comparison (22% vs
67%) becomes more dramatic.
candidate with no voting record on national
issues (such as a Governor or private citizen)
has the jump on a candidate with a record to
defend (such as a President, Vice President,
this picture and taking into account the
distant example of 1952, we can expect our
next President to be, right now in 2006, a
Governor or private citizen.
Governor? Which private citizen?
Let's look at
prior successful Governors. All were Governors
for more than two years prior to the campaign.
All had avoided voting on national issues
because none had served in the US Congress.
Let us begin to pare down our current 50
Governors to a manageable few.
previously in the US Congress; we exclude them
(including Bill Richardson of New Mexico, of
whom more later).
We exclude any
current Governor who is ineligible to run
again in 2006 or has announced retirement;
none will be Governors in 2008. This
eliminates ten more (including Jeb Bush of
Florida, of whom more later).
exclude six whose current popularity ratings
are so low they are unlikely to win
re-election (Schwarznegger of California is
came to office by succession, not by election
(Heineman of Nebraska). Another off the list.
reluctantly admit that the American voter is
not yet ready to elect a President who is
female (eight eliminated), Jewish (Rendell of
Pennsylvania), Mormon (Huntsman of Utah), or
freshly divorced (Corzine of New Jersey).
(Mounds of South Dakota) has already been
compelled to take a stand on a burning
national issue. He would have been removed
from the list whether he signed or vetoed the
South Dakota abortion legislation.
Who is left?
Republicans (Perdue of GA, Daniels of IN,
Pawlenty of MN, Barbour of MS, Hoeven of ND,
Carcieri of RI, Perry of TX, and Douglas of
VT) and eight Democrats (Schweitzer of
Montana, Lynch of NH, Henry of OK, Bredesen of
TN, Kaine of VA, Manchin of WV, Doyle of WI,
and Freudenthal of WY.
Of these 17
Governors, we'll give extra credit to those
who have pre-existing support from either of
the major party leadership. These would be
Haley Barbour, a former Republican National
Committee Chair; Timothy Pawlenty , who enjoys
the patronage of Dick Cheney; Joe Manchin,
Vice Chair of the Democratic Governor's
Association; and Tim Kaine, who was chosen to
give the Democratic response to the 2006 State
of the Union Address. These four make it to
our short list.
But let's not
forget about our private citizens.
private citizens who ran for President, two
were former Vice Presidents. One was elected
President (Nixon) and the other lost
(Mondale). It is conceivable that our current
former Vice President and Presidential loser,
Gore, may be a candidate. We include him in
our short list.
have already mentioned two current governors,
one of whose term expires in 2006 (Bush of
Florida) and another with prior Congressional
experience (Richardson of New Mexico) as
candidates in 2008 (Bush and Richardson).
Although there is no precedent for these two
wild cards, as it were, they will be included
But what about
private citizens with no prior elected office
of any kind? All three private citizens
running for President were household names two
years in advance. If Eisenhower serves as
model, this private citizen would greatly
benefit from being a war hero and having no
voting record. Whom should we call upon?
Based on the
above premises, all of them suspect and
statistically invalid, our short list contains
eight names. Read 'em and weep. One is very
likely to be sworn in on January 20, 2009.
Governor of Mississippi; Timothy Pawlenty,
Governor of Minnesota; Jeb Bush, soon to be
former Governor of Florida; Colin Powell,
former Secretary of State, former Chair of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff
Governor of West Virginia; Tim Kaine, Governor
of Virginia; Bill Richardson, Governor of New
Mexico; Al Gore, former Vice President
American voters are notoriously sensitive to
issues like personality and political
convictions, so don't bet the farm on these
Presidential candidates: campaign status and