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Governors and The White House

 

 

Introduction

Presidents' Prior Political Office

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Of the 78 Americans who have served as President, Vice President or both since the nation was formed, 27 or just over one-third had been governor of a state. This includes 17 of the 44 presidents (39%) and 16 of the 48 vice presidents (33%).

Over the 58 national elections held to date, governors have captured a total of 55 presidential nominations. Twenty-seven were elected and, most recently with former Governor Romney’s defeat in 2012, 29 have lost. If the five third party candidates are discounted, however, one can say that 53% of the major party nominees who had been governors were victorious.

In all but 12 of the national elections, at least one governor has been on the November ballot as a presidential or vice presidential nominee. Two governors were on the ballot for 18 elections, and three nominated in two elections – 1912 and 1916.

Many other governors who sought the presidency or hoped for the vice presidency were not nominated. Some ran major national campaigns, while others hoped status as their state’s favorite son might lead to victory, and many more launched trial balloons that were little noticed and quickly punctured.

Governors Nominated for President

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The large field that former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney bested to capture the 2012 Republican presidential nomination included five other current or former governors – Jon Huntsman (UT), Gary Johnson (NM), Tim Pawlenty (MN), Rick Perry (TX), and Buddy Roemer (LA) – as well as intense speculation about at least four others – Haley Barbour (MS), Jeb Bush (FL), Chris Christie (NJ), and Mike Huckabee (AR).

The 2016 primary races included even more governors. Eleven current or former governors officially declared themselves candidates – Jeb Bush (R-FL), Lincoln Chafee (D-RI), Chris Christie (R-NJ), Jim Gilmore (R-VA), Mike Huckabee (R-AR), Bobby Jindal (R-LA), John Kasich (R-OH), Martin O’Malley (D-MD), George Pataki (R-NY), Rick Perry (R-TX), and Scott Walker (R-WI).

The 2020 primary race shows a different trend, however. Only four candidates with gubernatorial experience entered the Democratic primary: sitting Governors Steve Bullock (MT) and Jay Inslee (WA) and former Governors John Hickenlooper (CO) and Deval Patrick (MA). Bullock, Hickenlooper, and Inslee all withdrew from the race before the first primary, with Hickenlooper choosing instead to run for a U.S. Senate seat while Inslee will seek reelection as governor. Patrick entered the race in late 2019 and and announced he would end his campaign on February 12, 2020. Two former governors also announced they would run against incumbent President Donald Trump for the Republican nomination: Mark Sanford (SC) and Bill Weld (MA). Neither was likely to pose a serious threat to Trump, however, and Sanford withdrew from the race in November 2019. Finally, former Governor Lincoln Chafee (RI) has announced that he will seek the Libertarian nomination. It appears that, for the second straight presidential election, neither major party will nominate a candidate with gubernatorial experience.

 

The following sections provide more detailed information on the governors who sought the presidency, vice presidency or both: