In the wake of the sweeping Democratic triumph last Tuesday, the Republican party finds itself in transition. After two losing elections in a row, the time has come for fresh new leadership in the Republican party and not just a reshuffling of the deck. With President Bush on the way out and John McCain soundly defeated, the party has no true leader. Many columns have been written about the course the GOP needs to chart to avoid being permanently reduced to a minority party. I'm not going to get into all that, as I recall similar things being said about the Democratic party following the 2004 elections. Considering that in two months Barack Obama will be sworn in and will have Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, I'd say those concerns are reactionary and overblown. This is not to say the GOP will quickly come back to power. That will require strong leadership, winning strategies and, above all, effective candidates.
It is the candidates this post will focus on. Barack Obama will be the first sitting senator to assume the Presidency since JFK Jr. There is a reason for this. The country generally likes to elect governors, as running a state is closer to the responsibilities of running the nation than being one of a deliberative body of 100. It is for this reason that I am going to focus on the Republican governors in an attempt to identify the next top level leaders of the GOP.
The nation currently has 21 Republican governors. They are:
Alabama - Bob Riley, term limited in 2010
Alaska - Sarah Palin, up for reelection in 2010
California - Arnold Schwarznegger, term limited in 2010
Connecticut - Jodi Rell, up for reelection in 2010
Florida - Charlie Crist, up for reelection in 2010
Georgia - Sonny Perdue, term limited in 2010
Hawaii - Linda Lingle, term limited in 2010
Idaho - Butch Otter, up for reelection in 2010
Indiana - Mitch Daniels, up for reelection in 2012
Lousiana - Bobby Jindal, up for reelection in 2011
Minnesota - Tim Pawlenty, up for reelection in 2010
Mississippi - Haley Barbour, term limited in 2011
Nebraska - Dave Heineman, up for reelection in 2010
Nevada - Jim Gibbons, up for reelection in 2010
North Dakota - John Hoeven, up for reelection in 2012
Rhode Island - Don Carcieri, term limited in 2010
South Carolina - Mark Sanford, term limited in 2010
South Dakota - Mike Rounds, term limited in 2010
Texas - Rick Perry, up for reelection in 2010
Utah - John Huntsman, Jr., up for reelection in 2012
Vermont - John Douglas, up for reelection in 2010
Some of these are already big names (Palin, Jindal, to a lesser extent Pawlenty, Sanford and Barbour) some are not viable presidential candidates (Schwarzenegger, Lingle, Rell) and most of them fall into some middle category.
After adjusting for age, I've narrowed the list to ten governors who I think are potential party leaders. The top tier consists of Govs. Palin (AK) and Jindal (LA). The second tier is made up of Govs. Pawlenty (MN), Sanford (SC), Crist (FL) and Barbour (MS). The third tier includes Govs. Mitch Daniels (IN), John Hoeven (ND), Mike Rounds (SD) and John Huntsman Jr. (UT).
I'll take a deeper look at these three tiers of governors in future posts.