There has been quite a bit of commentary – not to say, ‘gloating’ – about the Democrats’ rather problematical 2016 prospects*. To wit: their front-runners are all old (late sixties to early seventies), all have baggage, and all distinctly lacking in any sort of executive experience whatsoever**. Worse, their front-runners are also their bench, as the surviving Democratic governors aren’t exactly anything to write home about, either. And that’s what I want to write about. Consider this list:
- Florida: Alex Sink (66)
- Iowa: Chet Culver (48)
- Michigan: Virgil Bernero (50)
- Ohio: Ted Strickland (73)
- New Mexico: Diane Denish (65)
- Pennslyvania: Donald Onorato (53)
- Wisconsin: Tom Barrett (61)
All seven people on that list (data via here) were Democrats who lost a governor’s race in 2010, but kept their opponent down below 60% of the vote (we’ll skip Maine, because those races are always weird). They’re also races where the GOP thus picked up the seat (Florida is a special case, because Charlie Crist, but it’s such an important seat we’re keeping it on the list). In other words, these were almost all Democratic-held governorships that were lost to the GOP.
Now, for the sake of argument: imagine that all of those Democrats had won. Further imagine that no more than one or two had lost in 2014, either***. In fact, imagine that Illinois didn’t flip (probably because somebody decided to switch out Pat Quinn in 2010). Add five or six fresh-minted, two-term governors to the Democratic mix, and their tactical situation for 2016 changes completely. Not as much as it could – even their hypothetical bench is unfortunately (for them) rather aged – but it’d be an improvement. Some of the people on that list even look young enough to pander to the youth vote and not be immediately be laughed out of town.
“Wait,” I hear you cry. “How is any of this Barack Obama’s fault?” Ah, that’s very easy: his ego wrote checks that his body couldn’t pay. The currently greatest open secret of our political system right now is that everyone more or less concedes that Barack Obama’s political coalition was designed specifically to get Barack Obama elected, and pretty much nobody else. Outside of the Presidency (admittedly a big exception), the Democratic party’s hold on the levers of government is at an ebb not seen in most of our lifetimes. And the Democrats didn’t get …read more