Commentary Magazine


Get a Governor!

Jonathan Capehart makes a cogent argument for Obama to bring in a former Democratic governor “to widen his circle of confidants beyond his Chicago security blanketendell.” He recommends Ed Rendell or Jennifer Granholm. He explains:

As governors of struggling industrial states, Rendell and Granholm have had to make the painful budgetary decisions that Washington continues to put off. They have faced an angry and fearful electorate and have had to be inventive in addressing their states’ problems. The people they govern are the very voters Obama continues to have trouble connecting with. … Although they are party stars who wouldn’t upset the base, they could bring an “outsider” perspective to the West Wing. And because of term limits, both will be available come January.

Obama might do better with a governor who managed to hand the baton to a Democratic successor or who didn’t hike taxes (as Granholm did repeatedly), but he is on to something. In fact, the advice to bring a governor into the West Wing is even more apt for the GOP when it comes to selecting its 2012 nominee.

The Republicans also need an “outsider” voice not marred by years of Beltway bickering and who possesses a solid base of support in the heartland. The GOP also needs someone who has demonstrated competency in managing his state’s fiscal condition during a challenging era. And yes, having someone who connects with ordinary Americans would be an advantage over Obama, who at times can barely contain his disdain for his fellow countrymen.

So if the un-Obama is the Republicans’ ideal candidate, then a competent, experienced, fiscally hawkish governor or ex-governor should fit the bill. A doer rather than a talker would be ideal. There are plenty of Republicans who fit this bill — Tim Pawlenty, Bobby Jindal, Chris Christie, and Jeb Bush, to name a few. And Sarah Palin, who’s struggled to combat a well-entrenched media narrative, has a story to tell as well — about budget reform, fiscal sobriety, and fighting corruption.

The gap that Capehart identifies is not simply in Obama’s staff; it is in the president himself, who has shown little talent for governance and, for all his vaunted communication skills, is increasingly isolated from voters. Avoiding that set of deficiencies is a guide for the GOP in choosing a candidate who will match up well against Obama in 2012. Now all that Republicans need is a governor or ex-governor willing to run who can both excite and expand the base. Yes, it is a tall but hardly impossible order.

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