The Washington Posts last week published an article titled “Governors to watch for 2016 and beyond” suggesting that Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley should be added to the list of GOP governors who are considered viable presidential contenders.
So how did the Washington Post come to this surprising conclusion?
The Post started by generating a prediction for how each of the 28 incumbent governors around the country should be performing in the polls, taking into account that some governors have an easier path to victory than others.
For instance, “governors perform better in states that are their party’s strongholds,” explained the Post’s Patrick J. Egan. Obviously that means Gov. Bentley, a Republican, has an easier path to victory in deep red Alabama than, say, Republican John Kasich in the swing state of Ohio.
“Second, political scientists have shown that electorates prefer government control to be balanced between the two parties, and thus they penalize governors when the state’s legislature is controlled by the same party,” Egan continued. That variable would presumably weigh down Gov. Bentley in the polls, since the Alabama Legislature is totally controlled by Republicans, who have supermajorities in both the house and senate.
“Third, President Obama’s low approval ratings are dragging down the poll numbers of (Democrats) this year,” Egan concluded. Obviously that’s a boost to Bentley here in the Yellowhammer State.
After taking those and other variables into account when looking at current polling numbers, the Post produced a map that shows which governors around the country are currently outperforming where the election models predict they “should” be in the polls.
As you’ll see below, they found that Gov. Bentley is over-performing by the second highest percentage in the country, behind the aforementioned Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
“Five incumbents—New York’s Cuomo, plus Republicans Robert Bentley (Ala.), Bill Haslam (Tenn.), John Kasich (Ohio), and Brian Sandoval (Nev.)—lead the pack,” said Egan. “Each enjoys a margin in the polls that is at least six points bigger than predicted by state fundamentals.
“Today’s successful governors are tomorrow’s presidential candidates,” he continued. “Several incumbents on the ballot this year… have already been mentioned as possible presidential and vice-presidential contenders. Thus the list of hopefuls seeking their parties’ nominations in 2016 and 2020 will almost certainly include some of the governors who win a new term this Nov. 4.”
Obviously there’s much, much more that goes into running for president than having good polling numbers in your home state, even numbers as strong as the Alabama governor’s. Bentley has no national fundraising base and zero national profile, which puts him at a great disadvantage compared to more high profile governors, like Chris Christie, Scott Walker or Bobby Jindal, who have all managed to make a name for themselves outside of their states and have been laying the groundwork for potential national campaigns.
Of course, Bentley was a back bencher in the Legislature with no statewide fundraising base and zero statewide profile before launching his bid for governor in 2009, and we all know how that turned out.
Would Gov. Bentley consider running for president in 2016?
According to a quick search, Bentley2016.com was purchased at some point using a private domain registry service, so there’s that.
Yellowhammer reached out to the Bentley camp late Sunday night to get their reaction and will update this story when we hear back.
Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims