It is official. Republicans have effectively thrown Mitt Romney under the bus. In a way this was inevitable. Republicans really only seemed to embrace Romney because they thought he could win. Now that the election is over and he lost no loyalty is required from the GOP faithful to Romney. Romney always had limited connections to the party and in a way he bought his way to the nomination. Some thought his tenure as a leader of a blue state would prove an asset. It proved to be a liability. But Republicans should not despair. Sure, they have many issues they are out of step with the public on just as the Democrats do. But unlike Democrats the GOP has a trump card to play in 2016.
Currently 30 of the 50 governorships in this country are occupied by Republicans. Four of the five female Governors in this country are Republican. Republicans boast the only two Hispanic Governors in the country. This kind of diversity was poorly displayed at the RNC but in the run up to 2014 expect it to be played on heavily.
The Democrats bench heading into 2016 appears to be extremely shallow. Though they certainly have their own share of rising stars. Democratic mayors of Atlanta, San Antonio and LA promise Democrats bright candidates beyond 2016. But the only two names being discussed to replace Obama in 2016 are Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. Odds are they would likely connect to younger Americans as well as Romney did. The opposite is true of the GOP.
Republicans boast a plethora of GOP Governors who could run and be successful in 2016. Outgoing Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, who was heavily courted to run in 2012, is at the top of the list for his successful reform of his state’s education, pension and union rules. Governor Scott Walker in WI (facing reelection in 2014) successfully reformed his state’s Collective Bargaining agreements. Governor Bob McDonnell of VA has successfully presided over the governance of a purple state for four years. Than there are governors such as Bobby Jindal (LA), Susana Martinez (NM), Brian Sandoval (NV) and Rick Perry (TX) who have impressive records.
The GOP list of presidential hopefuls is not just limited to Governors. Republican Senators Marco Rubio (FL), John Thune (SD) and Rob Portman (OH) all offer the GOP a bright cast of future candidates. All have downplayed the social issues the GOP wins on in red areas of the country but usually loses on in the purple regions that determine the presidency. Current WI Congressman Paul Ryan is also a possible future presidential candidate. His star rose even as he was the Vice-Presidential candidate for the losing Romney campaign.
Much has been made of the disconnect the modern GOP has with younger and middle-aged voters on social issues. GOP Governors and Senators have been far more practical in their approaches to governing than the national party has been on the same issues. Democrats will certainly try to bring social issues into the election in 2014 and 2016. But GOP Governors offer the GOP a bright future. Many have a proven track record of building solid, diverse constituencies, records of policy achievements and a willingness to compromise and govern that many Americans crave.
Fairly or not, GOP Governors may have a better shot than Senators to win the White House in 2016. They are disconnected from DC and more closely connected to individual state voters. They have not been part of the process of gridlock that has plagued Congress. We have already seen an obscure state senator use unhappiness with DC to win the White House. A Governor with even bigger name ID and solid achievements should conceivably be able to do the same.
Perhaps the only man who may prevent a GOP Governor from winning the White House is Marco Rubio. The GOP is desperately trying to diversify and having a Cuban-American at the top of the ticket would help greatly. Still, even if Rubio wins the party nod expect him to pick a Governor as his VP. For the GOP, their future lies with their large bench of GOP candidates. And that future looks bright.