White House

From folksy to intense, a look at GOP governors’ presidential potential

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, center, talks about recent Republican party gains and the road ahead for their party as Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, left, and Texas Gov. Rick perry listen during a press conference at the Republican governors' conference in Boca Raton, Fla., Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014. The organization's annual conference began Wednesday in a luxury oceanside resort where the nation's Republican governors are celebrating their party's recent success in the midterm elections while privately jockeying for position as the 2016 presidential contest looms.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, center, talks about recent Republican party gains and the road ahead for their party as Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, left, and Texas Gov. Rick perry listen during a press conference at the Republican governors' conference in Boca Raton, Fla., Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014. The organization's annual conference began Wednesday in a luxury oceanside resort where the nation's Republican governors are celebrating their party's recent success in the midterm elections while privately jockeying for position as the 2016 presidential contest looms. AP

Governors are popular presidents-in-waiting.

After all, they’ve run diverse states, and perhaps more important, they’ve won elections with broad constituencies. Former President George W. Bush was a governor; so was Bill Clinton. This year, there are plenty of potential contenders to check out: One in five of the nation’s GOP governors has been mentioned as a possible candidate.

Outside their states, though, the public barely knows them, so quick impressions matter and linger. It’s impossible to know who’ll look presidential and who might look silly during a heated campaign.

A roster of possible 2016 Republican presidential candidates gathered last week in Boca Raton, Fla., for Republican Governors Association meetings. Donors, pundits and media all were watching closely to get answers to two pivotal political questions: Is anyone a potential president? And what are they really like?

Governors with presidential aspirations

Six of the current Republican governors have presidential aspirations for the 2016 election. Click on their states to read more.

The scorecard:

Texas Gov. Rick Perry

Folksy. He’s quick with a quip and has a relaxed air. Asked last week when the 2016 campaign might start, he said, “The more legitimate question is, ‘When did it begin?’ ” He now wears glasses, which supposedly give him intellectual heft, and talks with authority on issues he knows, such as immigration. But beyond that. . . .

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker

Intense. Walker’s perfectly fitting suit never has a wrinkle. His gestures are tightly controlled and he speaks in terse, pointed sentences. He has a knack for catchy phrases, stuff such as, “I believe this president measures success in government by how many people are dependent on government. I believe we should measure success by the opposite.”

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal

Analyst. Quick, cerebral, cutting, Jindal often doesn’t just make a point, he turns it into a soliloquy – or diatribe, depending on one’s point of view. He recalled asking President Barack Obama, “Why not give states more flexibility on Medicaid?” Jindal said, “The president said he didn’t trust us, in so many words.”

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence

Smooth. He was a radio talk show host in the state before being elected to Congress in 2000. He still has that easy-to-understand, nonthreatening way of making a point, and he calls himself a “small-town guy from southern Indiana who grew up with a cornfield in my backyard.” He has firm views, such as, “You’ll never convince me that ordering Americans to buy health insurance whether they want it or not is the answer.”

Ohio Gov. John Kasich

Unpretentious. At a forum last week before about 1,500 people, Kasich acted as if he were in his living room. He sat slumped in his seat, white shirt wrinkled, right arm draped over the top of his chair. He spoke unapologetically about his work with Democrats as a congressman and a governor. He recalled teaming with Clinton in the 1990s on budget negotiations, and he defended using Medicaid money that many Republican governors have rejected.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie

Outspoken. Christie almost instills fear in the listener. Cross him and he’ll shut you down. But he’s also genuine and funny, if overwhelming, sometimes at his own peril. When pressed for details about his views on immigration, he said he wouldn’t comment unless he decided to run. “Till that time it makes no sense for me to do that, and I won’t,” he said.

Other possibilities

Other likely Republican contenders:

Sen. Ted Cruz (TX)
Sen. Lindsey Graham (SC)
Sen. Lindsey Graham (SC)
Sen. Rob Portman (OH)
Sen. Marco Rubio (FL)
Former Gov. Jeb Bush (FL)
Former Gov. Mike Huckabee (AR)
Former Sen. Rick Santorum (PA)
2012 VP candidate Paul Ryan
Business executive Carly Fiorina
Neurosurgeon Ben Carson

Also mentioned as potential Republican candidates were plenty of people who weren’t at the governors conference: Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Rob Portman of Ohio and Marco Rubio of Florida; former Govs. Jeb Bush of Florida and Mike Huckabee of Arkansas; former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania; 2012 Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan, former business executive Carly Fiorina and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson.

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