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A look into the history of the United States of America, in the past century, there is a one clear political-cultural truth concerning the presidents of the Republic: Governors have often won the presidency. One would therefore ask, why have US presidents often been governors but not senators?
Many opinions have been suggested as to why the United States of America has had more governors becoming her president as compared to senators. Summers (2008) observe that many governors have won the elections especially while running against a senator, even if they run against the president or the vice-president, governors win. An apparent picture will come into ones mind by looking at the following US presidents: Bill Clinton- Governor of Arkansas, George W. Bush-Governor of Texas, Ronald Regan- Governor of California, Franklin Roosevelt- Governor of New York, Jimmy Carter- Governor of Georgia, Warren G. Harding- Governor of Ohio, Calvin Coolidge Governor of Massachusetts, William Howard Taft-Governor-General of Philippines, Woodrow Wilson-Governor of New Jersey.
On many occasions, senators who become presidents are those running against fellow senators or ascend to the top seat after serving as vice-presidents when a sitting president dies while in office. John F. Kennedy was the last senator to win the presidency in 1960 without being an incumbent (Summers, 2008). The latest senator to win an election was Barrack Obama but running against a fellow senator John McCain.
For along time the choice of the parties’ nominees has always been governors because of their high probability of wining the presidential elections (Dimacali, 2008). It does not come as a surprise why governors have often won the elections. There are simple reasons to explain this whole situation. First of all, governors normally have accomplishments to cite. The second and obvious reason is that they have served as heads or CEOs of large government organizations just like the presidency of the United States of America. The third reason and most importantly is that they lack a voting record on crucial/ important and controversial national issues.
The governor serves as the Chief Executive Officer of a state or insular territory. They are not directly subordinate to the federal authorities but to the political and ceremonial head of the state. In the United States of America, the constitution has preserved a notion that it is federations of semi-sovereign states, therefore powers that are not particularly granted to the federal government are retained by the state, whose head is the governor (The U.S. Constitution, 2001). To this effect, sates are not just subdivisions or provinces of the federal administration but something more than that because of the powers vested upon them.
Due to the powerful nature of the sates in the United States, the governor also comes out as a very powerful figure whose influence can cut across the country. Every state has its own independent criminal and civil law codes. Subsequently, each state manages its own internal affairs. The governor hence heads the executive branch in individual state. They may have considerable control over government budgeting, the power of appointing many officials (judges include), together with a considerable role in legislation. This is however heavily dependent on individual jurisdiction (The U.S. Constitution, 2001).
According to The U.S. Constitution (2001) some additional roles of a governor are such as commander-in-chief of the National Guard o f the state (if not federalized). In many of the states and territories, the governor has absolute or partial powers to pardon or commute a criminal sentence. Most governors who have presidential ambitions capitalize on these powers vested upon them to work for their respective citizens. This can be reflected on a national scale, winning the souls of many people and therefore increasing the chances of their winning the elections.
In all states the governor is elected, this gives them a good opportunity to interact with people and express their ideas. Although this is an attribute that both the governor and the senator share, the governor has a bigger jurisdiction to cover (The U.S. Constitution, 2001). There considerable practical powers, which may be moderated by the state legislature or sometimes by other elected executive officials, have increasingly made them appealing to the electorates. In some states, precisely 47, incase of a vacancy in the state’s U.S. senate seats, the governor holds the power of appointing someone to fill the vacancy up to the time a special election is held.
According to The White House, more importantly, each governor is required by law to give an annual State of the State Address as a sign of fulfilling a constitutional stipulation that obliges them to report annually. They have to give to the public information concerning the condition or the state of the state. This is a good opportunity that a governor can use to sell his/her ideas to the people. It is one way that has worked especially for governors with track record while dispensing their duties. Bill Clinton is an example of those who had a good record while still a governor at Arkansas. This coupled with other ceremonials roles like conferring state decorations, greeting dignitaries, attending state fair or issuing symbolic proclamations, performed by governors give them a good chance to contest the presidency of the Federal Republic of United States of America (The Votemaster, 2010).
As Kura (2009) reports, numerous presidents of the United States of America were governors before. This is perhaps a manifestation of the faith that people have in them while in office. A successful governor will attract support of those they lead and through that they may be able to lead the country in the long run. It is due to the fact that the state is just like miniaturized version of the whole country.
Taking an example of George W. Bush as governor, it is widely understood that he became known for his strong ability to work with people form all parties in a manner that was non-confrontational. Due to this, he pleased many of his constituents in Texas making him to easily take the top seat (Kura, 2009).
As governor Bush boasts of strong position against crime, drugs, and his stance on death penalty. He also spearheaded massive cuts in tax and ensured reforms in welfare with sterner work prerequisites. This made him dear to conservatives. Similarly, he promoted significant spending on public education and other programs such as bilingual programs that pleased many Hispanic together with some voters who were traditionally Democrats.His reforms in the education sector entailed that teachers are tested to ensure their accountability and educational choice through charter schools (Kura, 2009). This was part of building his path to the presidency as he had personal accomplishments/achievements at Texas to bank on (Miller Centre of Public Affairs, 2008).
Another good example is Bill Clinton who as the governor of Arkansas had a lot to show as part of his personal accomplishment/achievements (Allen & Jonathan, 1992). He raised the educational and teachers’ standards in the region through imposing mandatory competency testing for both students and teachers. He additionally encouraged investments in the state through granting tax breaks to industries. This made him become an outstanding member of the Democratic Leadership Council.
By helping Arkansas in transforming its economy and improving the standards of education significantly other than the controversial decisions like improving highways with funds from increased tax on gasoline and automobile licensing fee, Clinton became a top figure among the New Democrats. In the New Democrats, they backed a policy to ensure welfare reform and smaller government (Allen & Jonathan, 1992). This policy was supported across the board by both Republicans and Democrats. As the chair for National Governors Association, he was exposed to an audience that was way far beyond Arkansas. Clinton had a strong foundation as a governor before ascending to the presidency. His becoming the president had a lot to do with being the Governor of Arkansas.
From the above cases, it is clear that by being a governor, the chances of clinching a place in the highly coveted White House are high. The administrative experience that is gained is very high enough for being the president (Kura, 2009).