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Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick smiles in the Boston Red Sox dugout before MLB American League baseball action between the Red Sox and the Kansas City Royals at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts April 20, 2013. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, a rare genuine presidential contender in a thin gubernatorial bench.
It used to be said that the strongest path to the White House was a governorship. Not only do governors get to act "executive," but they also lack a voting record to be picked apart. On the other hand, the Senate has produced a myriad of failed presidential pretenders. JFK was a rare exception, as is the current president. But of course, given the choices in 2008, either victor would've come from the Senate.

In any case, being a governor is still a plum platform from which to launch a national bid. Yet looking at the current political landscape, there are few governors with the apparent heft to launch a national bid. Let's run down the 50-state list, below the fold.


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Alabama has Republican Robert Bentley, who proudly and publicly proclaimed during his swearing in that those who have "not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior … you're not my brother." Alaska's Sean Parnell owes his office to Sarah Palin quitting mid-term. Republican Jan Brewer of Arizona ain't going anywhere for an obvious reason (viciously anti-Latino), and for a not-so-obvious one: the teabaggers loathe her for becoming a fierce defender of Obamacare. Yeah, that's still a weird one. Democrat Mike Beebe of Arkansas has no national profile, nor seems interested in one.

Democrat Jerry Brown in California is like 237 years old. His presidential ambitions died long ago. Colorado Democrat John Hickenlooper has national ambitions and is likely to make a 2016 bid, with the hope of at least making a vice-presidential ticket. If you love President Barack Obama's obsessive desire to be liked by Republicans and fracking, he'd be perfect for you. Democrat Dan Malloy of Connecticut is like Beebe, doesn't have a national profile nor seems to be looking for one.

Delaware has Democrat Jack Markell, which is probably the first time you've heard his name outside of Delaware. Florida Republican Rick Scott won't survive his reelection bid. Georgia Republican Nathan Deal is already 70. Democrat Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii has no reason to leave Hawaii, and who could blame him? Republican Butch Otter in Idaho is nationally invisible. Democrat Pat Quinn of Illinois is just trying to survive. Indiana Republican Mike Pence could be a legitimate national contender, though winning reelection by just three points in 2012 while Mitt Romney romped easily, against a broke Democrat, doesn't exactly give confidence in his electoral prowess. Iowa Republican Terry Branstad might give it a shot because, you know, Iowa. But he'd be as relevant as Buddy Roemer in 2012. Who? Exactly.

Kansas Republican Sam Brownback already ran for president in 2008, and as the Koch Brothers' personal project, he could be back again. On the other hand, when Kansas voters give the dude a 37 percent approval rating, chances are he's gone as high as he will ever go. If Kentucky Democrat Steve Beshear had any national ambitions, he's hidden them well. Meanwhile, I hope Louisiana Republican Bobby Jindal has given up on his national ambitions, because they're deader than dead.

Republican fluke Paul LePage of Maine isn't going to survive reelection. Democrat Martin O'Malley of Maryland is a rare legitimate presidential contender, as is Democrat Deval Patrick of Massachusetts. I'm sure Michigan Republican Rick Snyder fancies himself in the White House, but he'll have trouble surviving reelection. I'm still surprised that Minnesota Democrat Mark Dayton won his gubernatorial bid. Mississippi Republican Phil Bryant is from Mississippi. That's disqualifying enough. Democrat Jay Nixon of Missouri has done well in a tough state, and some people are whispering about potential 2016 interest, but like Hickenlooper, there appears to be little appetite among those who vote in Democratic primaries for boring middle-of-the-road white males. Been there, done that. We can do better nationally. Montana Democrat Steve Bullock rounds out the "M" states, and ... nah.

Republican Dave Heinman of Nebraska is the kind of boring white guy Republicans used to like, but he doesn't foam at the mouth enough. Republican Brian Sandoval of Nevada, on the other hand, has future potential if Republicans decide to stop hating on spanish surnames. Democrat Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire has zero national profile. Republican Chris Christie of New Jersey is a legit contender, the only question being whether he could survive the GOP primary. Republican Susana Martinez of New Mexico has already been mentioned as a potential veep, but critics (from both sides of the aisle) claim she lacks heft. New York Democrat Andrew Cuomo has already elected himself president in his head. So if nothing else, he has the desire. Down in North Carolina, Republican Pat McCrory's efforts to disenfranchise millions is just the kind of thing that gets national Republicans all excited, so he might eventually aim higher. North Dakota Republican Jack Dalrymple has a delightful name. Beyond that ... who?

Republican John Kasich of Ohio already tried to run in 2000, so don't be surprised if he comes back for another shot. Oklahoma Republican Mary Fallin has no national profile. Oregon Democrat John Kitzhaber is a nice enough fellow. Pennsylvania Republican Tom Corbett won't survive reelection.

Lincoln Chafee in Rhode Island doesn't know what party he belongs to, but the people of his state are pretty convinced they hate him. South Carolina Republican Nikki Haley is nakedly ambitious. She's spending all that time on Fox News for a reason. South Dakota has a Republican named Dennis Daugaard, and that's likely the last time you'll hear his name absent a live boy-dead girl situation. Tennessee Republican Bill Haslam is nationally irrelevant, as is Texas Republican Rick Perry. The only difference is that Haslam knows it, and Perry doesn't.

Utah Republican Gary Herbert won't be going anywhere, nor will Vermont Democrat Peter Shumlin. Virginia Republican Bob McDonnell is going somewhere. Unfortunately for him, that place is probably prison. Washington Democrat Jay Inslee has zero national profile. West Virginia Democrat Earl Ray Tomblin will have his hands full holding on to the governorship of a state reddening by the second. Wisconsin Republican Scott Walker could be a contender. Wyoming Republican John Fellow, on the other hand, won't be. And actually, Wyoming's governor is Matt Mead. Not that you noticed. Or cared.

So to recap the potential presidential contenders, Republicans have Brownback, Christie, Haley, Jindal, Pence, Perry, Sandoval, and Walker. Most of the grassroots excitement in the GOP these days revolves around senators in the front lines against Obamcare: Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. Movement conservatives like Sarah Palin retain much of their core support. Christie would objectively be their strongest possibility, but his chances of getting through a contested GOP primary look difficult at best.

Democrats have even slimmer gubernatorial pickings: Cuomo, Hickenlooper, O'Malley, and Patrick. None of that matters if Hillary Clinton runs (not a governor, of course). But if she doesn't, it's not as if there's a crush of talent waiting to rush in. Patrick had a great national debut at the 2012 Democratic convention, and might be able to fire up the base. O'Malley had a disastrous performance at that same convention, though he's perfect on the issues and labor adores him. But if he sticks with "boring white guy", that'll be a sure loser in a Democratic primary.

But with Democratic women ready for their turn (and deservedly so), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand would be a strong contender, and the excitement is really with fantasy nominee Sen. Elizabeth Warren (and no, she's not running, though we all wish she did). Heck, California Attorney General Kamala Harris and Sen. Amy Klobuchar are both taking steps for potential runs.

What does this all mean? It means that once upon a time, you could assume the parties would nominate candidates from their ranks of governors. It didn't always happen, but in general, governors ended up in the White House. Given the current crop of governors, it's still certainly possible that one of them will succeed Obama, but I wouldn't place any bets on it.  

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