Governor Thinks Governors Make The Best Presidential Candidates

Scott Walker argues that Governors tend to make the best Presidents. He's largely correct, but he's not the only Republican who fits that bill.

Scott Walker
Governor Scott Walker, fresh off his third statewide election victory in four years, isn’t saying that he’s running for President quite yet but he is saying that an idea Presidential candidate would be, well, someone like him:

After pledging during the campaign to remain in office for a full four years, Wisconsin’s governor has left the door open to a possible White House run. Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday morning, Gov. Scott Walker also detailed his state’s efforts to jump start its slow economy.

“I’ve got a plan to keep going for the next four years,” Walker told NBC’s Chuck Todd. “But, you know, certainly I care deeply about not only my state but my country. We’ll see what the future holds.”

Walker expressed admiration for fellow Wisconsinite and potential 2016 candidate Rep. Paul Ryan. “I love Paul Ryan, I’ve said many times I’d be the President of the Paul Ryan fan club.” However, when pressed further, Walker inferred that executive experience was an better trait for presidential candidates. “Paul Ryan may be the only exception to that rule,” said Walker. “But overall, I believe governors make much better presidents than members of Congress.”

Here’s the video:

I think that Walker is largely correct here.

While there are few jobs that can exactly prepare someone for being President of the United States, it seems fairly clear from recent experience that previous political experience is certainly a major factor in determining how prepared an individual is going to be for what can fairly be called one of the most difficult jobs in the world, and that being the Chief Executive of a state, while not a perfect analogy to being President, is probably the job that comes closest to the one that a prospective occupant of the Oval Office will be asked to do. The best example of this, I think, comes in contrasting the Presidencies of the two most recent Democratic Presidents. On the one side, we have Barack Obama whose political experience prior to becoming President consisted largely of being a back bench member of the Illinois Legislature for seven years followed by three years in the United States Senate, two of which he spent running for President. On the other hand, we have Bill Clinton, who served thirteen years as Governor of Arkansas, during which time he was often forced to deal with a state legislature that was opposed to his initiatives. Without going into significant detail in recapping the Presidencies of these two men, I don’t think it’s too far of a stretch to say that Clinton entered office with a far better set of political and administrative skills that were relevant to what he’d need to do as President than President Obama did, and that, notwithstanding the stumbles that both men had in the initial years of the Presidencies, which seem to be common to recent Presidents to some degree or another, President Clinton had a far more successful Presidency than President Obama has had. This is true notwithstanding the fact that both men faced virulent opposition from the right while in office, and that both men were forced to deal with a Congress controlled, in whole or in part, by the opposition for the vast majority of their time in office. While there are obvious differences between the Republicans of the mid-to-late 90s and the Republicans who have been in office since 2010, the fact that Bill Clinton was able to make deals with his opponents far more easily than Barack Obama notwithstanding an opposition that went so far as to undertake the first impeachment of a President in 120 years. However the next two years of President Obama’s time in office turn out, they are unlikely to be anywhere near as successful as Clinton was, and while there are many reasons for that I’d suggest that a significant one is the fact that the man behind the Resolute Desk in each case played a large role in the process. Bill Clinton came into office knowing what it took to be a Chief Executive, at least the best that one can, Barack Obama did not and it seems clear that he’s never really learned how to do it very well either.

That’s not to say that every Governor would make a great President, or that every President that has purely legislative experience before taking office would make an ineffective President. Lyndon Johnson certainly provides a good counterexample in that last regard no matter what one thinks of the policies that he advanced. Additionally, history has given us plenty of examples of people who weren’t Governors who went on to become great Presidents — Lincoln and Eisenhower come to mind specifically, although Eisenhower’s military experience arguably provided executive experience similar enough to that of a Governor to aid him well in navigating the Presidency during his eight years in office. Additionally, several Vice-Presidents, such as Truman and George H.W. Bush, have proven to be quite capable at the job, As a general rule, though, I’d suggest that history has shown us that having some form of executive or administrative experience has served Presidents far better than, say, being a Senator prior to taking office has.

So, I agree with Governor Walker that Governors probably do make better Presidents generally, and I would take that further to argue that the past eight years suggest that whomever we elect to the Oval Office in 2016 should be someone who has at least some understanding of the job ahead of them rather than someone who has spent the last four or five years making speeches on the floor of the House or the Senate, or appearing on cable “news” shows pontificating, without having to worry about the actual consequences of what they say or the intricacies of what it takes to actually get a policy initiative turned into law, passed by the legislature, and enacted into law and applied. That certainly seems to describe Walker regardless of what one thinks about the merits of the policies he’s enacted as Governor, most of which the average Republican who will vote in the 2016 primaries tends to support. Additionally, the fact that Walker has won three solid victories in a state that has been generally Democratic in Presidential years in 2010, in a recall election in 2012, and then again in 2014, would be a strong argument in favor of a Walker Presidential campaign. But Walker isn’t the only such potential candidate on the Republican bench. Jeb Bush and Chris Christie both fall into this camp, as does Ohio Governor John Kaisch, who won a massive re-election victory on Tuesday after winning a close election in 2010. Indiana’s Mike Pence is another potential Governor who could run for President, as is his predecessor Mitch Daniels, although Daniels has seemingly left politics behind for the calmer world of academia at Purdue. These candidates have the same qualifications Walker does, and they don’t suffer from what some have called Walker’s apparent “Pawlenty problem,” meaning that he seems like a great candidate on paper but fizzles on the stump.  All of them, indeed any one of them, would arguably have very credible arguments regarding their preparation for office compared to Senators such as Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, or gadfly candidates like Ben Carson. One problem, of course, is that the GOP base seems intent on picking candidates based on ideological purity rather than experience, and in that regard a Cruz or a Paul is better able to fit the bill because, as Senators, they don’t have to worry about compromises and deals that require them to deviate from ideology at times, which may harm them in  the GOP primaries. If Republicans actually want to win, however, and put into office someone who actually has a chance of knowing what they’re doing when they get there, then they’d do a lot better in picking a Governor than a Senator. They’ve got a lot of good candidates that fit that bill to choose from in that regard, but the question is whether they’ll care more so much about purity that competence flies out the window.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, US Politics, , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. gVOR08 says:

    You mentioned H.W. and Jeb Bush, but not W. Bush, who provides a compelling counterexample.

  2. @gVOR08:

    I think you can actually make a case for W here, because the argument about why Governors make better Presidents is about their administrative abilities and their ability to work with Congress rather than the specific policies they pursue. In that first regard, Bush was able to work with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to pursue things like No Child Left Behind and Medicare Part D, as well as the passage of various international trade agreements, using skills that are arguably a legacy of his time as Governor of Texas.

    Bush’s problems weren’t on the skill side of the aisle so much as on the policy side of the aisle, and, of course, in the foreign policy arena which is an entirely different issue. So, in some sense, Bush’s problem was that he was someone who had Executive experience but used it to achieve bad policy results.

  3. C. Clavin says:

    President Clinton had a far more successful Presidency than President Obama has had

    By what metric(s), exactly?

    And it’s impossible not to note that Bush43 is conspicuously absent in your analysis….seriously???

  4. gVOR08 says:

    Just for stuff I pulled up the Wiki page on ranking presidents. There have been numerous surveys of historians. Wiki did a composite of them. Looking at the 19 Presidents in the 20th and 21st centuries* I find 8-1/2 governors (Harding was a Lt. Gov). In the top five: F. D. Roosevelt, T. Roosevelt, Wilson, Truman, Eisenhower; three were governors. (3 were Ds, 2 Rs.) In the bottom five: Hoover, Coolidge, Nixon, W. Bush, Harding; 2-1/2 were governors. (5 Rs.) Being Gov can be a steppingstone to the Presidency, but it’s hard to see much correlation with being good at it.

    (* The Founding Fathers had little chance to have been governors, so it seemed distorting to look at all Presidents. I’ll grant that ranking of recent Prezes is subject to change.)

  5. C. Clavin says:

    their ability to work with Congress

    So you are setting an impossible standard for Obama? In what world do you think this Congress was ever going to work with Obama under any circumstances? Are you of the magical President school? Did you ride your pet Unicorn this weekend?

  6. humanoid.panda says:

    President Clinton had a far more successful Presidency than President Obama has had

    This is a laughable proposition. Clinton had the luck to govern during a major expansion, and did push for fiscal restraint during expansion, an admirable housekeeping measure.

    However, he failed completely to pass any major legislation, with his signature initiative going in flame, so by the criterion you set, he lags far behind Obama..

  7. @gVOR08:

    Given how subjective those rankings are, reflecting largely the ideological predilections of the people surveyed, I’m not sure how reliable that list is to be honest.

  8. stonetools says:

    I have to agree with C. Calvin here. Given McConnell’s deliberate strategy to block and any all efforts at a bipartisan deal and to deny the President a legislative victory wherever possible, there was simply never a possibility that the President would have a good record of achieving bipartisan legislative victories.In McConnell’s own words:

    “We worked very hard to keep our fingerprints off of these proposals,” McConnell says. “Because we thought — correctly, I think — that the only way the American people would know that a great debate was going on was if the measures were not bipartisan. When you hang the ‘bipartisan’ tag on something, the perception is that differences have been worked out, and there’s a broad agreement that that’s the way forward.”

    So no, Obama’s inability to achieve bipartisan compromise had nothing to do with any lack of executive ability or skill at dealmaking. Ask McConnell.

  9. Kylopod says:

    There are so many things wrong with this analysis I don’t where to begin.

    Let’s start out with your comparison between Clinton and Obama’s presidencies. You refer to “the stumbles that both men had in the initial years of the Presidencies.” That lumps together vastly different experiences each man had in their first two years. If Bill Clinton had dropped dead on Jan. 1, 1995, he’d be remembered today as a faied, hapless, and incompetent president. This was a two years of nomination boondoggles, failed legislation, and wishy-washy compromises (it wasn’t for nothing that he was described as a “waffler”). The most notable, of course, was the failure of his health-care initiative, which was supposed to be the big accomplishment of his first term. Not exactly the emblem of managerial competence there. His presidency only bloomed after the Republicans took Congress, though his accomplishments were more of a conservative nature, such as welfare reform. If Barack Obama had dropped dead on Jan. 1, 2011, he’d be remembered as a highly successful president; staving off a depression and passing health-care reform–the goal that eluded Clinton–is, I would argue, far more consequential than anything Clinton did on the legislative front.

    You might credit Clinton with superior abilities to deal with the opposition party, but it seems to me there’s a pretty big difference of degree. While the obstructionist tactics of today’s Republican Congress have their roots in the Clinton era, they never reached their peak until Obama became president. Clinton faced virulent opposition, but at least the Republicans showed some willingness to govern.

    All that aside, the larger question is what any of this has to do with proving that former governors make better presidents. You hand-wave aside examples like Lincoln and Truman as if they constitute exceptions to the rule, when in fact you never established the rule to begin with; you just picked and chose a couple of examples and acted like your case was proven. In fact, looking through history, there simply is no pattern suggesting that former governors make better presidents than non-governors. Carter and Bush were governors; Truman and Eisenhower weren’t. (Trying to shoehorn Ike in by claiming he had “executive experience” is fatuous; there’s a pretty substantial difference between running an army and running the country.) For the details, here is a list of all the presidents who were former governors:

    Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren, John Tyler, James Polk, Rutherford B. Hayes, Grover Cleveland, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge, FDR, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush

    Looks like a pretty healthy mix of greatness and mediocrity to me.

  10. Moosebreath says:

    @Kylopod:

    The list of successful Governors who became President shrinks even further when you add that Jefferson’s term as VA Governor was considered a disaster, with him fleeing from British troops during the Revolutionary War, and Van Buren was NY Governor for less than 3 months before being confirmed as Jackson’s Secretary of State.

  11. stonetools says:

    @humanoid.panda:

    Obama has had a better record on passing major legislation than any Democratic President since LBJ.There is also the matter of rescuing the country from a second Great Depression and saving the auto industry.
    Where Obama falls down massively is :

    1. his naive belief that he could work with a Republican Party that was at war with him from day one.
    2. his mistaken belief that red America really wasn’t a thing, and that the the goals of the USA really were the goals of Blue America.
    3. A blindness to the importance of messaging to politics.

    The result was that he let a completely discredited Republican Party come roaring back within only a couple of years. But then something similar did happen between 1964 and 1972 so that wasn’t unprecedented.
    Anyway, none of this had to do with whether he was a Governor or not.

  12. superdestroyer says:

    @C. Clavin:

    by unemployment rate, reducing the national debt, expanding the economy. Clinton I was as close as the U.S. is ever going to get to having a libertarian president but the Democrats refuse to learn anything from that administration.

  13. Tim D. says:

    On almost every metric I can think of Obama has been more successful than Clinton, to say nothing of the fact that he’s faced more difficult challenges on the economy, foreign policy and political opposition. It’s not even close. But he’s presided over a period of increasing polarization, which is absolutely the worst possible sin in the eyes of the VSPs and pundits in the media with a bipartisanship fetish. So it’s not surprising that Doug would laud Clinton for essentially ratifying the Republican agenda during the second half of his presidency.

  14. gVOR08 says:

    @superdestroyer: He reduced the deficit to surplus by raising taxes. I was unaware that was a Libertarian position.

  15. C. Clavin says:

    @superdestroyer:
    First…Clinton followed Bush41 in raising taxes. Republicans all said it would destroy the economy. Instead it led to the longest economic expansion in history.
    Can I assume, based on your comment, that you are in favor of higher taxes?
    (Clinton was also blessed with a tech-bubble…which ultimately became problematic to the economy.) What we can assume is that if 9.11 hadn’t happened on his watch, and Bush hadn’t monkeyed with the tax rates we would be much better off today.
    Clinton also signed the DOMA…in the face of a veto-proof majority in Congress…so how you call him a libertarian baffles me.
    We are much freer under Obama…you can now get high at a same-sex marriage in 4 states and DC.

  16. Rafer Janders says:

    President Clinton had a far more successful Presidency than President Obama has had

    President Obama (i) saved the country, and the world, from sinking into a Second Great Depression, (ii) rescued the American auto industry, (iii) rescued the American financial industry, and (iv) reformed the American healthcare industry.

    Which accomplishments did President Clinton have that stacked up against those?

  17. Surreal American says:

    @superdestroyer:

    So, are you liking your one-party rule now?

  18. gVOR08 says:

    @Rafer Janders: Any President, even John McCain, would have rescued the financial industry. They’ve got really good lobbyists. The other three, no, a President McCain probably would not even have tried

    (Actually, one can argue that had there been a GOP Prez, the GOPs in congress would have been all for stimulus. I’ve never heard a GOP make that case. And none will, because it would be an admission they’re holding the country hostage. It’s an interesting question. Would they have done stim, or have they bought into the austerity BS so much they believe it?)

  19. Hal_10000 says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    I am not convinced of any of those four points. You state them as facts; apart from part (iv) they are inferences and shaky ones at that. His “rescue” of the auto industry, for example, consisted of the controlled bankruptcy that Romney talked about, only with re-writing of bankruptcy law to make sure the unions came out well. The “rescue” of the financial industry was the bailout that started under … um … Bush. And the idea that he rescued the global economy is quite a bit of messianic fervor to heap on one man. Balanced against those points it that Obama also massively increased our national debt, ramped up the surveillance state and still has us knee-deep in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    Oh, but I forget. Anything bad is Republican’s fault.

  20. al-Ameda says:

    @superdestroyer:

    by unemployment rate, reducing the national debt, expanding the economy. Clinton I was as close as the U.S. is ever going to get to having a libertarian president but the Democrats refuse to learn anything from that administration.

    What the Democrats did not learn was that, as much as Republicans supposedly liked Bill Clinton, they still impeached him. That should have been a clue to President Obama that they had no intention of cooperating with him at all.

  21. stonetools says:

    @gVOR08:

    Actually, one can argue that had there been a GOP Prez, the GOPs in congress would have been all for stimulus. I’ve never heard a GOP make that case. And none will, because it would be an admission they’re holding the country hostage. It’s an interesting question. Would they have done stim, or have they bought into the austerity BS so much they believe it?)

    It’s too bad to a certain extent that we couldn’t have run the same experiment as the Great Depression. Between 1929 and 1932 the Republicans dealt with the Great Depresdion with the same strategy they proposed to deal with the2008 financial crisis-no stimulus, “tax reform”, tight monetary policy, cutting the deficit. The result then was 25 per cent unemployment and complete economic collapse. The Great Depression demonstrated to the American public as clearly as anything could that austerity and budget tightening was not to the answer to a financial crisis, despite the popularity of conservative nostrums about debt reduction, belt tightening and the family sitting around the kitchen table and deciding to cut expenses.
    After half a century, people forgot those lessons, as well as the searing reality of years of unemployment rates in the teens. (Conservative propoganda also helped them forget).
    The result that when the Democrats advocated fiscal stimulus in meeting a Great Depresssion type crisis in 2008, they ran into facile right wing propoganda about ballooning deficits, the need for belt tighteningg, etc, without the salutory lesson of the economy going into complete collapse following Hoover style austerity.
    The Democrats did not help themselves by not arguing strongly in favor of fiscal stimulus and by enacting an undersized fiscal stimulus that failed to turn around unemployment before the 2010 electiion. Beyond question, Obama and Democrats’ biggest failure was not betting big stimulus in 2009.But what they did was good enough to drive a weak recovery-a recovery that Europeans would love to have.

  22. superdestroyer says:

    @gVOR08:

    clinton raised taxes in the first year of his presidency and the income tax rate was never raised again. In addition, no big new spending programs or regulatory programs were started. Clinton also continued the defense cuts that were started in the Bush I administration and stayed out of almost all international armed conflicts or when involved did so with minimal resources.

  23. superdestroyer says:

    @Surreal American:

    Last weeks results have no influence of the demographics trends in the U.S. Every left of center wonk and pundit has pointed out that the Democrats will have much better performance in 2016 and that the Republicans still face the problem of how to win elections when the percentage of the population that is white is shrinking.

    Why do you think that the Democrats are pushing for comprehensive immigration reform? If the Democrats create enough automatic Democratic party voters, then low turnout will not matter.

  24. C. Clavin says:

    @superdestroyer:

    the Democrats refuse to learn anything from that administration.

    Actually what Democrats have failed to learn is to stand up and be proud of what they have accomplished.
    Gore ran away from Clinton and lost (with some help from the SCOTUS).
    In last weeks debacle we saw the same thing. Democrats ran away from Obama and Health Care and the economy instead of selling it….and they lost.
    Here in CT Gov. Dan Malloy ran on his liberal accomplishments.
    Gun Control. Embracing Health Care. Making tough decisions on the economy…including raising taxes on the wealthy. Earned Income Tax Credit for the poor. $10.10 minimum wage. Mandatory paid sick leave, Repeal of the death penalty. Liberal marijuana laws. Easier ballot access. Transgender rights. New spending on public education, higher education, and infrastructure.
    And what happened…he beat the same guy he beat in 2010…by a wider margin.

  25. al-Ameda says:

    @superdestroyer:

    Why do you think that the Democrats are pushing for comprehensive immigration reform? If the Democrats create enough automatic Democratic party voters, then low turnout will not matter.

    Why did the Republican Party leadership in the House completely reject the Rubio Immigration proposal – it included a punitive 13 year path to citizenship. Republicans want more border enforcement, and they don’t want to continue to lose Hispanic voters. I’m not sure it’s a Democratic Party problem at all.

  26. Rafer Janders says:

    @gVOR08:

    Any President, even John McCain, would have rescued the financial industry. They’ve got really good lobbyists.

    Any president would have tried. Not every president would have succeeded, or taken the right action. No matter how good your lobbyists are, at some point when the money goes, it goes. Panic sets in. Merrill and Bear, Stearns had very good lobbyists as well, and that didn’t help them.

    Few people who don’t work in the financial industry appreciate how close — a matter of days — we were to complete systemic collapse.

  27. Rafer Janders says:

    @Hal_10000:

    His “rescue” of the auto industry, for example, consisted of the controlled bankruptcy that Romney talked about, only with re-writing of bankruptcy law to make sure the unions came out well

    I was involved, very very very very tangentially, in the auto bankruptcy process, and therefore can say how completely idiotic and laughable that is. There was no “managed bankruptcy” possible, period. The credit markets had frozen solid, and no one but the government was willing or able to step in.

    The Romney plan was saying”hey, let’s do a bunch of things that are completely impossible to do, and hope it works!”

  28. superdestroyer says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Anthony Brown made campaign appearances with both President Obama and former President Clinton. the media was full of advertisements linking Anthony Brown with President Obama and former President Clinton. He still lost is a very blue state. The idea that the Democratic Party nominees in North Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, Arkansas, or West Virginia could have won by running much farther to the left is laughable.

  29. stonetools says:

    @C. Clavin:

    While I fully agree with you that the Democrats need to run as well, Democrats, Sooper Dooper is also right. There really is a Blue America, and Red America, and Dan Malloy just would never get elected governor in Red America, absent some catastrophe.
    I think its pretty plain that the Democrats can’t hope to win in solid red states by running on the Democratic agenda. I don’t think its a candidate problem, or even an messaging problem: its that red states reject the blue state agenda. It doesn’t mean the Democrats should abandon their agenda: it just means that the Democrats should understand the South is closed to them for a generation. I think that’s reality.

  30. C. Clavin says:

    @superdestroyer:
    Of course there is no convincing the party zealots… But first you have to win the states you are supposed to win…which Dems failed to do in many cases.

  31. humanoid.panda says:

    @stonetools: I mainly agree with your points 1 and 2, mostly because Obama’s grave errors during the 2011 debt ceiling debacle. On messaging, I am dubious- I think that every president that presided over the terrible economy of 2009-2010 would have been pulverized in 2010. In the end, the history of the Obama era shows the effects of luck on presidencies: had the crisis erupted in, say, January rather than September 2008, Obama is inaugurated after a year of terrible suffering under a republican president. Since the recession by this point had ran its course, job losses zero out as he starts his term, he probably has filibuster proof Senate and able to pass his legislative package much faster, within months job growth resumes, and he looks like second coming of FDR, and people discuss the genius of his sunny, inspirational rhetoric at a time of national doom.

    Timing is (nearly everything).

  32. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    Few people who don’t work in the financial industry appreciate how close — a matter of days — we were to complete systemic collapse.

    This. Exactly … this …

    Had AIG been allowed to collapse, it would have taken down the entire US financial system, and probably those in a few other countries as well. We’re not talking minor inconvenience. We’re talking lines outside of banks, smashed ATMs and no bread in the store.

    We skated so unbelievably close to the edge of the abyss, yet conservatives remain convinced that simply sprinkling a little free market here and a little austerity dust there would have staved off disaster.

    If anything, we did too little.

  33. stonetools says:

    @humanoid.panda:

    I arguethat what Obama should have done with the fiscal stimulus was make it very clear we were facing a second Great Depression and that we were looking at the kind of collapse that would lead to 15-20 percent unemployment. He should have then argued up front:

    “My experts tell me we need a $1.5T stimulus. Now that sounds big but we have a big economy, and the biggest economic crisis since 1932. I don’t want for us to experience the kind of terrible collapse we saw in 1932. No, I want to see us come back strongly and as quickly as possible.
    The Republican answer is the same as their response under Hoover in 1932-do nothing. They don’t want any fiscal stimulus but want to try the same failed policies Hoover tried. We know better than that.
    A couple of Republicans have joined us in crafting a recovery program. Its much less than we want, and as a result we will have a weaker recovery and higher unemployment than we should have. Next year, if we still have high unemployment, I will ask you to vote for a Congress that will work with me on growing the recovery, rather than working against me and the American people.”

    Would this have worked? Maybe not, and of course , its in the light of the Republicans benefiting mightily from the “Where are the jobs” campaign in 2010. But I do think that if they had positioned themselves as arguing for a much bigger stimulus that the Republicans blocked, 2010 would have gone better for the Democrats.

  34. Rafer Janders says:

    @humanoid.panda:

    In the end, the history of the Obama era shows the effects of luck on presidencies: had the crisis erupted in, say, January rather than September 2008, Obama is inaugurated after a year of terrible suffering under a republican president. Since the recession by this point had ran its course, job losses zero out as he starts his term, he probably has filibuster proof Senate and able to pass his legislative package much faster, within months job growth resumes, and he looks like second coming of FDR, and people discuss the genius of his sunny, inspirational rhetoric at a time of national doom.

    Yes, but…had the crisis erupted in January 2008, after a year of Bush and GOP mismanagement the recession would have turned into a Second Great Depression and would have been nowhere near over when Obama took office. He would have inherited a smoking crater. It wouldn’t have been a mere matter of “job growth resumes” but a matter of saving what few jobs remained.

  35. stonetools says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    Yup. The problem is that people are disappointed with the Democratic led economic recovery, precisely because they didn’t see what a mess the Republicans would have made of it.

    Obama’s understated management style, his refusal to to defend the stimulus, and his failure to condemn Republican actions that sabotaged the recovery all contributed to the Democratic reverses of 2010 and 2014.

  36. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    Again, exactly. Few people outside of finance understand that, while it was initiated by a stock market crash, what actually caused the Great Depression was a collapse of the credit market. As a factor of GDP, the amount of systemic leverage present in 1929 was proportionally a good deal smaller than that in play in 2008, and yet it took nearly a decade of more or less non-stop spending, capped off by the gargantuan stimulus package we call WW2, in order to turn it around.

    Had we gone over the edge into a systemic collapse, we’d still be in a depression today, 6 years later, of a magnitude which I’d argue would make the depression of the 1930s look like a bake sale in comparison.

  37. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @stonetools:

    and that we were looking at the kind of collapse that would lead to 15-20 percent unemployment.

    15% to 20% is honestly optimistic. A more realistic projection is a peak of closer to 40%, with sustained unemployment hovering in the high 20’s to mid 30’s.

    Unemployment peaked at 25% in the depression of the 1930s, in a time where the economy was comparatively less dependent on credit. A systemic collapse of the financial system today would eventually shut down pretty much every business that isn’t sitting on an Apple sized mountain of cash.

  38. Rafer Janders says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    A systemic collapse of the financial system today would eventually shut down pretty much every business that isn’t sitting on an Apple sized mountain of cash.

    And even Apple would have to live off that mountain of cash for quite some time, because it certainly wouldn’t have sold very many fancy new iPhones for at least six years after the crash.

  39. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    And, to be honest, I’m not even sure the Apples of the world would have survived if we had actually tipped over. Back in 2008, GE was (and still is) a healthy, profitable company sitting on a mountain of cash as well, and despite that I still vividly remember Jeff Immelt and Keith Sherin running around with their hats in their hands looking under rocks trying to finance DTD operations.

  40. al-Ameda says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Bush’s problems weren’t on the skill side of the aisle so much as on the policy side of the aisle, and, of course, in the foreign policy arena which is an entirely different issue. So, in some sense, Bush’s problem was that he was someone who had Executive experience but used it to achieve bad policy results.

    He was definitely skillful at achieving bad policy results.

  41. Grewgills says:

    @superdestroyer:
    I have to say that this is a refreshing departure from your monomaniacal “one party to rule them all” rants.

  42. gVOR08 says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Similarly IIRC, Honda said that if GM and Chrysler went under they would have taken many of the supplier firms with them and Honda would have had to shut down in NA for a couple of years while they rebuilt their supply chain.

    I don’t think there’s anything that pisses off some of my Republican friends as much as the current health and profitability of GM.

  43. Rafer Janders says:

    @gVOR08:

    Similarly IIRC, Honda said that if GM and Chrysler went under they would have taken many of the supplier firms with them and Honda would have had to shut down in NA for a couple of years while they rebuilt their supply chain.

    Absolutely. Everbody involved in the businesses that cater to or depend on the auto industry — that is, the American steel, plastics,rubber, glass,leather, mechanical engineering, technology, electronics, audio, advertising, and television industries, just off the top of my head — would have taken a major, major hit, and many of the top players in those industries would have gone under, never to revive.

  44. Rafer Janders says:

    @gVOR08:

    I don’t think there’s anything that pisses off some of my Republican friends as much as the current health and profitability of GM.

    Party over country.

  45. superdestroyer says:

    @Grewgills:

    When I got up last Wednesday (Nov 5), I was shocked to see that Brown had lost. How could a sitting Lt Governor in a deep blue state and the hand picked successor of the sitting governor lose and by a significant margin (4.5%). The Republicans also picked up two seats in the Maryland Senate and eight seats in the Maryland House.

  46. al-Ameda says:

    @gVOR08:

    I don’t think there’s anything that pisses off some of my Republican friends as much as the current health and profitability of GM.

    I also strongly believe that Republicans were willing to let GM twist in the wind because they really wanted to use bankruptcy to finish off the UAW – gut pensions, cut salary and benefit compensation to UAW members.

    They did not care that related industries throughout the Midwest would layoff hundreds of thousand of workers. The credit crunch was on, there was no available capital to run a normal bankruptcy.

  47. Grewgills says:

    @superdestroyer:
    So now you will be giving up your one party nation rants, the end of an era.

  48. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @superdestroyer:

    No real surprise. MD has never, in its history, elected a Lt Governor to the governorship. Brown also ran an abysmal campaign.

    Republicans picked up 7 seats in the House of Delegates, not 8, and Dems retain supermajorities in both houses.

    Marylanders occasionally (by occasionally I mean 3 times – including Hogan – in the last 55 years) will elect a placeholder GOP governor when presented with a truly bad Dem candidate. They always throw him out 4 years later. Marylanders also sent the primary, very public backer of MD’s most recent gun control laws to the AG’s office by a margin of 250,000 + votes.

    Moral of the story? I wouldn’t read too much into these tea leaves.

  49. Guarneri says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    He wasn’t as delusional as that comment……..

  50. Guarneri says:

    @gVOR08:

    Any company can do well if you just extinguish it’s liabilities with the stroke of a pen. I note the same exculpatory zeal is not held for banks.

  51. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Guarneri:

    They got their liabilities covered by Treasury and the Fed. Seems to me that they’re doing pretty well now too.

    Assuming you know anything about finance, I think you’ll agree that the alternative in both scenarios would have been far, far worse.

    Of course, if you don’t agree, feel free to explain why not.

  52. wr says:

    @Guarneri: I’m sorry, Guarneri, who exactly do you hate here? The American auto industry? The American worker? Anyone who acknowledges that the government helped them?

    Or are you like Jenos and just hate everyone who’s ever accomplished anything in his life?

  53. anjin-san says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Bush was able to work with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle

    Bush was able to do this because we had a loyal opposition at the time. Now, not so much.

  54. superdestroyer says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    Ballotopia is reporting it as an 8 seat pick up for the Republicans in Maryland. http://ballotpedia.org/Maryland_House_of_Delegates_elections,_2014 (43 to 51).

    And the Democrats in Maryland, much like the Democrats in Mass., seem to define a bad canddiate as one who loses without defining what they did that was wrong. No, Maryland will not turn red but Anthony did not run that bad of a campaign and did embrace President Obama and the Democratic Party legacy.

  55. superdestroyer says:

    @anjin-san:

    If you look at the Pelosi lead House 2007-2008, there was nothing loyal about the opposition. Pelosi push for not giving Bush II anything that he could claim credit for doing.

  56. gVOR08 says:

    @stonetools: “It’s too bad to a certain extent that we couldn’t have run the same experiment as the Great Depression. Between 1929 and 1932 the Republicans dealt with the Great Depression with the same strategy they proposed to deal with the2008 financial crisis-no stimulus, “tax reform”, tight monetary policy, cutting the deficit.”

    Too true. Obama’s biggest political mistake was taking office right after the crisis. Ended up being seen as his recession, not W’s.

  57. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @superdestroyer:

    Evidently Ballotpedia can’t add.

    Going into the election, Dems held 98 seats in the House of Delegates. Republicans held 43.

    Republicans picked up 1 seat in District 1, 1 seat in District 2, 3 seats in District 6, 2 seats in District 29, 1 seat in District 34 and 1 seat in District 38, for a total of 9 Republican pickups.

    Democrats picked up 1 seat in District 3 and 1 seat in District 31, for a total of 2 Democratic pickups.

    9 – 2 = 7

    Dems will hold 91 seats in the next GA. Republicans will hold 50. 85 seats constitutes a supermajority in the House of Delegates.

    Republicans picked up seats in Allegany, St Marys, Baltimore County, Harford and Somerset / Wicomico. Dems picked up seats in Frederick and Anne Arundel. Aside from Baltimore County (purple), all of that was low hanging fruit, and there are no more seats in Balco for them to pick up. They have to defend them now. The GOP made no inroads at all into the other central corridor counties. They lost 2 seats there.

    As for Brown’s campaign, it was bad. His message was pretty much consistently negative and focused on Hogan’s social positions. He spent a great deal of time and money attacking Hogan on abortion, guns, etc. and very little, if any, selling what positive things he wanted to do for Maryland. The focus was almost entirely negative / why Hogan sucks and almost non-existent from the standpoint of what Brown wanted to do if elected. He was also in bunker mode for much of the campaign. That turned off Dem voters in droves, which is borne out by the turnout figures.

    The old timers in the GA who know Maryland politics did everything but hit Brown over the head trying to get him to abandon the negative blitzkrieg and start talking about himself, but he refused. Brown chose to ilsten to his political consultants instead, and it cost him the election.

  58. Kylopod says:

    @gVOR08:

    Ended up being seen as his recession, not W’s.

    I don’t think that’s entirely true. He did win reelection, after all, and I think one of the big reasons was that, despite the Republican meme of the “Obama recession,” most voters remembered quite clearly that the financial crisis struck on Bush’s watch. Voters are frustrated by the slowness of the recovery, and even now I bet if you polled the country, most Americans would think we’re still in a recession. But I’m sure those polled would also agree that we’re better off now than we were in the fall of 2008.

    Throughout the 2012 cycle, I kept explaining to people that this dynamic favored Obama for reelection. It didn’t necessarily favor Dems during midterm years. Aside from the demographic turnout issue, which is very important, this dynamic is not unprecedented. Reagan’s party suffered tremendously during the 1982 midterms (a time of 10% unemployment, slightly worse than 2010). Sure, his 26-seat loss in the House might seem like small potatoes compared to the 63-seat crushing the Dems endured in 2010, but keep in mind that Repubs hadn’t controlled the House to begin with, so they had fewer vulnerable seats to defend. Dems’ share of the popular vote that year–55%–was larger than the GOP’s share in 2010 (52%). In Reagan’s second midterm, in 1986, Repubs lost 8 seats in the Senate, handing Dems control of the chamber, despite the fact that the economy had already recovered.