Two Georges: Is That
By Ken Rudin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Thursday, July 16, 1998
Question: I would like to see Texas Gov. George W. Bush and New York Gov. George Pataki as the GOP ticket for 2000. But would Bush pick another moderate governor, except to help in New York and the North? Liam Roth, Washington, D.C.
Answer: By George, the thought of a Bush-Pataki ticket is interesting, albeit unlikely. While many former governors have gone on to serve in the White House, sitting governors have not fared well in presidential elections. Before Bill Clinton, the last one to make it to the White House was FDR in 1932. Others have tried, of course. See table.
As for Bush and Pataki running together, governors tend to see themselves in charge, not as running mates. It's rare that a chief executive let alone a New York governor who is said to harbor presidential ambitions of his own would accept the seeming demotion. The last gubernatorial incumbent named as a running mate was Maryland Republican Spiro Agnew in 1968 a choice that, shall we say, was less than a resounding success.
Bush-Pataki 2000? (File Photos)|
Of course, there is the small matter of the 1998 elections standing in the way of a hypothetical Bush-Pataki ticket in 2000. Both are up for reelection this year, and both need to win big to stay in the presidential mix. Each is strongly favored to win a second term.
Polls show Bush light years ahead of Democratic Land Commissioner Garry Mauro, even though Texas has never reelected a GOP governor. One concern for Republicans would be if Democrat John Sharp were elected lieutenant governor in the fall. A Bush-to-Washington scenario would thus elevate Sharp to the governorship and put him in charge of any redistricting plan for 2000. Texas Republicans, and the governor in particular, are working hard to see that a Bush landslide carries in GOP Agriculture Commissioner Rick Perry as lieutenant governor.
Bill Clinton is the only sitting governor elected president since World War II. Among the others who've run:
Pete Wilson (R-Calif.), '96
Doug Wilder (D-Va.), '92
Michael Dukakis (D-Mass.), '88
Edmund G. "Jerry" Brown Jr. (D-Calif.), '76, '80
Milton Shapp (D-Pa.), '76
Lester Maddox (D-Ga.), '68
George Wallace (D-Ala.), '64, '72, '76
Ronald Reagan (R-Calif.), '68
George Romney (R-Mich.), '68
Nelson Rockefeller (R-N.Y.), '64, '68
William Scranton (R-Pa.), '64
Averell Harriman (D-N.Y.), '56
Adlai E. Stevenson (D-Ill.), '52
Earl Warren (R-Calif.), '52
Thomas E. Dewey (R-N.Y.), '48
Note: Dewey also ran in 1944. Many former governors have run for president, including Stevenson ('56), Brown ('92), Reagan ('76, '80), Jimmy Carter ('76) and others.
In New York, Pataki was the first Republican governor elected since Nelson Rockefeller nearly three decades ago. While Pataki's 1994 victory was attributed to the unpopularity of Democratic incumbent Mario Cuomo, the governor has grown in office and heads into this year's race with strong poll numbers, a fat war chest and oodles of confidence.
A more likely roadblock to a Bush-Pataki ticket is abortion. Bush is solidly against the procedure, and strongly opposes partial-birth abortions. But he has made it clear he's against using abortion as a "litmus test," and has refused to rule out supporting an abortion-rights candidate for the national ticket.
Pataki started his legislative career as an abortion opponent, but began shifting toward an abortion-rights position during his gubernatorial campaign. Since his election, he has urged his party to downplay the issue. Such moderate views no doubt help at home. But with social conservatives threatening to sit out the 2000 election (or even run a third-party candidate) if an abortion-rights supporter gets on the ticket, it's hard to see Republicans embracing Pataki's views nationally.
New York governors who ran for president: Thomas E. Dewey (above) and Nelson Rockefeller (below).
(Collection of Ken Rudin)|
If it seems surprising to see the relatively unknown Pataki on the list of potential presidential candidates, it shouldn't be. As governor of New York he is, by definition, a potential presidential candidate. Every New York governor elected since World War II has either announced for president, hoped for a deadlocked convention (Hugh Carey in '76 and '80), or was the source of rampant speculation (Cuomo in '88 and '92). Yet not one of them made it.
As for Bush-Pataki 2000, the last time two governors ran together on a ticket was 1948, when New York Republican Thomas Dewey picked California's Earl Warren as his running mate. They were supposed to win. They didn't.
The last time two candidates running together had the same first name? That was 1916, when Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes and former vice president Charles Fairbanks led the GOP ticket. They lost too.
Got a question? Ask Ken Rudin: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ken Rudin, a former editor at NPR and the Hotline, writes the "Political Graffiti" column for The Hill, a Capitol Hill weekly. He is also the creator of washingtonpost.com's ScuttleButton contest.
© Copyright 1998 Ken Rudin
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