The Norman Transcript

Columns

December 1, 2013

Dance of the GOP governors

NORMAN — Don’t look now, but auditions for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination are already under way in Washington. And the flavor of the moment is governors.

First came Chris Christie, the pugnacious governor of New Jersey, who won re-election by a landslide last month and almost immediately headed to the U.S. capital for speeches and television appearances.

Days later, a less pyrotechnic chief executive arrived to do the Washington media rounds: Scott Walker of Wisconsin. His message was the same: “If we can do it in Wisconsin, we can do it anywhere, even in the nation’s capital.”

The point wasn’t subtle. As broken as Washington is, the next president should be an outsider, a hardworking governor, say, who has managed to tame a rebellious legislature and balance his budget.

It’s a message likely to play well with American voters who have long believed that executive experience is a better qualification for aspiring presidents than time in Congress.

Barack Obama was the first legislator elected to the White House in almost half a century, and his wobbly performance managing the launch of his own Affordable Care Act could affect other senators’ chances for years. Neither Christie nor Walker has announced that he’s running for president, but neither pretends to be uninterested, either.

To many Republicans, yearning for a primary contest less chaotic than the messy epic that produced Mitt Romney in 2012, that field looks decent already: two successful governors — a relatively moderate conservative from the Northeast and a more orthodox conservative from the Midwest.

Christie’s already nationally famous, if only for his battles with his weight and his penchant for dressing down reporters with words like “idiot.” And a CNN/ORC International poll released Friday declared Christie the early front-runner in the Republican race.

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