When the GOP presidential primary began, the trendy opinion among Washington insiders was the party would nominate a governor—someone, the thinking went, with a record of conservative achievement far from the much-hated Beltway.
Actual Republican voters apparently don’t share that view.
In a primary that has defied prognostication, one of the biggest surprises yet has been the failure of any Republican governor, former or current, to break through to the top of the field. Each of them has dropped either to the lower rungs of the polls or out of the race entirely—a fact underscored Tuesday when Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal unceremoniously ended his struggling candidacy.
He was the third major Republican candidate to quit the race, joining former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and current Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. And they fared only marginally worse than the three viable governors who remain—Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and John Kasich—each of whom has run a disappointing campaign that has made them, for the time being, long shots.
So why has such a traditional stepping stone to the presidency proven so inadequate now? The reason, senior Republican strategists say, lies in a fundamental change within an angry Republican electorate and a host of candidates—Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz—whose background and talents are better suited to take advantage. The usual advantages enjoyed by governors running for the White House, such as a record of accomplishments or status as a Washington outsider, simply no longer rate.