Two recent opinion pieces in Politico highlight the power and influence of governors’ offices.

First, Joe Mathews examines the recent streak of gubernatorial gaffes. Mathews points out scandals in Illinois, South Carolina, New York (twice!) and Nevada, and hypothesizes on the root of the dust-ups.

It could all be because of a confluence of two big cultural trends: the demise of many local media outlets and the dearth of competitive local elections that once served as a political training ground.

The many governors who have been publicly embarrassed recently are all politicians who rose too easily from the minor leagues to the bright lights of the majors.

They often arrived at the governor’s mansion unprepared for the intensity of the white-hot media spotlight.

The decline of local media in the past decade has reduced public scrutiny of lower-level officials in municipal, state and congressional offices. These positions have traditionally been used as political steppingstones.

At the same time, gerrymandering and partisan polarization have reduced the number of competitive elections. So winning low-level office is less of a test than it once was.

These disgraced governors rose through election to safe seats. Sanford had won three terms in a safe Republican congressional seat in South Carolina before making the jump to governor. Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons, whose standing has been undermined by revelations of a reckless affair (and is in the process of getting a divorce), had three uneventful terms in the state Legislature and five in Congress before becoming governor.

Gibbons had gotten so used to flying under the radar that he took his girlfriend to a National Governors Association meeting in Washington. (He initially denied she was with him there when first asked by a reporter but later confirmed it.)

While career politicians may be the enemy of many voters on both sides of the aisle, Mathews argues in favor of experience on the lower rungs of the electoral ladder. Of course, corruption can exist on every level, but Mathews doesn’t deny that.

Next, Nathan Daschle explores statements from Republican governors, and suggests that many of the more outspoken governors may have their eyes on higher office.

In times like these, when voters are tired of partisan rhetoric that outstrips results, governors look like the perfect antidote. They aren’t from Washington; they have credibility on jobs and the economy, and they focus on results instead of process.

Yet, rather than take advantage of this, GOP gubernatorial candidates have become the shrillest voices on the right.

Scott McInnis (Colo.) wants to abolish the Colorado Department of Education. John Kasich (Ohio) wants to get rid of Ohio’s income tax – though he has no clue how to make up the enormous revenue (40 percent of the state budget) this tax generates.

Former Rep. Bill McCollum, the state attorney general who is running in Florida, is spearheading a campaign to repeal health care reform that is already backfiring. Some people just can’t seem to get Washington out of their heads.

Perhaps because so many have their eyes on the 2012 prize, Republican governors and candidates are increasingly talking past independents. Instead, they are targeting their far-right base…

What are your thoughts? Should governors (of either party) use their office to discuss national matters? Does the argument boil down to one of states’ rights? If governors use the federalism argument to resist national initiatives, are they standing up for unhappy constituents or further miring their states’ in problems only the federal government can effectively fix?

Kentucky’s gubernatorial election is next year. What do you look for in a governor?

Advertisements