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  "Senators Don't Win"
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pragmatic liberal
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« on: November 09, 2008, 09:52:05 pm »

The CW is that senators generally don't win the presidency -- governors do.

Can we put that bit of CW to rest now?

It's true that in the 19th century, governors, generals and cabinet secretaries predominated among winning presidential candidates. But since then, the 18th Amendment (direct election of senators) and the decline of the cabinet as a stepping stone to the presidency, I don't think that still applies.

Since 1914, when the 18th Amendment was ratified, the numbers look like this:

5 governors elected to the presidency
3 senators elected to the presidency

5 vs. 3 is not an overwhelming advantage.

Now, it may be true that governors have an easier time being nominated. Since 1914, governors have been nominated 13 times:

1. James Cox (D-OH) - 1920
2. Al Smith (D-NY) - 1928
3. Franklin Roosevelt (D-NY) - 1932
4. Alf Landon (R-KS) - 1936
5. Tom Dewey (R-NY) - 1940
6. Tom Dewey (R-NY) - 1944
7. Adlai Stevenson (D-IL) - 1952
8. Adlai Stevenson (D-IL) - 1956
9. Jimmy Carter (D-GA) - 1976
10. Ronald Reagan (R-CA) - 1980

11. Michael Dukakis (D-MA) - 1988
12. Bill Clinton (D-AR) - 1992
13. George W. Bush (R-TX) - 2000


Winning 5/13 times equals a win percentage of 38.5%

For Senators, it's the following...

1. Warren Harding (R-OH) - 1920
2. John F. Kennedy (D-MA) - 1960

3. Barry Goldwater (R-AZ) - 1964
4. George McGovern (D-SD) - 1972
5. Bob Dole (R-KA) - 1996
6. John Kerry (D-MA) - 2004
7. Barack Obama (D-MA) - 2008
8. John McCain (R-AZ) - 2008

3/8 is equal to a win percentage of 37.5%

What all this suggests it that it makes no difference in the general election whether someone is a senator or a governor. It does seem possible that governors have an easier time getting nominated for president, but in the general election, I don't think most voters give a damn.

Ultimately, a candidate's success is driven more by their skills as a candidate and the political climate. I would guess that Reagan and Clinton would still have won had they been senators. And I doubt Dole being a governor would have allowed him to win.
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WillK
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« Reply #1 on: November 13, 2008, 07:35:58 am »

Since Reagan wasn't Governor at the time of his nomination, should he be included in that list?

The CW is that senators generally don't win the presidency -- governors do.

Can we put that bit of CW to rest now?

It's true that in the 19th century, governors, generals and cabinet secretaries predominated among winning presidential candidates. But since then, the 18th Amendment (direct election of senators) and the decline of the cabinet as a stepping stone to the presidency, I don't think that still applies.

Since 1914, when the 18th Amendment was ratified, the numbers look like this:

5 governors elected to the presidency
3 senators elected to the presidency

5 vs. 3 is not an overwhelming advantage.

Now, it may be true that governors have an easier time being nominated. Since 1914, governors have been nominated 13 times:

1. James Cox (D-OH) - 1920
2. Al Smith (D-NY) - 1928
3. Franklin Roosevelt (D-NY) - 1932
4. Alf Landon (R-KS) - 1936
5. Tom Dewey (R-NY) - 1940
6. Tom Dewey (R-NY) - 1944
7. Adlai Stevenson (D-IL) - 1952
8. Adlai Stevenson (D-IL) - 1956
9. Jimmy Carter (D-GA) - 1976
10. Ronald Reagan (R-CA) - 1980

11. Michael Dukakis (D-MA) - 1988
12. Bill Clinton (D-AR) - 1992
13. George W. Bush (R-TX) - 2000


Winning 5/13 times equals a win percentage of 38.5%

For Senators, it's the following...

1. Warren Harding (R-OH) - 1920
2. John F. Kennedy (D-MA) - 1960

3. Barry Goldwater (R-AZ) - 1964
4. George McGovern (D-SD) - 1972
5. Bob Dole (R-KA) - 1996
6. John Kerry (D-MA) - 2004
7. Barack Obama (D-MA) - 2008
8. John McCain (R-AZ) - 2008

3/8 is equal to a win percentage of 37.5%

What all this suggests it that it makes no difference in the general election whether someone is a senator or a governor. It does seem possible that governors have an easier time getting nominated for president, but in the general election, I don't think most voters give a damn.

Ultimately, a candidate's success is driven more by their skills as a candidate and the political climate. I would guess that Reagan and Clinton would still have won had they been senators. And I doubt Dole being a governor would have allowed him to win.
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WillK
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« Reply #2 on: November 13, 2008, 07:51:17 am »

Observation:  Based on the list you provided, Senators seem to lose when running against an incumbent president (McCain being the exception).

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Platypus
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« Reply #3 on: November 13, 2008, 04:33:03 pm »

Senators vs. Governors:

2008: IL Senator Obama beats AZ Senator McCain
2004: Former TX Governor Bush defeats MA Senator Kerry
2000: TX Governor Bush beats former TN Senator Gore
1996: Former AR Governor Clinton beats KS Senator Dole
1992: AR Governor Clinton beats former TX Congressman Bush
1988: Former TX Congressman Bush beats MA Governor Dukakis
1984: Former CA Governor Reagan beats former MN Senator Mondale
1980: Former CA Governor Reagan beats former GA Governor Carter
1976: GA Governor Carter beats former MI Congressman Ford
1972: Former CA Senator Nixon beats former SD Senator McGovern
1968: Former CA Senator Nixon beats former MN Senator Humphrey
1964: Former TX Senator Johnson beats AZ Senator Goldwater
1960: MA Senator Kennedy beats former CA Senator Nixon

Not once did a Senator or former Senator beat a Governor; Closest in 1988.
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WillK
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« Reply #4 on: November 13, 2008, 05:07:46 pm »

Senators vs. Governors:

2008: IL Senator Obama beats AZ Senator McCain
2004: Former TX Governor Bush defeats MA Senator Kerry
2000: TX Governor Bush beats former TN Senator Gore
1996: Former AR Governor Clinton beats KS Senator Dole
1992: AR Governor Clinton beats former TX Congressman Bush
1988: Former TX Congressman Bush beats MA Governor Dukakis
1984: Former CA Governor Reagan beats former MN Senator Mondale
1980: Former CA Governor Reagan beats former GA Governor Carter
1976: GA Governor Carter beats former MI Congressman Ford
1972: Former CA Senator Nixon beats former SD Senator McGovern
1968: Former CA Senator Nixon beats former MN Senator Humphrey
1964: Former TX Senator Johnson beats AZ Senator Goldwater
1960: MA Senator Kennedy beats former CA Senator Nixon

Not once did a Senator or former Senator beat a Governor; Closest in 1988.
Not once in your list was a Senator running against a Governor. 

It happened in 1920.  That was a straight up match between a Senator and a Governor.  Governor got his ass kicked. 

Some incumbent Presidents were former Governors or former Senators, but then the race is about the incumbency not there prior position.
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Joe Republic
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« Reply #5 on: November 13, 2008, 05:58:06 pm »

The only two senators elected before last week also died after only two and a half years in office.
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pragmatic liberal
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« Reply #6 on: November 13, 2008, 07:19:40 pm »

Observation:  Based on the list you provided, Senators seem to lose when running against an incumbent president (McCain being the exception).



Maybe. But again, this seems like the kind of random outcome that's purely the result of the fact that the aren't that many presidential elections to work with anyway. When there's such a small sampling size and so many intervening circumstances, it's hard to make any sweeping judgments.

Fact is, it's hard to defeat an incumbent anyway. Most incumbents that run for reelection win. The fact that only governors have defeated sitting presidents might fall back to the whole bit about governors getting the nomination more often.

The reason I say this is because think to all the senators that ran against sitting presidents: would a governor have beaten the president they ran against? Would a governor have unseated Lyndon Johnson in 1964? Would a governor have unseated Richard Nixon in '72 or Bill Clinton in '96?
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pragmatic liberal
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« Reply #7 on: November 13, 2008, 07:23:01 pm »

Since Reagan wasn't Governor at the time of his nomination, should he be included in that list?

Well, if you don't include the "former governors," then the total elected since 1914 (again -- that date is because that's when the 18th amendment was ratified) is 3.

If you include "former senators" then the number of senators elected actually jumps to 5 overall (Jackson, Harrison, Harding, Kennedy, Obama).

That of course is for all elections. If you look at ALL elections, the number of governors elected rises to 10: Polk, Hayes, Cleveland, McKinley, Wilson, FDR, Carter, Reagan, Clinton, GWB, of which 7 were current and 3 were former (Polk, Carter, Reagan).
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WillK
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« Reply #8 on: November 13, 2008, 08:09:49 pm »
« Edited: November 13, 2008, 08:42:49 pm by WillK »

Observation:  Based on the list you provided, Senators seem to lose when running against an incumbent president (McCain being the exception).



Maybe. But again, this seems like the kind of random outcome that's purely the result of the fact that the aren't that many presidential elections to work with anyway. When there's such a small sampling size and so many intervening circumstances, it's hard to make any sweeping judgments.

Fact is, it's hard to defeat an incumbent anyway. Most incumbents that run for reelection win. The fact that only governors have defeated sitting presidents might fall back to the whole bit about governors getting the nomination more often.

The reason I say this is because think to all the senators that ran against sitting presidents: would a governor have beaten the president they ran against? Would a governor have unseated Lyndon Johnson in 1964? Would a governor have unseated Richard Nixon in '72 or Bill Clinton in '96?


Excellent points. 

I was thinking of stating the opposite observation:  the times when a Senator has been nominated against a non-incumbent, the Senator wins.  However the sample is quite small.

I dont think its completely true that "only governors have defeated sitting presidents".  It is true for the 4 sitting presidents who were defeated in the 20th C but not so much for the 5 in the 19th C.
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WillK
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« Reply #9 on: November 13, 2008, 08:41:54 pm »

Since Reagan wasn't Governor at the time of his nomination, should he be included in that list?

Well, if you don't include the "former governors," then the total elected since 1914 (again -- that date is because that's when the 18th amendment was ratified) is 3.

If you include "former senators" then the number of senators elected actually jumps to 5 overall (Jackson, Harrison, Harding, Kennedy, Obama).

That of course is for all elections. If you look at ALL elections, the number of governors elected rises to 10: Polk, Hayes, Cleveland, McKinley, Wilson, FDR, Carter, Reagan, Clinton, GWB, of which 7 were current and 3 were former (Polk, Carter, Reagan).

If you are going to include "former Senators", the list needs to be much larger:
Monroe, JQ Adams, Van Buren, Pierce, Buchanan, the other Harrison (whichever you didnt include), Truman, Nixon

Likewise, you missed a few "former' Governors":
Jefferson, Monroe (on both lists), Van Buren (on both lists), T Roosevelt, Coolidge
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« Reply #10 on: November 13, 2008, 10:20:47 pm »

I don't think you should count this election in these stats. Being we had 2 senators running and all their was a 100% chance a senator would win.
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phk
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« Reply #11 on: November 13, 2008, 10:22:09 pm »

I don't think you should count this election in these stats. Being we had 2 senators running and all their was a 100% chance a senator would win.
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Make Politics Boring Again
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« Reply #12 on: November 14, 2008, 04:14:12 am »

As was the case in 1960...
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pragmatic liberal
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« Reply #13 on: November 14, 2008, 12:06:52 pm »

Since Reagan wasn't Governor at the time of his nomination, should he be included in that list?

Well, if you don't include the "former governors," then the total elected since 1914 (again -- that date is because that's when the 18th amendment was ratified) is 3.

If you include "former senators" then the number of senators elected actually jumps to 5 overall (Jackson, Harrison, Harding, Kennedy, Obama).

That of course is for all elections. If you look at ALL elections, the number of governors elected rises to 10: Polk, Hayes, Cleveland, McKinley, Wilson, FDR, Carter, Reagan, Clinton, GWB, of which 7 were current and 3 were former (Polk, Carter, Reagan).

If you are going to include "former Senators", the list needs to be much larger:
Monroe, JQ Adams, Van Buren, Pierce, Buchanan, the other Harrison (whichever you didnt include), Truman, Nixon

Likewise, you missed a few "former' Governors":
Jefferson, Monroe (on both lists), Van Buren (on both lists), T Roosevelt, Coolidge


Well, I'm only counting people whose most recent job was that of senator or governor. Quite a few people served in those positions but then served in another job (i.e. the cabinet or the vice presidency) before becoming president.
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MR maverick
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« Reply #14 on: November 15, 2008, 03:39:09 am »

I guess this can be put back to test in 2012.

Gov Palin vs  President Obama.

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Lunar
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« Reply #15 on: November 15, 2008, 04:22:08 am »

Well, first of all, a senator HAD to win this election because it was one of the first times we've had Senator vs. Senator.  We could have put this to rest as soon as McCain won the primaries and it was clear Hillary or Obama would win the Democratic Primary.

Secondly, senators tend to get bogged down in their records -- it's why they lose.  Every bill contains so many earmarks and this or that, every spending bill you vote down is going to contain money for sexually abused children or something and every one you vote up will raise raise the tariff on Canadian mackerel 2 cents (and thus "raising taxes on the middle class").  Senators have a hard time winning becuase their records are long and easy to tear apart.

Obama was not a long-serving senator and when he was a senator, he was pretty self-conscious about his presidential ambitions and thus intentionally went through the right hoops: bipartisan legislation, nothing scary, etc.
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MR maverick
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« Reply #16 on: November 15, 2008, 04:41:19 am »

Well, first of all, a senator HAD to win this election because it was one of the first times we've had Senator vs. Senator.  We could have put this to rest as soon as McCain won the primaries and it was clear Hillary or Obama would win the Democratic Primary.

Secondly, senators tend to get bogged down in their records -- it's why they lose.  Every bill contains so many earmarks and this or that, every spending bill you vote down is going to contain money for sexually abused children or something and every one you vote up will raise raise the tariff on Canadian mackerel 2 cents (and thus "raising taxes on the middle class").  Senators have a hard time winning becuase their records are long and easy to tear apart.

Obama was not a long-serving senator and when he was a senator, he was pretty self-conscious about his presidential ambitions and thus intentionally went through the right hoops: bipartisan legislation, nothing scary, etc.

Nothing scary?

Like teaching kids ( kindergarden age) sexual education?

Education work with Bill Ayres the marxist (IL senate).

All the far left Bills on abortion.

You are right he didn't spend alot of time as US senator. He has no record and if the MSm had did a better of pointing that out, maybe the outcome would have been different.

Obama Does not have half the record of bipartisanship McCain has.


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Lunar
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« Reply #17 on: November 15, 2008, 05:51:59 am »

ok thanks nevermind
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pragmatic liberal
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« Reply #18 on: November 15, 2008, 08:41:02 pm »
« Edited: November 15, 2008, 08:43:57 pm by pragmatic liberal »

Well, first of all, a senator HAD to win this election because it was one of the first times we've had Senator vs. Senator.  We could have put this to rest as soon as McCain won the primaries and it was clear Hillary or Obama would win the Democratic Primary.

Secondly, senators tend to get bogged down in their records -- it's why they lose.  Every bill contains so many earmarks and this or that, every spending bill you vote down is going to contain money for sexually abused children or something and every one you vote up will raise raise the tariff on Canadian mackerel 2 cents (and thus "raising taxes on the middle class").  Senators have a hard time winning becuase their records are long and easy to tear apart.

Obama was not a long-serving senator and when he was a senator, he was pretty self-conscious about his presidential ambitions and thus intentionally went through the right hoops: bipartisan legislation, nothing scary, etc.

See, this is what I'm skeptical about. I don't think there's anywhere near enough of a record to prove this.

Again, since 1914, 7 senators have won the presidential nomination of their party. 5 have lost, 3 have won. But let's take a look at those 5 losses:

1. Goldwater '64
2. McGovern '72
3. Dole '96
4. Kerry '04
5. McCain '08

Would ANYBODY have beaten Johnson in '64, Nixon in '72, or Clinton in '96? The fact that they were senators was completely beside-the-point: they lost because they were running against popular incumbents.

As for McCain, if anything, his senatorial record may have been a blessing -- he was a well-known lawmaker and fairly-well respected prior to this run. And again, do you really think Romney or Huckabee -- two governors -- could have defeated Obama this year?

It's possible that if Kerry had been a governor he'd have beaten Bush -- less of a paper-trail, so you say. But given that '04 was a national-security election with foreign policy a big factor, would someone from outside Washington with no profile in international issues have been able to do better than Kerry?

Basically, there's only one -- debatable -- case where a senator's paper-trail may have cost him an election he'd otherwise have won.

And it's not like governors have totally safe records either. Governors have to sign EVERY bill that crosses their desk. George H.W. Bush in 1988 certainly made quick work of Michael Dukakis by distorting and citing all kinds of objectionable things in bills Dukakis had signed -- much the same way that people have smeared senatorial records throughout.

When it comes down to it, the whole notion that senators somehow have it much tougher than governors at winning a general election just seems to be an oft-repeated bit of CW that doesn't really hold up. People come up with all kinds of reasons, but I think in the end, the results are fairly random and the record isn't that overwhelming -- again: since the 18th Amend., 3 senators, 5 governors. Not that overwhelming.
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Lunar
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« Reply #19 on: November 15, 2008, 09:44:58 pm »

Generally governors are term-limited out, so they don't need to deal with more than 4-6 years of bills.  The types of actions that governors take, I would say, are generally more sexy.  Instead of blocking that amendment out of that subcommittee you chair, governors declare states of emergency and veto things, haha.

But you're right, the sample size is small.  Kerry definitely got burdened down by his long record, but that's not enough to prove a rule.
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The Mikado
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« Reply #20 on: November 15, 2008, 10:43:16 pm »

Nothing scary?

Like teaching kids ( kindergarden age) sexual education?

Teaching kids how to recognize predators ("If a stranger puts his hand here, tell Mommy and Daddy or the friendly policeman on the corner"), which is what the bill did, does not equal sexual education.

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On the same board as Annenberg.  Ayers and his wife, Bernadine Dohrn are big wheels in Chicago, for better or worse. Bill Ayers was a pathetic scumbag forty years ago (and yes, if you look at the Weather Underground, "pathetic" is a far better description than "evil"), and is still not a sympathetic character.  But are you willing to vouch for all of your friends' actions?

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No comment.

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Eh...he worked with Tom Coburn on an ethics reform...though as a rule I'm leery of most goo-goo measures like ethics reforms and campaign finance reform, Senator Obama clearly believes in them.   I'm usually leery of goo-goo because they're hypocritical measures by people who don't understand how things work preventing things from working...Obama's a pragmatist, and Rahm Emmanuel understands how things work.  If Obama can be a good-government type who actually cares about a real "good government" and reforming the things that actually don't work, rather than imposing byzantine unworkable ethics code on his underlings just to look good in the press, I'll be all for it.   As far as bipartisanship, Senator McCain disavowed much of his own record on the subject, even bashing McCain/Kennedy, his own legislation.
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pbrower2a
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« Reply #21 on: April 20, 2009, 04:22:36 am »

I guess this can be put back to test in 2012.

Gov Palin vs  President Obama.



Or Romney or Huckabee, former Governors. If you believe the pattern, no Senator has a real chance of defeating Obama even if Obama proves as incompetent as George W. Bush. Senators have records, and those records can usually be examined for legislation that doesn't look good after the fact. Seemingly every bill has something nasty in it, some detail that can be morphed into a monstrosity, so every Senator has a skeleton in the closet.  Governors can always delegate the details; Senators can't. 

Unless a Governor is Ray Blanton (pardons scandal)  or Rod Blagojevich (attempted sale of public office) the most controversial thing that a governor can do as governor is to make controversial statements suitable only for local consumption. Heck, George Wallace might have become President had it not been for his segregationist stances.

Governors don't get free rides if they get entangled in controversy.

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Lunar
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« Reply #22 on: April 20, 2009, 04:31:24 am »

Governors also can get tangled up with the economic situation in their states during their tenures or a particularly vitriolic state legislature, as well as their appointments.  Ask Palin.
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Citizen James
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« Reply #23 on: April 20, 2009, 06:40:28 pm »

As many have stated, small sample size...

However, I would suggest it is possible that being a governor gives more of a political advantage than being a Senator, just a being an incumbent is usually an even bigger advantage.

As far as I can tell, all presidents elected after WWII had previously held one of four jobs - Vice President, Governor, Senator, or General.

Before then, there were a some whose highest position was cabinet official or representative - I think those six categories cover just about everyone to win so far.  Anyone know of any counterexamples?
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