Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Congressmen as Presidential Candidates

Get off my back, I'm busy these days.

In the history of the U.S. 15 senators have become president. Only two -- Harding and Truman -- moved straight from the senate to the White House. And JFK is the only other to do it with less than 2 years between. Here's the link. So, its unusual for a senator to become president and the odds of a sitting senator becoming president are extremely low. 1 in 24.5, to be exact. That's pretty bad odds. There have been 17 presidents who were members of the House of Representatives. Most of those were senators or governors after being representatives, before becoming president. Only one, Garfield, went straight from the House to the White House. So why do congressmen keep getting nominations in presidential elections? Kerry, of course, is still a senator. Dole was a senator when he was nominated. Kucinich was and still is a member of the House. In the upcoming elections some of the big names being mentioned are Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John McCain -- all are sitting senators. In honor of google allowing me to do so, I've compiled a spreadsheet of presidents and offices they've held -- only considering senator, representative, governor, and mayor -- here. Here are some interesting facts:
  • No mayor has become president without being a governor -- this means odds are completely against Rudi, in this statistic, as much as I like him.
  • 4 presidents held only the office of representative
  • 6 presidents held none of these offices
  • 3 presidents have held only the office of senator
  • 9 presidents were only senators or were senator and representative
  • 20 presidents were governors -- counting governor of territories/possessions. 17 otherwise
  • 11 presidents only held the office of governor or governor and mayor
  • Andrew Johnson is the only president to hold all four offices
So, it would seem that the best way to be president is to be a governor. It is historically impossible to become president only holding the office of mayor (or not being a white man, but that's tangential, I suppose) (Rudi Giulianni). The least likely candidate that still has a shot is only a senator (John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama). It is only slightly more likely that someone who was only a representative can become a president (sorry, Dennis). It is more likely that someone who has held none of these offices would become president as someone who is just a representative or senator, and as likely as someone who was both (John McCain). It is almost impossible for a sitting congressman to become president (Hillary, Barack, McCain, Kucinich). So, given these facts why do parties continue to nominate sitting congressmen? I guess eventually you beat the odds. However, as I mentioned earlier no one who is not a white man has won the president. The big names right now on the Dem side besides Edwards are not only sitting senators, but one is not a man and one is not white (I'll let you sort out which is which), that ought to sound some alarms at Dem headquarters -- trying to beat the odds in one category is courageous, trying to beat several statistics is daunting, at best. History is, of course, in the making. However, if I'm trying to win an election for my party I would definitely take the past into account, not just popular opinion. Of course, this is a very limited scope statistic, but I feel it is a fairly relevant one.

So, will I vote for Rudi in the primary? Now I'm not sure... maybe I'll have to throw in with Romney. With this statistic, Edwards is the best candidate that I've mentioned on the Dem side -- do they have any governors talking about running? And I don't see Edwards beating Obama or Clinton. I guess it will be an interesting race, and its still early, so maybe we'll see a governor appear for the Dems later on, a-la Bill Clinton.


Justin said...

Any presidents elected who have done cocaine? If no, then that would rule out Obama.

J. Morgan Caler said...

No, W's college coke habit clears the way for Obama. It's all good.

I've heard other say that governors are best poised to run for President so I think you are probably onto something.

Joseph said...

Dr. Ron Paul is going to win.

3underpar said...

I will only comment on the first paragraph of this post.... whomever wrote should go back to their history books... There has only been two sitting Senators going straight to President, they are Harding and Kennedy... Johnson took over the Presidency when FDR passed. I didn't finish reading the blog, because of this misinformed writer, by the way there have been 15 Presidents that have held the office of Senator

ed said...

wow did you just look at what you read.. Johnson was Vice Presient when he took over.. wow how dumb are you.