DEM GOVS: AN EMBARASSMENT OF RICHES. As Scott pointed out, Matt worries that there's too little talk about good middle-America governors as presidential candidates, and that "we may be doomed to an endless cycle of Senators (who DC political reporters already cover), governors from Virginia and Maryland (whose exploits are detailed in the Metro section of The Washington Post), and scions of famous families."
That seems unlikely, since not only are senators rarely elected president, they are rarely nominated. There's always talk: Every presidential cycle begins with a long line of senators who want to be president, but usually ends with a governor: between 1976, 1988, and 1992, there are probably two dozen sitting Dem senators who thought they had a shot until Carter, Dukakis or Clinton came along.
Matt's "counterpoint" example of Howard Dean proves the point. The reason Dean jumped out ahead of the pack was not the netroots, but the very fact that he was the only governor in a pack of senators, ex-senators, congressmen, and Al Sharpton. And that in turn was a direct result of the Republicans' absolute domination of the country's governorships in the mid-1990s. By the 2004 primaries, there was hardly one credible Democratic big-state governor with even a single full term of experience. (Vilsack of Iowa and Gary Locke of Washington were the exceptions.) Governors are always more trusted, and they have skills that the Senate strips away, and Dean had the governor slot in the race all too himself. It was only when Dean seemed unelectable that voters turned to the sitting senators.
This year, we'll have Vilsack in the race, and Evan Bayh is a credible candidate largely because he was a successful governor, not because he's now a senator. If Edwards had had one four-year term as governor, with some tangible accomplishment, he would be a more credible than with one six-year term in the Senate.
Yes, Tommy Thompson -- or any of a handful of perceived-successful Republican governors -- would have made a better nominee than Bob Dole in 1996, even though he is a nasty man and a fraud. But of 28 major-party nominees since 1952, only five have been sitting senators: JFK, Goldwater, McGovern, Dole and Kerry. (Good start, then it drops off.)
It's true, though, that the focus on Mark Warner and also on Brian Schweitzer overlooks the embarassment of riches in terms of governors that Democrats have in the next cycle, and they will not only make good presidential candidates, they also make great Senate candidates. Absent a "macaca" moment, only a popular governor can be sure of running a strong challenge to a Senate incumbent, so I'm counting on Sebelius to take out Pat Roberts, Brad Henry to rid us of Inhofe, and Dave Freudenthal to be the first Democratic Senator from Wyoming since Reconstruction.