- The Washington Times - Monday, January 6, 2003

According to some political analysts, the Democrats have a big problem: Virtually all of the party's presidential hopefuls for 2004 are in Congress, an institution that has not sent any of its members to the White House since 1960.
For much of the past century, voters have tended to look to outsiders with executive experience, often governors, to be their president. Presidents have been men who ran on cleaning up the mess in Washington, and more often than not the candidates from Congress were seen as part of the problem, not part of the solution.
That's why some political analysts are now saying that the Democrats' prospects of winning back the White House suffer from not having any heavyweight governors in its presidential lineup and too many career politicians in Congress.
"It is no accident that presidents have so often come from statehouses, like Presidents Carter, Clinton, Reagan and George W. Bush," said presidential analyst Stephen Hess of the Brookings Institution.
"You are certainly not learning the many skills of a chief executive officer in a legislative body. It's the sort of thing that a George W. Bush and a Ronald Reagan learned, but, unfortunately, that even the brightest legislator doesn't learn," said Mr. Hess.
"They haven't managed anything," he said of the major Democratic contenders for 2004. "I think that's a serious problem. Even Dwight Eisenhower managed something as supreme Allied commander" in World War II.
Sen. John F. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, was the last sitting member of Congress to win the White House in 1960. Since then, four of the last eight presidents have been governors: Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Mr. Bush who is expected to seek re-election in 2004.
But with the exception of Gov. Howard Dean of Vermont and the Rev. Al Sharpton of New York, both of whom are considered long shots at best, the rest of the Democratic pack comes from the Congress: former House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota, and Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts, John Edwards of North Carolina and Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut.
Sen. Bob Graham of Florida, who served two terms as his state's governor before running for the Senate, has said he is considering entering the race but has made no move to do so thus far.
In the past three decades, the Democrats have not had any luck with presidential nominees who served in Congress. Among those who lost presidential campaigns: former Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey of Minnesota in 1968, Sen. George McGovern of South Dakota in 1972, and former Sen. Walter F. Mondale of Minnesota in 1984.
"Traditionally, Congress has not been a great springboard. Since the 1970s the outsider has been the favored candidate from both parties," said pollster John Zogby.
"You always look to governors as the future president or presidential contenders. History is not on their side," he said of the major Democratic hopefuls in Congress.
But the Democratic record in major governorships has been meager over the past two decades. During most of the 1980s and most of the 1990s, Republican governors ruled in almost all of the major electoral states dominating the Midwest, much of the South and throughout the West and the Northeast.
Democrats made some gains last year in such big states as Michigan and Pennsylvania, but their gubernatorial stars are few and far between and, outside of Mr. Dean, none of them is running for president.
While Gov. Gray Davis won re-election to a second term in California over Republican challenger Bill Simon, he remains an unpopular political figure and has said that he has no plans to run for president in 2004.
Still, supporters of the current crop of Democratic contenders say that this time the outcome will be different if Mr. Bush is hit by a sharp downturn in the economy or a disaster in the war on terrorism or a prolonged war in Iraq.
"You can look at it that the odds are pretty good if you are gambling that it will be somebody from Washington," said Jim Demers, Mr. Gephardt's political adviser in New Hampshire.
"It is easier for voters to vote for an individual without Washington experience when times are good and that is exactly what voters did in 2000. They elected Bush who had no Washington experience. He came in when we were having good economic times," said Mr. Demers.
"Now we are seeing just the opposite. The economy has turned sour. America appears to be in conflicts in numerous regions around the world. Those are circumstances that make people look for candidates who have experience in those areas," he said.
"That's why we are seeing so many candidates running from Congress. The time is right for a candidate who has the experience developed as a congressman or a senator."

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