Do governors make for better presidents?

CNN reports today that Wisconsin governor Scott Walker thinks that governors (or former governors) make for better presidents:

“As you can imagine, I have a bias towards governors,” he said Tuesday during an interview on CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight. “I think chief executives, whether it is a mayor, a county executive, a governor, ultimately on your way up to president, I think that’s been a pretty proven theory over time.” Walker’s affinity for governors translates to his 2012 preferences as he admitted, “That gives me a bias towards both Gov. Romney and Gov. Perry.”

John Balz published an article in PS: Political Science and Politics that analyzed the relationship between pre-presidential careers and “presidential greatness” rankings, as determined by academics, historians, and the general public. In other words, he looked to see if there’s a relationship between the president’s ranking and whether they were a mayor, congressman, governor, military general, etc. before becoming president.

He found that governors do indeed tend to have higher presidential greatness rankings, but only by a very small margin. The pre-presidential career that’s most strongly associated with higher rankings is being a military leader or general (think Washington, Jackson, Teddy Roosevelt, Eisenhower, etc.). The author is quick to point out that only so much can be inferred from a study based on a very small sample size (43 presidents) and that domestic/international conditions and the fate of world history seem to determine great presidents to a far greater degree than their former careers.

That being said, military service does seem to count for something, and the only two serious GOP candidates with significant military experience are Ron Paul and Rick Perry.

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