The nation’s 29 Republican governors have avoided picking a candidate in their party’s presidential nominating contest, and they continue to eschew taking a stand as they attend the National Governors Association’s winter meeting in Washington, D.C., this weekend.
“They are cautiously tip-toeing around the matter that the rest of the party is consumed with: the GOP presidential nominating contest,” Politico
Although most of the GOP governors haven’t endorsed a candidate, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer broke ranks this morning, endorsing former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Another Romney endorser, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, isn't ruling out the possibility that the topsy-turvy GOP presidential race may end up in a contested party convention this summer if Mitt Romney loses the primary in his home state of Michigan on Tuesday.
Polls show tight races between Romney and Rick Santorum in Michigan and Arizona, which also has its primary on Tuesday.
Christie said he thinks Romney will beat Santorum in Michigan, but he acknowledged that the race has had several different front-runners and probably will keep going back and forth.
"We have to be patient and take a deep breath and let this process work its way out," Christie said.
Most other Republican governors appear reticent to become involved, for a variety of reasons, including the fact that some find the field wanting and others are put off by the negative campaigning that has beleaguered the race — not to mention the fact that endorsing the wrong candidate can backfire.
“I’ve never understood why anyone would care what I thought, and most endorsements don’t seem to move the needle very much anyway,” Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels told Politico on Saturday as he restated his plans to remain on the sidelines.
A long nomination battle means “there’s a more and more viable possibility that Indiana has a real primary” in early May, said Daniels, who toyed with joining the race and often is mentioned as an alternative candidate if the nominating process can’t settle on just one candidate.
The governors’ explanations vary widely, Politico observes, noting that the governors often cite the fact that they are focused on problems back home.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has stressed that he doesn’t want to offend any of the party’s base because of his impending recall election.
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad told Politico that he had remained mum because he wanted to be a good host for the Hawkeye State’s caucuses last month.
“I want to bring the party together,” Branstad said. “Governors want to play a unifying role of getting behind whoever becomes the nominee. Wait ‘til we get to the general election.”
South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard told Politico that he hasn’t spent enough time studying the candidates’ positions.
“I have to be self-critical here,” he said. “I remember when I was running for governor myself, I kept urging uncommitted voters to ‘go to my website.’ But yet, have I been to the web sites of all the presidential candidates? No, I haven’t. So I’m guilty as much as those voters were then. And I need to do that.”
“Yet at the same time, I know that the endorsement of the governor of South Dakota won’t carry much weight and hold much sway,” he said. “By the time the primary reaches South Dakota, the decision will likely have been made.”
Such concerns haven’t always been such a stumbling block, Politico noted, citing former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore recollection of the key role GOP governors played in 2000 for George W. Bush, a fellow governor.
“Republican governors at that time were very much playing a major, muscular role in the delivery of their states to the nominee,” said Gilmore, who is backing Mitt Romney. “I don’t see as much of that now . . . They’re trying to either pick the winner or make the winner, and if they’re not doing it, it’s because the environment is too uncertain.”
An example of how the uncertainty can backfire is Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, who endorsed his predecessor, Jon Huntsman, who dropped out of the race. Herbert then endorsed Romney. However, until the nomination picture becomes more clear, those who don’t have personal relationships with a particular candidate aren’t inclined to endorse, Herbert said.
“There’s politics involved in endorsements, and you don’t want to come out and endorse somebody and have part of your own constituency come out and say ‘Hey, wait a minute. I like the other guy. And if you don’t like my guy, then I don’t like you,’” Herbert told Politico. “So endorsements are probably in many ways overrated, but there is some political peril when you step out and endorse somebody.”
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