GOP leaders say they have shown the success of those policies. But did Ohio's unemployment rate drop below the national average because of Kasich's conservative leadership or because Obama's bailout of the auto industry, opposed by Romney and Republican leaders, gave the state economy a major boost?
Many of the most prominent Republican governors came into office as part of the backlash against Obama's first years in office. They were beneficiaries of a strong Republican tide in 2009 and 2010 and of an electorate that was decidedly different than those typical of presidential election years. As they prepare for reelection, those with national aspirations will be measured by different standards: Are they capable of attracting a broad-based coalition big enough to win over voters in purple and blue states in a presidential election.
Bush explicitly used his 1998 reelection campaign to show that he could attract Hispanic votes. By what standards will Republican governors judged as indications that they could be more successful leading a national ticket. Perry had a more enviable record of job creation than anyone in the GOP field in 2012 but flopped as a candidate.
GOP leaders are right to point to their governors as vehicles for rehabilitating the party for at least two reasons. Historically, governors have a better record of success in winning the presidency than senators. Second, the ranks of the Republican governors include some of the party's brightest and most able politicians. But they are still largely untested nationally. Which of them will step up to meet the challenges their party now confronts?