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History is on Romney's Side

Mitt Romney may have more than primary votes on his side. History is in the former Massachusetts governor's corner. For more than 100 years, sitting presidents have only been defeated by former governors.

"The last person to do it was Benjamin Harrison, who defeated Grover Cleveland in 1888," said Lehigh University political scientist Saladin Ambar, author of the forthcoming book, "How Governors Built the Modern American Presidency."

"It usually takes someone with real identification as an 'outsider' to embody the change the country is seeking. (Newt)Gingrich clearly doesn't have that (among his other deficiencies)," Ambar said. "The only real person who meets the criteria is Romney,"

"I think the Republican leadership, such as it is, is coming to recognize this, reluctantly, and should Romney hold on to win primary elections we'll see more folks calling for others to drop out," he said.

Ambar's book is the first to explicitly credit governors with making the presidency what it is today. Grover Cleveland, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Franklin D. Roosevelt demonstrate how gubernatorial experience made the difference; Wisconsin’s Bob La Follette and California’s Hiram Johnson demonstrate how these governors reshaped the presidency through their activism. Ambar explodes the idea that the modern presidency began after 1945, instead placing its origins squarely in the Progressive Era.

Ambar recently shared his views in this Philadelphia Inquirer opinion article: What it would take to defeat a president.

Story by Sally Gilotti

Posted on Monday, January 16, 2012

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