Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas may be feeling like the Indy 500 driver eager to start the race — only his car won’t start.
At the Republican National Convention in Tampa last month, Brownback was the invisible man when it came to face time on the national stage. No speaking slot. No crowd of reporters eager to record his thoughts. No prime-time interviews with network anchors.
Meanwhile, other GOPers who are said to have national ambitions went speeding by. Zoom. There goes Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. Whoosh. There’s veep nominee Paul Ryan. Vroom. There go Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina and Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, self-serving bluster and all.
So what’s up with Brownback? Maybe nothing. Or maybe a lot.
Let’s give the governor a small break. He hails from the reddest of Republican states. He won big in 2010. And he’s not up for re-election this year. He didn’t have any immediate need for the 10 minutes of fame that a Republican National Convention can provide, and organizers understood that.
Then there’s the idea that Brownback is another conservative white guy at a convention when Republicans were desperate to showcase a party that’s trying to make inroads on the diversity front. That worked against him, too.
There also were the typical intraparty rivalries at work. Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia is chair of the Republican Governors Association. Christie is vice chair. Both are eager to use their positions as launching pads for 2016. They may see Brownback as a potential roadblock. So they got to speak, and Brownback didn’t.
Then there’s this question: At 56, does Brownback still want to be president? With as much success as he’s had in politics (he has already been a U.S. senator), it’s almost impossible to conclude that he’s written the presidency off.
That said, the governor did have the jolting experience this year of seeing Ryan, a former staffer, step onto the national stage as Mitt Romney’s running mate. Moments like that can cause anyone to wonder if time is passing them by.
Brownback is said to be happy being governor. He is aiming at a run for a second term in 2014. A 2016 presidential campaign would require a sharp pivot and could muck up the dynamics of a second term.
Still, what the convention demonstrated was that the GOP is loaded with rising youngsters. Christie turned 50 last week. Haley is all of 40. Ryan is just 42. Rubio is a strapping 41, and he absolutely sparkled in his prime-time convention speech. He was relaxed, offered a compelling life story and was pithy without being angry.
Rubio’s best line about President Obama: “Our problem is not that he’s a bad person. Our problem is that he’s a bad president.”
Brownback didn’t have the same opportunity as Rubio. These days, he’s not moving as fast either.