The Best-Performing GOP Governor for Economic Growth in 2016 Presidential Race

The list of former and current GOP governors who are running or probably running in the 2016 presidential race currently stands at Huckabee, Bush, Walker, Christie, Perry, and Jindal.

As to the question about which one of these candidates had the best economic growth in his state during his term(s) in office, the metric must account for the fact each governed in a unique time.

Consequently, the performance metric is to take the ratio of the change in state and U.S. average real per capita GDP during the full-year terms in office. In other words, how many fold higher -- or lower -- was each governor’s real per capita GDP performance compared to the corresponding national performance?

A couple of notes must accompany the results. The latest available data is for 2013, so current governors cannot (yet) have their 2014 performance included. For Huckabee, whose governorship in Arkansas started in mid-1996, the analysis needs to start in 1997 because there is a discontinuity in the GDP-by-state time series at 1997, where the data changed from SIC industry definitions to NAICS industry definitions.

Bobby Jindal comes out as the clear winner. Even though Louisiana’s real per capita GDP grew by only 2.9 percent from 2008 to 2013, the national average actually declined by 0.2 percent during this period -- resulting in a very high performance ratio for Jindal.

Both Scott Walker and Chris Christie have underperformed the national average during their terms. Rick Perry’s performance after the oil production boom took off in 2009 was exceptional, but from 2001 to 2008 his state’s real per capita GDP growth was below the U.S. average.