I don’t get this even as a stunt candidacy, designed as self-promotion for a talk-show gig or book deal. He’s older than Hillary, hasn’t held office in nearly 10 years, hails from a famously Democratic state, is wildly out of tune with the base on core issues like abortion and guns, and passed on (marginally) more winnable races like the 2008 and 2012 GOP primaries and the 2010 New York Senate race. He’s the only man in America who could look at the current Republican field and think, “What this election needs is a more liberal, less charismatic, much less relevant Chris Christie.” Even his core message in the clip below, leadership on 9/11, feels anachronistic with the Republican Congress poised to let key parts of the Patriot Act expire. It’s as if Pataki decided that Rudy Giuliani’s 2008 strategy is a winner after all, and that all it lacked was a much blander candidate to make it successful. And it’s not as though the field lacks for muscle-flexing hawks on counterterrorism; the line to get in the ring with Rand Paul at the debates already includes Rubio, Christie, Lindsey Graham, and Bobby Jindal. What does Pataki add? To anything?
Three theories for why he’d run. One: Boredom. He misses being in the political arena and wants to have some fun at the very margins of the big stage. In which case, okay, but wasn’t he bored in 2012 too? He would have gotten (somewhat) more attention back then as a centrist foil to Romney than he will once he’s lost in the crowd of more impressive candidates this year. Two: He feels obliged. New York has elected only three Republican governors over the last 90 years: Thomas Dewey, Nelson Rockefeller, and this guy. The first two ran for president and were credible candidates. Maybe Pataki’s talked himself into believing that even the modern GOP can’t resist taking a hard look at a centrist Republican who was capable of winning New York. Imagine his surprise when he finds out the truth. Three: He’s an establishment catspaw being nudged into the race to make Jeb Bush and Christie look more conservative by comparison. Surely, though, the donor class could have found someone with more currency than Pataki to fill that role if that’s the plan here. As it is, he’s unlikely to make the debates. How effective can a foil be if he barely registers in the public’s consciousness?
Here’s his new four-minute(!) announcement vid, which might be good for five or six percent in New Hampshire if he can time-travel back to 2006.