So Jim Gilmore has officially announced that he’s running for the GOP nomination for President of the United States, bringing the total number of current and likely candidates to a figure which can presently only be expressed using alphanumeric characters previously employed exclusively in Chaos Theory formulas. But this is neither the time nor the place to discuss Gilmore’s candidacy… if indeed such a time will ever come. I think the point to debate now is if we really need any more candidates announcing and what some of these folks are really aiming to get out of these bids. That’s a question brought up this morning by Jim Geraghty.
With Jim Gilmore’s announcement that he intends to become the 17th Republican candidate join the race for president this cycle, it’s time for all of us on the right to have a serious talk about the perverse incentives for long-forgotten political figures to announce they’re running for president.
Did this begin when Huckabee got his weekend show on Fox News? Is it that the perks associated with even a short-lived presidential campaign — bigger speaking fees for those no longer in office, more television appearances, a big book deal, the perception that your endorsement may matter later in the primary — are just too enticing, and the consequences of flopping as an also-ran are just too small? Is it that after a cycle where Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, and Newt Gingrich all got to enjoy being frontrunner for a month, everyone thinks they deserve a turn on the roller coaster?
To ponder – and, in fact, challenge – the motivations of the people currently running is either a serious, if somewhat disheartening question, or an infuriating, insulting one if it’s being directed at your preferred candidate. But before we get to an even two dozen Republicans wondering why they aren’t invited to the debates, it might be worth the risk of exploring. If someone claims to want to lead the free world my default response is generally to say, sure! Show us what you’ve got! But this is getting preposterous. Some of these people clearly have no shot in the real world and they know it. So what do they get out of it? I’ve often speculated that people like Rudy Giuliani teased a run because it was good for his personal business dealings. Until recently I might have thought the same thing of Trump, were it not for the fact that he seems willing to burn down his empire in an effort to take the crown.
Others clearly seem to have had their eyes fixed on the prize for a quite a while and feel that they have (or at least had) a serious shot at winning, no matter what we in the peanut gallery were thinking. In that category I’d certainly put Bush, Rubio, Walker, Christie, Jindal, Cruz, Perry, Huckabee, Paul and Santorum. I’m on the fence as to whether or not Ben Carson belongs here, and don’t even get me started on Trump. (I’m starting to fear he might actually have a shot at the nomination and then lose by the biggest landslide seen since the 80s.)
Then we have folks who I can’t help but put in the “What Are You Thinking” category. George Pataki (as much as I like him) simply doesn’t have a shot. Where does John Kasich think he’s going on this ride? As most of you know, I think Carly Fiorina is a fantastic candidate and would make a great nominee, but she’s just not raising any money and coming or of the third tier anywhere beyond our internal polling here. Lindsey Graham seems to have just woken up one morning and taken a triple dose of Centrum Silver and now feels too embarrassed to back out. There are more, believe it or not, including some names you’ve probably never even heard yet.
So what do these outsiders think they get from this? A shot at the VP slot? Is Jim Geraghty right and some of them are looking for careers as Fox commentators or talk radio gigs and book deals? Is it possible that there are egos big enough that just getting on the cover of Time Magazine once if they take a brief lead in the polls is enough for them? But if you’re not serious about running and winning, that seems like a terribly cynical thing to do which doesn’t speak well of you as a person. This is critically important, and mucking up the works for your own benefit is pretty awful… if it’s true.
Or maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the one quality they all share in common is an ability to suspend disbelief. Perhaps they all really do think that once they hit the debate state the primary voters will swoon and they’ll be on their way to the White House. Really, I’d rather believe that explanation than think they are cynically trying to profit from the process.
So I suppose I’ve chosen to go with delusional over dishonest. Could be worse I suppose.