Twenty GOP candidates or bust, guys!
Number seventeen officially enters the race this week to much fanfare and great anticipation. (Okay… okay… but I’m trying to give everyone a chance.) Former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore is officially tossing his Old Dominion hat in the ring. Reporters immediately asked him the one pressing question on the minds of all the voters… why? (From the Washington Examiner.)
He believes the large field will help him. “This race is running differently than previous presidential races, that’s one reason why I’m encouraged to get in. The difference is with many, many candidates in there, there is room to have your voice heard,” he told Secrets.
Also on his side is the lack of a dominant frontrunner such as Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side. “The race is not jelling around the other candidates. It just isn’t. Now I recognize I’ve got a long way to go, OK. I’m not unmindful of this, but it is possible because of the campaign environment,” he said.
If I were running the Politifact fact checker machine at this point I’d give the governor a “partly true” rating, which sounds much kinder than “partly delusional.” There are two elements to his rationale here, and one of them is fairly accurate. There is clearly an opportunity for any of the viable candidates as a direct result of the giant crowd already vying for the nomination. With this many people slicing up the pie, we’ve already seen polling numbers as low as 18% being treated as if they convey “frontrunner” status, and even polling in single digits can get you into the top five, which in theory should still leave you in striking distance. If Gallup phones up 300 people in New Hampshire and Gilmore can scurry around to enough homes to have just 18 of them give him a nod he would be in top five status and likely make it into a debate someplace. So, yes… there is an opportunity.
But the second half of the governor’s argument is that it becomes easier to have your voice heard. Whether you’re talking about ground level, hand to hand retail politics or seats around the table on the cable news shows, that’s sort of crazy sounding. Unless you’re doing or saying things to draw significant fire (generally for all the wrong reasons) you’re just not going to bubble to the top very quickly. And with Trump still basically sucking all the oxygen out of the room, I can’t see Gilmore being the lead item on State of the Union or Face the Nation any time soon. Even if Gilmore is talking about paid advertising time he’s going to need to raise a lot of money. How many big donors do you suppose are out there at this point who haven’t tied their fortunes to one of the sixteen other folks by now? Does Gilmore suppose they’re out there waiting for… what? Him? That pool has been almost emptied by this point unless he thinks he can open some flood gate of small dollar donors among the grassroots.
For those who didn’t follow his career previously, Gilmore was an Army counterintelligence agent before moving on to serve as a county prosecutor and Attorney General, then becoming governor in Virginia. He’s been pretty much out of the battle since 2002, though he has done some foreign policy advisory work. These are all credible qualifications for a POTUS nominee to be sure, but there’s nothing there which isn’t already on display with multiple other candidates for the most part. He made a run at the nomination in 2008, but it never really got far off the ground. He also had an ill fated Senate run in the same period but was slaughtered by an almost two to one margin.
Gilmore has fine qualifications and every right to jump into this. If it were a less crowded field he’d probably be getting a very serious look. But at this late stage and facing a tidal wave of opponents, I’ll be (pleasantly) surprised if this bid takes off to any great degree.