Could the fact that the last three presidents won the White House on their first try be a sign that voters have become more averse to staleness in politicians? Having run for president before still doesn’t seem to be an obstacle to winning a party nomination: Bob Dole, John McCain and Mitt Romney all got their nominations after their first campaigns. But all, of course, went on to lose the general elections.
This trend — if trend it is — doesn’t go back as far as Rauch’s law does. Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush had all run and lost before their successful campaigns. But it seems noteworthy that every defeated Republican nominee of the past 20 years had already failed in an earlier bid.
If we now have an emergent one-and-done rule for presidential bids, the next question is why. Maybe rising dissatisfaction with government and politics has increased the public’s demand for political outsiders, and people who have already run for president don’t seem sufficiently outsiderish. That would fit with Rauch’s explanation for the trend he identified: The preference for freshness in a candidate has just gotten stronger.