Richard Nixon used to have a rule where a person should not run for President unless what they were saying on the campaign trail was markedly different from what the other candidates were saying. With the new year upon us and the jockeying for the campaign of 2012 soon to begin, all those would-be Commander-in Chiefs should pay heed to this rule, along with at least having a strong base support, whether regional or ideological, enthusiastic supporters, establishment approval and or a devoted following.
Unfortunately there will be people running for President who have none of these things and yet will still waste their time nonetheless. The system of providing federal matching funds to presidential candidates has made it possible for some of the most pointless exercises in politics (like the Jim Gilmore for President campaign for example) happen as a regular occurrence every four years and 2012 will be no exception.
Such 2012 non-entities are already lining themselves up for failure. We have Herman Cain, who couldn’t win a primary in his own party for U.S. Senate, styling himself as the heir apparent to Alan Keyes wing of the Republican Party. John Bolton is convinced the Bush II Administration’s failures in foreign policy won’t rub off on him (and the fact he denounced those failure have already earned him a turncoat designation in establishment circles). Rick Santorum doesn’t believe being clobbered in a re-election campaign for U.S. Senate is any impediment to the White House (and he still hasn’t come to grips with the fact his apparatchik-like support of the abortionist Arlen Specter in the 2004 GOP Senate primary is what done him in). Tim Pawlenty is already lamenting a missed chance at running for a third term as Minnesota governor instead toiling away in a campaign nobody is interested in. And Newt Gingrich will come to realize that running for Congress in suburban Atlanta (13 years ago no less) is a lot different than dealing with pancake breakfasts in Iowa church basements and coffee klatches in New Hampshire living rooms. Mike Pence would be a part of this group too but a chance to run for governor of Indiana next year could save him from also-ran status.
The last thing the GOP needs is presidential debates with 10 or more candidates on the stage. Not only is time limited and too short for voters to get to know every candidate, but even if the longshot candidates did have something interesting to say, it would simply be co-opted by those candidates who do have a legitimate shot of winning. It’s hard to figure what a candidate Santorum would speak upon which not also be the message of a Sarah Palin or Mike Huckabee. Even a shameless political camelon like Mitt Romney would appropriate such a message for himself if it was useful to him.
So why do such people engage in such useless ego trips? Well the Jimmy Carter example of going from nobody to President is still an enticing example. But more often than not losing presidential campaigns can often times lead to bigger gigs if said campaigns are run well or gain a few voters here and there. These may well include talk shows, cabinet posts, opportunities to run for other statewide offices. It may also lead to being named the No. 2 on the ticket and be at least a heartbeat away from the Presidency which is the next best thing. Its for those reasons, plus the money matching funds provides to fuel them, which voters will sadly will have sort through a bushel basket full of rotten apples just to get to the ripe ones.