Sam Nunn Mulls Presidential Bid on Unity08 Ticket

Former Georgia Senator Sam Nunn is thinking about a White House bid, the AJC’s Jim Galloway reports.

Sam Nunn left the U.S. Senate more than 10 years ago. Since then, the Georgia Democrat, who made his name nationally as a defense-minded hawk, has watched what’s happened to the country, and he’s more than a bit ticked — at the “fiasco” in Iraq, a federal budget spinning out of control, the lack of an honest energy policy, and a presidential contest that, he says, seems designed to thwart serious discussion of the looming crises.

In an hourlong interview, in his small office on Marietta Street on the edge of the Georgia Tech campus, Nunn acknowledged that he — like former Georgia congressman Newt Gingrich — is considering a run for the White House next year.

But unlike Gingrich, Nunn would run outside the traditional two-party structure. “It’s a possibility, not a probability,” said Nunn, now the head of a nonprofit organization out to reduce the threat posed by nuclear, biological and chemical weaponry. “My own thinking is, it may be a time for the country to say, ‘Timeout. The two-party system has served us well, historically, but it’s not serving us now.'”

The 68-year-old former senator, still considered one of the foremost experts on national security, confirmed that he’s discussed a presidential run as part of several conversations with Michael Bloomberg, the New York mayor. More important, Nunn said he’s been in touch with Unity ’08, a group with a goal of fielding a bipartisan or independent ticket for president. Initial talks began with Hamilton Jordan, a co-founder of Unity ’08 and former chief of staff to President Jimmy Carter. Doug Bailey, a Republican strategist and another co-founder, said Nunn was given “a more detailed briefing” from the group this summer.

Nunn said he’s not likely to make up his mind until next year, probably after the early rush of presidential primaries have produced de facto nominees for both parties. He said the decision will depend largely on what he hears from the current candidates. The only certainty, he said, is that he won’t be anybody’s candidate for vice president.

Were Nunn the Democratic nominee, he would win the general election in a landslide against any Republican. Indeed, a substantial number of Republicans, myself included, would give serious consideration to voting for him.

Alas, there is no way Nunn could get the Democratic nomination. Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are quite popular with the base and, frankly, Nunn is far too conservative for the nominating electorate. Indeed, he’d have a better chance as a Republican but he’s likely not quite conservative enough to be competitive in the GOP primaries, either.

Nunn’s nomination on the Unity08 ticket would be much more interesting than the other alternatives I’ve seen bandied about, Chuck Hagel and Bloomberg. Still, given the mechanics of our presidential election system, it’s inconceivable to me that he’d do anything more than act as a spoiler, quite possibly throwing the election into the House of Representatives.

Jonathan Singer laments the possibility that a Nunn candidacy arguing, “the time really isn’t now for a former Democrat to work to make it more difficult for a Democrat to win the White House next fall.” It seems to me though, for reasons I’ve already alluded to, that Nunn would be far more likely to hurt the Republicans than the Democrats.

(I also second Greg Wythe‘s surprise that Nunn is only 68 years old. He retired from the Senate a decade ago and had been a fixture as long as I could remember before that.)

via Memeorandum

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Dave Schuler says:

    I would vote for Nunn in a heartbeat on any ticket. He represents my preferences nearly perfectly.

  2. Triumph says:

    Nunn has been talking about an independent candidacy for weeks.

    One interesting tidbit: Nunn was the producer of “The Last Best Chance,” an awful mocku-mentary starring the lobbyist Fred Thompson as the President.

  3. Christopher says:

    LOL! Nunn is just like a republican? Excuse me?

    Democrats that say they they are fiscally conservative and want a balanced budget want it by raising taxes, not cutting spending (otherwise they would be republicans). And he’s ticked off about the war? Wow, big surprise there-be against an unpopular war and act like you could have done a much better job because you are “defense minded”.

    And by the way, James-if you are a republican that would consider supporting Nunn, then you aren’t really a republican. Your a mindless moderate who doesn’t know what to believe and has no basis for political thought (or as often is the case, you are a liberal that wants to act like you are above and better than the system). But that’s OK, you share the distinction with many Americans. Seems kinda weird that you write a political blog, though.

  4. Boyd says:

    So, party loyalty is more important than critical thinking and voting for someone who espouses positions you support. Party over principle, as it were.

    Glad you cleared that up, Chiistopher.

  5. Andy says:

    Nothing makes the winds of change blow through the Washington political establishment like a long time politician running as the candidate of a bunch of elite political insiders with no discernible popular support.