Why a Record Number of Republicans Are Running in 2016
Matthew Dickinson takes a stab at explaining "Why So Many Republicans Are Running in 2016."
Matthew Dickinson takes a stab at explaining “Why So Many Republicans Are Running in 2016.” Noting that we’re likely to have sixteen major contenders for the nomination this year, he notes that the incentives have changed substantially over time.
[D]uring campaigns in the modern era in which no Republican incumbent president is running for re-election, the Republican field averages a shade over 9 candidates. Note, however, that the size of the Republican candidate pool has grown deeper across four decades; there were only 7 candidates in 1980, 6 in 1988 and 10 in 1996. In the three most recent open-seat nominating contests, however, Republicans have averaged 11 candidates, including the dozen-and-counting that are running during the 2016 cycle.
[N]ot every presidential candidate is necessarily in it to win it. Although all profess their fervent belief that they should be the party standard bearer, some are likely motivated to take advantage of the highly visible platform a national campaign can provide to push a particular set of policies or to promote themselves. For example, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky used the visibility of his presidential campaign to help gain publicity for his effort in the Senate to scuttle an extension of the USA Patriot Act — legislation he had opposed since entering the Senate. Not coincidentally, his very public opposition during Senate debate likely also boosted his presidential campaign profile. Similarly, the socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has been pushing his populist economic agenda for years, but by running for president as a Democrat he has gained a more prominent platform from which to make his views known.
Changes to campaign funding combined with the growing prominence of social media as a fund-raising tool have made it easier for more of these ideologically-extreme candidates to raise money and remain viable candidates, thus accentuating the nominating process’ utility as a bully pulpit. The recent Citizens United and Speechnow court cases both contributed to a rise in outside spending on campaigns by more ideologically extreme groups and deep-pocketed individuals with single-issue concerns.
Gingrich, for instance, remained in the Republican race in 2012 long after it became clear he could not win the nomination, thanks to periodic infusion of funds by billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson. The traditional parties, meanwhile, have lost some of their gatekeeping abilities due in part to the ban on “soft money” imposed by the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act. That was money ostensibly raised by parties for so-called party-building activities, but which was in fact used to bolster the campaign of the party favorite whose typically more centrist views were deemed by party regulars to make them more competitive in the general election.
The combination of campaign finance reform and technological developments has lowered the entry barriers for candidates with less moderate political views and allowed them to remain viable for a longer period. Even though their prospects of winning their party’s nomination may not have increased, these long-shot candidates nonetheless have a greater incentive to enter the race.
Finally, in an era that has witnessed the proliferation of cable news shows and more ideologically-oriented media outlets, we should not underestimate the post-race benefits that potentially accrue to losing presidential candidates. Mike Huckabee parlayed his failed 2008 presidential bid into hosting his own political talk show on the Fox News cable network. Eight years later, Huckabee is once again running for president, and while he is unlikely to win, he will probably bolster his cache as a television talking head.
Similarly, thanks in no small part to his failed 2012 bid, Gingrich is now a permanent fixture as a political pundit on network and cable news shows. Perhaps with their examples in mind, real estate mogul Donald Trump has just announced that he is also running for the Republican nomination — a career move that, if nothing else, will no doubt help boost ratings for his “Celebrity Apprentice” television show and other endeavors almost regardless of how well he does.
For all these reasons, running for president today has become a more attractive proposition for candidates who in an earlier period might have decided it was not worth incurring the expense in time and resources associated with a long-shot national campaign. This proliferation of candidates is not necessarily an unwelcome development — indeed, it can be viewed as a sign of a healthy, vibrant electoral process, one in which voters have more and, perhaps, better choices.
The bottom line is that, for those shameless enough to exploit the system, there’s really no reason not to run. While many of the announced or expected candidates seemingly have no shot at winning the nomination, only Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, and Donald Trump are demonstrably unqualified for the office in terms of résumé. And even aside from cashing in on the talk show circuit, the mere act of running for president generally boosts the public profile of politicians, raising their national stature and ability to do their job more effectively.
Given all this, I’m rather surprised that Hillary Clinton isn’t attracting more challengers. To be sure, she’s a clear frontrunner in a way that no one in the GOP field is. But there’s little downside for a Democratic senator or governor in getting into the debates and becoming thought of as a presidential contender.
Quite frankly, this and the fact that we are living in an age of narcissism seems to me to be the primary reason. Instead of a couple of accomplished sitting Governors and Senators, we see basically unemployed politicians, one term Senators, and various hucksters who are either cynical or pathological.
Rather than an exciting race, it has become increasingly depressing.
I’m wondering if he leaned back and cackled after writing that sentence.
One can view it that way. One is hardly compelled by the evidence to view it that way.
So most of them are “grifters.”
@Lit3Bolt: @gVOR08: Sorry Lit, didn’t see you coming.
Yes James, I wonder why that would be…. Actually, it’s pretty simple, the GOP is so fractured and deluded that there are as many as 16 people who think they are the embodiment of the 2nd coming and they will be the one to resurrect the GOP to it’s rightful place.
I blame Obama. No, really.
The candidates saw a young state senator who was unknown on the national stage in the summer of 2004 move to the White House by November 2008. If this callow youth-a black man, at that-could do this, then surely so can I , say these various Republicans.
So you get this clown cavalcade.
I wonder if this is just another manifestation of the the differences between the conservative and liberal media complexes. There are, for whatever reason, less opportunities for liberal pundits of the GIngrich model.
This is only a partial explanation, but there seems to be something to it.
@Steven L. Taylor: Excuse me, “liberal pundits of the Gingrich model?” You mean liberals should have verbal bomb-throwers who use adjectives, not analysis and seek to permanently degrade our political discourse? Or hypocrites who lecture us on morality? I know that Gingrich is a legend in his own mind but calling him a pundit pegs the absurdity meter.
In the Republican party, the crazy has penetrated so deeply, that no individual could possibly represent the views of the GOP constituency.
There is, in fact, for them, no true Scotsman.
@dmichaelwells: I guess you have higher standards for the term “pundit” than I do. I fear that anyone who pontificates for a living, regardless of the quality of said pontifications, is a pundit.
By “liberal pundits of the Gingrich model?” I simply mean someone how parlays a presidential bid into a talking head gig. Really, Sarah Palin would be an even better example (although in that case, a veep-bid) insofar as no one knew who Palin was until McCain elevated her.
I can’t think of a good analog on the “liberal” side (but perhaps I am forgetting someone).
Certainly the sheer volume on the GOP is higher.
@Steven L. Taylor: Punditry may be part of the reason but I also believe HRC is so well situated that the only choices a candidate would have to compare to her would be further left ala Sanders or further right which would make them no different than a moderate Republican.
@Mr. Prosser: HRC’s seeming inevitability clearly depresses the number of contenders. However, the point of James’ post (and the linked articles) is that there are other incentives to run. What I find interesting is that those incentives seem to motivate Republican far more than Democrats.
Where is the Democratic version of Carson, Trump, or Fiorina? Where are the Dems who want talk shows, pundit gigs, or who think running will make them more veep-able or cabinet worthy?
@Steven L. Taylor:
There is unfortunately perhaps no liberal version of Fox News or conservative talk radio. You can’t get rich telling a bunch of liberals what they want to hear or spouting left wing mythoolgy, I suppose.
Maybe that’s a good thing.
@Steven L. Taylor: @stonetools: I think Stonetools is correct re: no pundits and, frankly, if I were putting myself up as a VP or cabinet candidate I’m not sure I would want to PO HRC by running against her.
@stonetools: Well, that is my basic point: that whatever it is that leads to a lack of a liberal Fox News or the lack of major liberal talk radio of the Limbaugh/Hannity/Beck type is also what is leading to the proliferation of a certain type of GOP candidate.
@Steven L. Taylor: Not all liberals have well thought out positions, and some conservatives do (I’m told). But in general, conservatism is a matter of faith. They believe what they believe because they believe it. Much as I enjoy Rachel Maddow, I don’t need to have my belief that Keynesian economics describes the real world better than supply side, or that shooting unarmed black people is bad, reinforced by Sister Rachel or Reverend Krugman every day. Conservatives do seem to need the reinforcement of a daily sermon, and a stream of factoids to help them work around the cognitive dissonance constantly generated between their beliefs and reality.
They will, for instance, now be desperately needing explanations of why Obamacare is still unconstitutional despite the Roberts Court repeatedly saying it isn’t.
Why anger the queen? She may grant them an estate and titles during her reign.
Why are more Republicans running? In part, I’d like to think, because Democrats are more interested in the practicalities of governing, and that entails getting one of their own in the White House. No one wants a coronation, but no one wants a last-clown-standing nomination process either. And any challenger should be substantially different, not just Hillary Clone I, II, III, IV… XV.
The Republican electorate, on the other hand, wants its collective ego flattered and ass kissed, actual political results be damned. Now let’s be fair: each ass kisser has his secret technique, this one with softer lips, another preferring to use a bit of tongue. Mere onlookers have trouble distinguishing one from another, but those with another perspective enjoy the attention. I’m reminded of the 2012 nomination, when all eight candidates, upon being offered a 10-to-1 ratio of spending cuts to tax increases, gleefully puckered up to a man. Impossible to imagine that on the other side of the isle. Until that dynamic changes, we can count on the circus rolling back into town every four years, and on the thump of belt buckles hitting the floor.
@Steven L. Taylor:
“that is my basic point: that whatever it is that leads to a lack of a liberal Fox News”
It also shows, contrary to conservative dogma, that MSNBC is not the equivalent of Fox News. The only host at MSNBC who held elective office did so as a Republican (Scarborough), and I can’t think of too many regular commentators there who held or ran for office as Democrats, either.
What elective office did Al Sharpton hold? He ran for President at least once, I know.
@Steven L. Taylor: “I wonder if this is just another manifestation of the the differences between the conservative and liberal media complexes. There are, for whatever reason, less opportunities for liberal pundits of the GIngrich model.”
There is no liberal Fox News. There is no liberal talk radio.
That’s my whole point, more or less.
@Pinky: Sharpton would work–although his dalliance into presidential politics was quite a while ago. It is sort of the exception that helps prove the rule, yes?
The article is about minor Republicans who use the presidential primary stage as a springboard to national media jobs. How is Al Sharpton not a perfect mirror image of that?
@Pinky: He fits, I agree. But what is interesting is that he is an N of 1, while this year alone the GOP has several along these lines and there have been numerous entries the last several cycles. It seems to be a pattern on the GOP side but no the Dem side. Why?
I will correct myself: Sharpton ran in 2008, which is more recently than I thought was the case.
@Steven L. Taylor: So, I take it that you don’t buy into Rush L.’s assertion that “[he] IS equal time” (that, in essence, all other media is by nature “liberal” so, the left doesn’t need candidates to become pundits)?
@Steven L. Taylor: I think of Jesse Jackson as the first candidate in my adulthood who ran without a chance of winning, but couldn’t be denied a spot on the stage.
@Pinky: I think you are missing the basic point. In recent years we have seen a number of GOP candidates who used their candidacies to become pundits, mostly on Fox, such as Gingrich, Huckabee, and Palin (again, VP candidate, but she should be included).
Beyond those you have candidates (in 08, 12, and 16 cycles) like Herman Cain, Alan Keyes, Ben Carson, and Donald Trump who clearly are as much trying to build some kind of media career as they are anything else.
It is likely the Fiorina fits that category as well.
Michelle Bachmann probably belongs in that category as well, although she was, at least, a sitting member of Congress when she ran. And even people like Santorum seem to be as much a cable media fixture as anything else (and was, I believe, a “Fox News Contributor” for a while).
One the Democratic side I think that only Al Sharpton could be seen as a similar type of candidate since 2008.
If you want to throw Jesse Jackson in (and I am not sure he fits or not), then I say toss Pat Roberston in for the GOP.
In other words, there are clearly two different patterns here for the two parties.
That the pattern exists strikes me as incontrovertibly true.
Why it is would require more study.
I hypothesis that part of the reason is the structure of the media that caters to the two sides.
@Steven L. Taylor: We’re telling different stories. I wasn’t missing the point, I was making a different one. I think if you’re telling the story of candidates who don’t have a chance but have to be allowed on the stage, then there definitely is a connection between Jackson, Robertson, and Sharpton. They’re all men of the cloth, and in this country that means we afford them some extra courtesy. From Robertson, you can draw another line through Buchanan and to the large number of conservative candidates in recent years. Interestingly, if you’re looking at religious figures as I was, you probably have to go back to Carter, which sounds odd now but made sense at the time.
@Steven L. Taylor: As to the story you’re telling, I think the differences between the people you’re lumping together make your story less convincing. Gingrich was always going to be a political gadfly. Huckabee was, for a preacher, a remarkably poor speaker, and definitely pursued a broadcasting job as prep work for another run. Trump was a media figure from the beginning, and isn’t running to push an agenda. I don’t think you can say that he’s running to elevate himself in the limelight either. He’s just that egotistical that he can’t bear any broadcast that doesn’t mention him. And how often was Palin ever on Fox? More often than Weiner was on MSNBC? I don’t know.
And which of the current candidates are running as “grifters”, to use the OTB terminology? How many of them are running with no belief that they can win, and with no intention of promoting an agenda – in other words, running just for the increased attention or money?
@Pinky: Huckabee parlayed his candidacy into a long-running show on Fox. Gingrich and Plain both were both employed by Fox.
And yes, Trump was a media star, and now he is getting a ton of free publicity to help further that.
Was Weiner ever an MSNBC employee? (I don;t know the answer). And, for that matter, he never ran for president.
I am back to the possibility that you don’t understand my point.
(The issue is not one of who gets the debate stage, it is why the number of candidates keeps growing, and why it keeps growing for one party and not the other. What incentives are different?)
@Steven L. Taylor: No, just unpersuaded by it.
@Pinky: But you are denying facts.
1) There has been an increase in the number of GOP candidate in recent cycles.
2) That increase is far more than we have seen on the Democratic side
3) A large number of GOP candidates have gone into paid punditry after having been candidates.
Now, you can dispute whether there is a connection here or you can dispute the categorization of specific candidates. Instead you come across as wanting to deny in some way the above.
Correlation is not the same as causation. You can identify a few Republican presidential candidates who went on to make some money as contributors on Fox News. That doesn’t mean that they ran in order to become contributors on Fox News. It doesn’t mean that candidates are currently running in order to become contributors on Fox News.
My bet is, Fiorina, Cain, and Carson all have done very well on the lecture circuit, and don’t need the extra money they’re earning anyway. I think Trump is in a different category entirely. Most of the people who are running have spent some time as senators or governors, and it’s not like they’re the first people to run for President from those offices. I’m just not persuaded that your explanation accounts for the majority, or even a significant portion, of the large number of candidates.
Indeed, I agree that correlation does not mean causation (and, indeed, to my point about you not getting my point, I note as much at least twice above without overtly using the phrase).
What I find vexing about the interchange with you is not that you don’t agree with my hypothesis, it is that you really cannot even acquiesce to stated facts. Further, you seem invested in finding a way to disprove, in general, that there is a connection between some GOP politicians and conservative media. First you time to balance the partisan equation for some reason with Sharpton (which I agree is a good counter-example, but note the singular nature thereof). You try to expand with Jackson and Weiner (?!) but really don’t make much an argument aside from side theory about “men of the cloth.”
Beyond the obvious fact that yes, there are multiple motivations behind the behavior of human beings, I am not sure what your point is (which often happens when I engage you–all I ever come away with is the sense that you don’t want to concede anything I have said, but I am never sure to what end).
One thing is for sure: you haven’t even offered a hint as to why you think that there are more candidates in general or especially as to why they are on the GOP and not the Democratic side. You have further offered any counter-theories on the obvious pipeline between GOP presidential candidacies and Fox News. Engagement on one of those might have lead to a more interesting conversation (or, at least, an actual argument–it is weird position to take to state that you don’t agree with me but then don’t actually address the actual substance of the position that you find problematic.)
That Trump, for example, gets plenty of attention on his own does not mitigate against the possibility that he is seeking even more attention. There was a time that he was not on Fox News all that time (and that time was before he entered politics).
Because I am a glutton for punishment, let’s try thins:
Q1: Do you think that there has been an increase in the number of candidates running for president in the last three cycles? (8, 12, and 16)?
Q2: Which party has had more candidates? (And by what relative margin?)
Q3: What explanations do you have for this?
(I will stipulate that in 2012 the obvious answer for the Dems was a sitting president, but 08 and 16 are both open nomination seasons).
Q4: Is it, or is it not, the case that a significant number of the candidates of one party end up being employed by cable news?
@Pinky: “My bet is, Fiorina, Cain, and Carson all have done very well on the lecture circuit, and don’t need the extra money they’re earning anyway”
And yet you agree they are earning more/have the potential to do so? And you are arguing that only people who need money are motivated by money?
I think Pinky is trying hard for a “both sides do it” framing.
As to why so many Republicans are running, I can really only come back to the conclusion that the rewards are so much greater for a Republican running for President. Over the past four decades, conservatives have built up am impressive infrastructure for the care and feeding of conservative pundits. It’s not just Fox News or even the talk shows-it’s the Cato Institute, the Hoover Institute, various universities ( Liberty, Bob Jones,George Mason), Pajamas Media, National Review-and various other institutions and chairs I’m unaware of.
There’s really nothing like this on the liberal side. If you are a Republican, you run for President, then you can just retire to take a lifetime sinecure in the infrastructure. Or gather resources for another run at something later.
And I haven’t even mentioned the corporate directorships…
@Steven L. Taylor:
Q1 and Q2 are obvious.
I haven’t thought much about Q3, but I don’t see your hypothesis as holding water. I don’t believe that Bush, Christie, Cruz, etc. are running in order to obtain a Fox News contract, which appears to be an implication of your hypothesis. My answer to Q3 wouldn’t be sweeping; it’d be situational.
Q4 is the one I’m having the problem with. I don’t know that a significant number of Republican former candidates get a significant amount of money or exposure out of Fox News appearances. I just don’t know. I don’t watch it. I’ve never seen Palin being promoted as a Fox News panelist. As I said, I think that Huckabee took the job to polish his presentation. I’ve seen John Bolton on Red Eye (the only FNC show I’ve watched). But a significant number? Enough to affect people’s decision to run for office? I don’t think so.
And I did not include them above in any way. Seriously: you are either not understanding even basic elements of the discussion (or not actually reading them) or you are being dishonest in your engagement.
Let me repeat myself: “you are either not understanding even basic elements of the discussion (or not actually reading them) or you are being dishonest in your engagement.”
Let me add: if you don’t have evidence for your position, why the heck are you arguing it? (It is not hard to use Google to confirm what I have said above).
Indeed, you are arguing against my position with no evidence.
@Steven L. Taylor: If you’re speculating that a possible future FNC paycheck is a significant reason for candidates to run for the Presidency, wouldn’t your hypothesis predict that many of the current presidential candidates have that same motivation?
Since the entire basis of my hypothesis linked to Q3 it is odd that you would reject my position entirely and in a lengthy conversation if you “haven’t through much about ” it.
No. The issue at hand is proliferation, and specifically the proliferation of a certain kind of candidate. While I will confess as to having eschewed a full operationalization of the terms in this comment thread, it should be pretty obvious which candidates I am talking about (given that I named a bunch of them above).
Either you are deliberately trying to goad me into the conversation or your do not understand. Either way: cheers.
@Steven L. Taylor:
Very few people remember the candidates that lost the Democratic Nomination in the past(Hillary Clinton and to a much lesser extent John Edwards are the exceptions that make the rule). On the other hand, most people that lost the Republican nomination in 2008 and 2012 were rewarded with jobs on talk radio, with speaking fees or with jobs on lobbying.
The GOP rewards losers. And they get a lot of them.
“Need”? What are you, a communist? True Republicans do not speak of ‘need’ when money is involved.
That is all I can figure out. It would just be nice if there was some evidence and whatnot to go along with the position.
There is no both sides to it. Democrats fell in love with John Edwards in 2008, but Democrats don´t like losers. GOP loves them. They reward failed presidential candidates. Just ask Bill Richardson or even Dennis Kucinich.
@Andre Kenji de Sousa:
Of course. Losing is a sign of purity. Winners are tainted; if enough voters to actually elect you support you, your positions must not be sufficiently True ™. W actually gained cred with the base by really losing, but being declared the winner anyway…
A candidate with nothing but four not particularly notable years in the Senate won the Democratic nomination and went on to be elected president twice.
résumé@Steven L. Taylor:
That’s probably true, given that MSNBC uses a different hosting model than Fox. But certainly Howard Dean would never has emerged as a talking head absent his failed 2004 run. John Kerry, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, and others in recent memory also raised already high profiles by running for president.
@stonetools: I think that’s part of it, yes. Obama’s unusually talented as an orator and politician even by presidential standards. But I can certainly see why a Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio, for example, would see an opening that they might not have in a previous era.
@stonetools: There are plenty of opportunities for Democratic pols in universities and think tanks. Otherwise, I think this is right.
@Andre Kenji de Sousa:
I don’t know what you’re arguing here. Richardson was nominated to be Secretary of Commerce after his failed bid for the nomination. Joe Biden was selected as Vice President. Bofh of Obama’s Secretaries of State, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, were losers as well.
@stonetools: Wing Nut Welfare. They have set up impressive machinery to make sure their loyalists are employed.
This might well be the first time I’ve seen “the exception proves the rule” used correctly in a decade or more
Steven, we don’t talk well to each other, so please don’t feel a need to reply to this. I just wanted to clarify some things for the thread-readers.
I’m not presenting a theory of why there have been more Republican candidates. I could get into one, but as I said, I think it’s mainly situational. I don’t think I have to present a full theory in order to critique a theory presented here.
As someone else noted, a lot of former congressmen and failed presidential candidates go on to have lucrative careers, maybe with investment houses or lobbying outfits. Compared to that, I believe that the average former presidential candidate’s W-2 from Fox News is pretty small. But we notice the Fox News thing because it’s more visible. John Edwards worked on Wall Street after 2004, and Hillary Clinton has earned speaking fees since her 2008 run. No one questions their motivations for running, myself included.
So I don’t see the Fox News theory explaining the increase in Republican candidates for the presidency. It seems to be based on the most visible source of revenue rather than the most lucrative. Drop Huckabee from the pool and you’ve got very minimal evidence in support of it. [Edited to add: Huckabee had an hour-long program on the weekends, so even he wasn’t prominent on the network.] And it doesn’t have predictive power, as it doesn’t seem to explain the motivation of a large number of the 2016 candidates, without whom we wouldn’t even be discussing the higher number of R’s over D’s.
Lastly, I’ve noticed that Fox News looms larger in the minds of the left than of the right. Applying Occam’s Razor, there’s no need to include Fox News in a theory about more Republican candidates if the increase can be explained other ways. I often say that there are three Republican primaries: for top conservative, for top moderate, and then between the two of them for the nomination. There is no obvious winner in any of them, making this as wide open as any we’ve ever seen. As I said, a situation explanation seems to cover it.
Yes, but, no one remembers Richardson anymore. Biden was a veteran from Congress(Not so much different from Lloyd Bentsen in 1988). Kerry was the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, not a failed presidential candidate.
Even Tim Pawlenty got a huge lobbying job after his failed Presidential bid.