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“No Experience Necessary”: A Cycle In Which ‘The Base’ Isn’t Buying Anti-Washington Rhetoric From Senators Or Governors

My editor at TPM asked me to take a look yesterday at the historical precedents for so many candidates with no experience in elected office managing to run non-trivial presidential campaigns at the same time. And indeed, I can’t immediately find any precedent for three such candidates in a single cycle. As noted in my column, Trump, Carson and Fiorina registered a total of 42% support in the post-debate Fox News national poll of the GOP presidential nomination contest. Add in Ted Cruz, whose brief service in the U.S. Senate has mostly been devoted to attacking his colleagues, and you’ve got a clear majority preferring as little experience as possible.

Past “non-politician” candidates for president mostly had an abundance of other forms of public service. The last president without a prior elected position was the epitome: Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was on the public payroll most of his life, and was noted among generals more for his political acumen than his military skills. 2008 candidate Wes Clark was from the same mold. 2000 candidate Liddy Dole had served in two Cabinet positions, and was married to the ultimate Congressional Insider.

Steve Forbes and Herman Cain were entirely innocent of public office, like today’s trio. But they didn’t appear in the same cycle.

In writing my column, I added up the elected experience of the other 14 candidates in the ’16 GOP field, and came up with 144 years. That’s a lot of experience. But the only candidate who seems to be putting a lot of emphasis on how much experience he has is Rick Santorum, who is going nowhere fast.

Of the three novices, Carly Fiorina is the most unique historically insofar as she really has no great successes to boast of in the private or public sectors. Yes, she was by some accounts the first woman to head up one of the world’s largest corporations, but by even more accounts she ran HP into the ground and then used her golden parachute to run a notably unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaign. Other than that, she’s good at getting appointed to the advisory committees of Republican presidential nominees–both McCain and Romney–and has the kind of communications skills you’d expect from someone used to doing Power Point presentations at shareholder meetings.

As I’ve discussed here often, there’s a big reason Fiorina has been largely bullet-proof despite her dubious resume; her gender makes her a very valuable party asset in a cycle where it’s still largely assumed Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee. But you’d have to say she’s also benefiting from the same strange climate that has made Trump the GOP front-runner (in the polls at least) and Carson a grassroots favorite. Decades of attacks on the public sector combined with decades of broken promises by Republican pols have produced a cycle in which “the base” isn’t buying anti-Washington rhetoric from senators (other than perhaps the systematically irresponsible Cruz) or even governors. Maybe one of the experienced candidates with Establishment backing–you know, those who together are pulling a small minority of the vote in the polls–will eventually be the nominee. But said Establishment and the pundits and political scientists who view it as all-powerful need to take a long look at the dynamics of this nominating contest.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, August 19, 2015

August 20, 2015 Posted by | Anti-Washington, GOP Base, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Flirting With The Fringe: Stop Pretending Michele Bachmann Can Win The Iowa Caucuses

Ever since Michele Bachmann announced her intention to form a presidential exploratory committee, pundits, including Ed Kilgore at TNR, have been making the case that she has a good chance at winning Iowa—or if not winning, then doing well enough to hurt one or more of the stronger candidates. Republican caucus-goers in the state, they argue, are at least half-nuts, and therefore may well support Bachmann or some other candidate who doesn’t pass conventional standards of seriousness.

Certainly, Iowa Republicans are very socially conservative, more so than in some other states. But a closer look at Iowa caucus history shows that their history of supporting fringe candidates is not quite what it’s made out to be.

The case that “wacky Iowans will do anything” essentially comes down to interpreting a handful of episodes from recent decades. The first occurred in 1988 when Pat Robertson stunned everyone by finishing second with 25 percent of the vote, besting George H.W. Bush and Jack Kemp. But Pat Robertson was a social conservative—and no ordinary one at that—in a year in which the frontrunner (George H.W. Bush) was not. Moreover, that example is now over two decades old, and since then Iowa Republicans have had no trouble voting for mainstream candidates with conventional credentials, as long as those candidates—Lamar Alexander, George W. Bush—had solid records on social conservative issues.

That leaves us with three other supposed episodes of Iowan craziness: Pat Buchanan’s second place finish in 1996; the surprising showings of fringe candidates Alan Keyes and Gary Bauer in 2000; and Huckabee’s victory in 2008. Closer inspection of each of these episodes, however, reveals that none were quite as crazy as they appear.

Take Pat Buchannan in 1996. As odd as it might seem now, he was almost a serious candidate at the time: He had already run for president in 1992, and while he was never quite a plausible nominee, he did have some serious claim as a repeat candidate that Bachmann doesn’t have now. Nor was Buchannan’s success in Iowa especially unique. In fact, he proceeded to win the primary in New Hampshire, and wound up beating his Iowa percentage in sixteen states (several of those, to be sure, were after other candidates had dropped out, so the higher percentage was less impressive).

As for Alan Keyes and Gary Bauer in 2000, they certainly were fringe candidates—even more so than Bachmann—and their combined 25 percent was both impressive and anomalous; they combined for only 7 percent in New Hampshire, although Keyes did have some stronger showings in late states after the nomination was decided. However, it’s also the case that they didn’t have a whole lot of competition. John McCain campaigned in Iowa in 2000, but he did not fully commit to the state, and the only other candidate they beat was Orrin Hatch, who hardly ran any campaign at all. And even with their totals combined, Keyes and Bauer finished well back of Steve Forbes for second, and even further behind winner George W. Bush.

Finally, there’s Huckabee’s surprise victory in 2008; but the extent to which his candidacy was in any way similar to Bachmann’s has been vastly overstated. Yes, he won with the support of social issues voters. But Huckabee wasn’t some backbench member of the House; he was a recent former governor, and, in that sense, just as legitimate a candidate as Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton.

Compared to Huckabee, Michele Bachmann is an altogether different sort of candidate. Since 1972, no candidate in any way similar has run a competitive campaign. The only three members of the House who had plausible shots at winning—Mo Udall in 1976, Jack Kemp in 1988, and Dick Gephardt in 1988 and 2004—were all senior members with leadership positions, legislative accomplishments, or both. No, Bachmann belongs in a different category, with other sideshow acts who may attract attention but have no real chance to win the nomination. And even in allegedly crazy Iowa, those candidates rarely impress on caucus day.

By: Jonathan Bernstein, The New Republic, April 16, 2011

April 17, 2011 Posted by | Conservatives, Democracy, Democrats, Elections, Exploratory Presidential Committees, GOP, Governors, Ideology, Independents, Iowa Caucuses, Journalists, Media, Politics, Pundits, Republicans, Right Wing, States, Swing Voters, Teaparty, Voters | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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