A scrum of Republicans spent the weekend in New Hampshire pretending they wanted to be there. Among the events on offer were “Politics and Pie” and “Politics and Eggs.” If those are the menus, perhaps some of the candidates will die? If so, a few of them might even be missed.

There are two-dozen candidates not including the New Hampshire perennial, Vermin Supreme, who wears a tall rubber boot on his head. Vermin’s role is to enable the other candidates to think themselves serious. (Brazen Self-Adulation Alert: how many other pundificators do you know who have now written about Vermin Supreme twice?)

There are about 81 weeks until Election Day and yes I am providing the time frame in weeks because there are certain things women like to count that way. To put this in perspective, if two elephants got together about now, they would become parents before we knew our next president. By contrast the UK takes 38 days to choose a government – a bit longer than creating a new groundhog but a bit shorter than creating a new squirrel.

One does wonder why some of these candidates venture into the mud of New Hampshire’s early Spring to subject themselves to political eggs and pie, but we should probably credit them with being clever enough to avoid the dreaded black flies that will appear in May.

Two reasons come to mind.

First, they are really running for something else and this is a publicity stunt (just like Vermin Supreme).

Second, this is a job for which the candidates are paying themselves.

Yes, you heard that right. A candidate is allowed to pay himself a salary from his principal campaign committee as long as it is no higher than the lesser of the pay for the office sought ($400,000) or the amount earned by the candidate in the prior year.

If a candidate can find donors dumb enough to allow it, he can run for President 24-7-365 and pay himself $400K while charging virtually all of his expenses to the campaign. He can also pay fair market value salaries to his family members as long as they are making themselves useful.

No need to worry about retirement because the eggs and pie should kill him before that happens.

Though the candidate might not care, the parties have squadrons of campaign operatives whom they would like to keep busy lest they lose heart and become life insurance salesmen. No-hope candidates are the training camp for electionistas hoping to get to the majors. The parties get a free look at potential rising stars. Sounds like the NFL using college football as a minor league.

As long as we have unlimited campaign contributions and a terrible education system resulting in a sufficient number of stupid people to make donations, you should continue to expect dozens of candidates to run multiyear campaigns.

Hence, there will be an endless need to sort them out.

There are as many ways to group the candidates as there are people pretending they know the right answers.

The New York Time Upshot likes: Invisible Primary Leaders (favored by party elites), Mainstream Alternatives (Democrats believe that there are none of these on the Republican side because all Republicans are but one iteration of Vermin Supreme or another); and Factional Favorites.

Factional Favorites means more or less pick one from each of these: establishment; Tea Party; secular conventional conservative; and social cultural evangelical. This suggestion, made during March Madness, when we were all focused on brackets, would end up with a political final four featuring the survivor in each category.

Charles Krauthammer favors first tier, second tier, longer shots and below the radar. There are many candidates he leaves out so, presumably, they are in a category called below the sonar. (For those who know more about the UN than the Pentagon, radar looks for flying things while sonar looks for submarines.)

Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball uses First Tier – Leading Contenders, Second Tier – Outsiders and Third Tier – Governor Alternatives.

Nobody has any idea which approach is correct or if any of them shed any light on anything, but they sound good.

With that low bar to jump, here are the libertyPell rankings of the candidates, from bottom to top, based on their reason for running for something but maybe not President.

Payback Time for the Girl Who Wouldn’t be my Prom Date

  • Mark Everson, former IRS Commissioner
  • Bob Ehrlich, a former Maryland Governor who lost twice to a former Democratic Governor who will lose to Hillary Clinton if he runs
  • Jim Gilmore, a former Virginia Governor who was crushed in 2008 and then lost a Senate race
  • Peter King, a New York Congressman who hates Ron Paul and Ted Cruz
  • George Pataki, a former New York Governor who would be in the Vermin Supreme category if he wore a boot on his head

I Don’t Want to be Fired on the Apprentice

  • Donald Trump (62% of voters promise never to vote for him, which is a problem since there are only 100% of voters available)

Just Making Sure You Still Know Who I Am and Keeping My Speaking Fees High

  • Mitt Romney
  • Ben Carson, a physician at Johns Hopkins and leading expert on extracting feet from mouths

Actually Running for Pope or Evangelical Equivalent

  • Rick Santorum
  • Mike Huckabee

I Want to Run a Defense Company

  • John Bolton, hyper hawk, pro gay marriage, former Ambassador to the UN who did not much like the UN
  • Lindsey Graham, though he risks killing the South Carolina primary payday if none of the others waste their time competing against him

Two- (or maybe Three-) Putt Green, Even if They Did Think 2016 Was Their Year

  • New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie, but 2016 is a bridge too far
  • Indiana Governor, Mike Pence, if he ever gets past the Religious Freedom Restoration Act

Running for Vice President

  • Former Hewlett Packard CEO, Carly Fiorina
  • Louisiana Governor, Bobby Jindal
  • Ohio Governor, John Kasich presently seeking “guidance from God” presumably about making his battleground state sufficiently important to get him the nod
  • Ohio Senator, Rob Portman, if he can nose Kasich out in the battleground race

Keep My Name in the Paper and Because I Have the Backers

  • Libertarian Kentucky Senator, Rand Paul (and because it is the family business)
  • Texas Senator, Ted Cruz (and because he likes pissing people off)
  • Former Texas Governor, Rick Perry

Actually Running for President in 2016

 With the 21 time wasters who are running for something but maybe not president now dismissed, you end up with three real candidates: Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush and Scott Walker.

You are faced with two choices: pay attention to this foolishness now or come back in October 2016 when the British would. If you choose the latter, there are frolicking elephants to watch and that might be even more fun than Vermin Supreme.

 

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