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Susan Estrich
25 Mar 2015
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Circus Time

Comment

Who are all these people running for president? I don't mean Ted Cruz, who everyone around the digital water fountain has long expected to run. And Bush is a very familiar name. But when my name is called and I put down the magazine with all the contenders named at the front, I have already confirmed this sad truth: I haven't even heard of some of these people. Some of those I have heard of have no chance of becoming president. No chance. But they can win primaries and caucuses in Iowa and New Hampshire based on precisely the sort of narrow ideology that simply won't sell in a national campaign.

Mea culpa. I once ran the campaign of a man frequently referred to as one of the seven dwarfs, a great primary and caucus candidate who fared far better in the inside game than in the national one. I have worked for candidates I knew could not win and could possibly weaken the party's choice. My defense, then and now, has been that presidential campaigns are about more than winning and losing. They are also about the great issues, like civil rights and stopping unjust wars. They are part of the process of building the party system, recognized by the Supreme Court even if nowhere addressed in the Constitution.

So I understand that winning isn't the only reason to run for president, and that certainty of ultimate defeat should not always weigh against competing.

_But shouldn't there be some standard to be met, a threshold showing that there is indeed more than ego in a candidate tossing his or her hat in the race?

Wikipedia lists somewhere around 25 candidates who have declared or expressed interest in the race, or have been the subject of interest that they have not discouraged.

You can look them up. I don't know anything at all about some of them, much less why they should wake up every morning to a briefing about how much more dangerous the world has become.

Being president is a very challenging job.

But running for president, particularly in a field as crowded as the GOP's, can easily look and feel like a circus show, demeaning its more serious participants, one of whom presumably will be the party's nominee, as well as those who invite it. (Remember 9-9-9?) The challenge the Republican establishment faces is that even if one of theirs ultimately wins the prize, he will have been pushed too far to the right to turn back to the middle, where elections are won and lost. While there are exceptions, the party that picks its candidate with the least expenditure of time and bloodshed generally wins.

The Republicans, whoever they are, are out raising money with great vigor. The less well-known they are the more investment of candidate time it takes to get a commitment and the more time you're stuck dialing and dining for dollars. Because if you don't win the money primary, and you don't win or do "better than expected" in Iowa and New Hampshire, your campaign is over. Period. The treasurer sits down with the candidate and explains how they're already in debt with incurred expenses because it was the last stand, and the candidate, who was determined not to go into debt, realizes he is already there.

If you're a true ideologue, and you don't care about being in debt or sleeping in economy motels every night, you can carry on. But most candidates at this point are trying to figure out whether they can cut some deal with one of the frontrunners that would pay their debt in exchange for support.

It is, in so many ways, a terrible way for the two parties to nominate their candidates. Send in the clowns.

To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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