Does it Matter if the GOP Doesn’t have a Frontrunner?

I keep seeing all of these headlines about the lack of a clear frontrunner for the 2012 GOP nomination. But every time I read one, I roll my eyes and wonder why it even matters. Consider the timeline for the Democratic & Republican primaries in advance of the 2008 election.

April 17, 2006 – Former Senator Mike Gravel announces his candidacy for President. Given that he was unable to reach even half a percent in any state where he was on the ballot, it’s clear he was never a really a frontrunner.

Gravel was the only candidate at the point where we are now in the race for 2012. The earliest any serious candidate would consider declaring would be after 2010 elections. Even then, I would say that they should hold off until early 2011. You’ll see why I suggest that based on history.

November 7, 2006 – Midterm elections that give the House to the Democrats.

November 13, 2006 – Rudy Guiliani announces his exploratory committee. Though he made another announcement that he would run for the office in February, we knew in November that he was a serious candidate.

Some might classify Rudy as a frontrunner, but I don’t think so based on actual results. He bombed in Iowa and New Hampshire, and he couldn’t even deliver in Florida where he put all of his campaign hopes.

November 30, 2006 – After Democratic gains, then-Governor Tom Visack announces his candidacy for the office. He would drop out less than 3 months later.

So even when the pundits start chattering about GOP frontrunners the morning after the election in November, ignore them. Remember that we will still be more than a year out from the earliest of the caucuses. And that the last time around, not even the freakin’ Governor of Iowa was able to compete.

December 4, 2006 – Sam Brownback announces an exploratory committee & makes his run official the next day. He wouldn’t make it to the first caucus.

December 12, 2006 – The Elf announced shortly and couldn’t even draw more than 2% of the vote in any contest.

December 28, 2006 – Leave it to the adulterer cheating on his cancer-stricken wife who filmed himself screwing his mistress while she was pregnant with the child he would later disown to ruin your holidays with political announcements.

Now, you could argue that because John Edwards did finish second in Iowa and third the next four contests, he was a frontrunner. But, given that he announced during the holidays and just days before 2007, he’s the exception to the rule.

January 3, 2007 – Mitt Romney announces an exploratory committee. His formal kick off would come just over a month later.

January 7, 2007 – The Biden announces his candidacy without insulting anyone. However, that would not remain the case on the campaign trail. And when it comes to frontrunner status, he does maintain the honor of becoming our national embarrassment. His campaign would end in less than a year.

January 10, 2007 – Jim Gilmore creates an exploratory committee, though he will hold off to formally launch a campaign until April. He would end the campaign in July.

January 11, 2007 – Chris Dodd launches the campaign that he will end in less than a year. Ron Paul also announces his exploratory committee, though his kickoff wouldn’t take place until March. I think it can be safely said that regardless of what the internet polls said, Paul was never a frontrunner.

January 14, 2007 – Duncan Hunter announces an exploratory committee.

January 20, 2007 – Hillary enters the race. Considering she would lead a campaign that was so successful it damn near split the party, I’d say she was a frontrunner.

January 21, 2007 – My birthday! And the day that Bill Richardson announced. He would drop out after New Hampshire.

January 28, 2007 – Mike Huckabee announces his run for president. I personally would not consider him a frontrunner. However, he did win some states, so I’ll go ahead and include him.

February 10, 2007 – Barack Obama enters the race. Considering he won, I guess he gets default frontrunner status, too.

February 28, 2007 – John McCain enters the race. Considering he was the only other candidate on the November 2008 ballot, I guess we’ll consider him a frontrunner, too.

April 1, 2007 – No, I’m not joking. Tommy Thompson announced a presidential run on April Fool’s Day. I guess only fools thought he would make it to the first primary contests.

April 2, 2007 – At least Tom Tancredo thought better about his announcement date than Thompson.

June 1, 2007 – Fred Thompson begins his months-long tease with the formation of an exploratory committee.

September 14, 2007 – Alan Keyes begins his run for the top seat – again. He would ultimately run campaigns to secure the nominations of 3 parties, 2 of which voted no.

While I know the press isn’t looking for actual announcements right now, this is just a reminder that we’re still 9 months out from any serious news about the 2012 campaign. There can be no frontrunner for the nomination if there are no candidates. A scandal could erupt that would send any of the popular names you see today into political oblivion. If that happens, they will never file for an exploratory committee or announce a run. Of course, it might not even take a scandal. Considering that Mitt was the architect of the health care reform that is crippling Massachusetts, the change in focus on issues now makes him a huge liability for the GOP. They can’t run on a real repeal/reform message with him at the helm. However, just a year ago, he had a great background in business and financial experience to lead the discussion on bailouts and a recovering economy.

The point is that we honestly have no idea. Don’t get discouraged or frustrated, or even feel like you should have a favorite for 2012 picked out in early 2010. Based on past results, we probably won’t even have a good idea of potential options until the very end of this year. There’s no need to rush it.

7 thoughts on “Does it Matter if the GOP Doesn’t have a Frontrunner?”

  1. The Republicans have several young wannabes, and a few geriatric RINOS, standing on the edge of the ice floe like penguins, knowing that the first ones in get eaten by the Orcas.

    No need to declare until fall of 2011, and a candidate can do a lot to improve his or her standing in the meantime without the press looking for an early kill.

  2. The fall of 2011? History would show that’s a recipe for failure. The latest any frontrunner declared for the 2008 campaign was the end of February. And I would point out that his campaign nearly floundered in late 2007 because so many opponents had already lined up the donors & grassroots. If he didn’t have the experience & contacts from 2000, he may well have had to close up shop.

  3. The media deciding on who is the ‘frontrunner’ gave us the last slate and current president…..

    I hope that none of the high profile candidates currently identified actually runs: We don’t need another RINO or lunatic running.

    The only candidate that I could get at all enthused about last time was Thompson, the fact that he didn’t want to be president badly enough was only more reason to want him. We need a Cincinnatus, not a Caesar. Palin might have been that person but I don’t see her wining with the biased media.

  4. The next president is currently campaigning for a governor, US House of Representatives, or US Senate seat. Likely the first run for public office too, or they won in 2008.

    A lack of negatives is the most important qualifier, a tabla rosa. Personally I’ll vote for anyone who has run a business, done budgets, or fought in combat (on our side). Palin will be a frontrunner; nobody else from last time gets to try again. Romney, Huckabee, Hunter, Paul – their negatives are much worse than Palin’s.

  5. The timing’s wrong, but I think the GOP could (and possibly will) do worse than Chris Christie, Governor of NJ. Bitter and Sebastian may be hearing/seeing the PSH coming from the unions here in NJ – he’s got them running scared. This is a guy who is saying “we’re broke, taxing more isn’t going to help. It sucks, but it’s time to cut services, and stop the featherbedding.”

    The timing is wrong in that NJ’s election cycles are offset by a year behind the national ones. He’ll have a year left in his term in 2012. Which is a shame, because he comes pre-vetted by the worst the NJDems and John Corzine could do.

    He’s got faults (I’m not thrilled by his expressed position on guns, and he’s a former US Prosecutor, which is both good and bad) but I fully expect one or more NJ politicos to drop down into a frothing apoplectic fit one of these days.

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