Wednesday, May 8, 2013

It’s a Treadmill! No, it’s a Mobius Loop! The Never-Ending Invisible Primary

It’s the least wonderful time of the academic year when the last assignments are handed in, grades are due, students are weepy, and every single honor society and campus group hosts an awards banquet. Most of us are pie-eyed with fatigue as we ping from exam to meeting to mandatory-fun social event, but the end is nigh and in a few short weeks we get to hit the re-set button and set off for summer. This is one of the selling points of an academic career for those of us optimistic about the future: There is an actual finish line and we get to cross it, once every 14 weeks. Some of us sprint across the tape, hands held high in a Nixonian victory pose and some of us stagger in, limping and wounded. But done is done.

Not so for our friends running in the Invisible Primary, because they are never through campaigning. If 2016 seems like a long way off, set your peepers on 2020 – because that’s when some of these folks will still be running for president. Think about it this way: Mittens ran in 2008 and 2012. Jeeze, Joe Biden ran in 1988 and in 2008, and that’s a looong time in between runs to constantly position yourself as presidential. These folks are in the positioning period right now, shoring up their leaderly legacies, mounting their accomplishments on their walls like the heads of dead hunted animals, all aiming to sell themselves as the big electoral winners.

And so we turn to this week’s most notable IP contenders to see how they are presenting themselves for public consumption.

#1: Ted “Ain’t No Squishie” Cruz: The Texas firebrand jumped to the front of the “Look at Me!” pack with this National Review article announcing his “consideration” of a presidential run. One Cruz associate (Cruzzy? Cruzite? Cruzzociate?) said “Ted won’t be opening an Iowa office anytime soon, but he’s listening.” Let me translate: “TED’S RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT! GIVE HIM MONEY!” Don’t believe me? The dude is going to South Carolina to campaign. The Palmetto State (besides being the home of the newly elected rep from the Philandering Phirst District – but more on that later) is one of the early presidential primary states, thus an important one to win.

Cruz seems to be grabbing our attention thanks to this analysis (or something along these lines) from my student Amazing Antonio: “Ted Cruz is big because Marco Rubio isn’t conservative enough for the wacknuts.” Truly, Cruz seems to be making his mark through the kind of agitator politicking that garners white-hot camera lights and truckloads of attention. The only hitch in the giddy-up for Cruz is that he has about 4 minutes of experience, which tends to piss off the gray beards in the party, but he can easily parlay his 2016 IP action into a Fox News gig (ala Palin & Cain) or use it to move the ball downfield for 2020. See? 2020.

#2: We move now to my boyfriend, Jumpin’ Joe Biden. Veep Bee is apparently mulling over yet another run for the top job, and we know this because… he’s going to South Carolina. Seriously, what on earth does this state have that I do not see? They just elected Mark Sanford. AGAIN! (but more on that later) Anyhoo, VeepBee is headlining a sold-out fundraiser in S.C. on Friday, which means the guy is presenting himself for public consumption. Of course, as everyone knows, the major wrench in his plans is going to be Hillary, whose maybe-maybe-not candidacy led to this absolutely side-slapping observation about a Biden pitch from political strategist Bob Shrum: “Because she’s a Democrat, I can’t say she’s the elephant in the room, but she’s certainly the dominant donkey.” Seriously, I love this stuff. I’m happy you’re in the game, Joe! It allows us to frequently use one of my favorite descriptive words about you: Avuncular.

#3: Finally, on to New Jersey Gov. Chris “Don’t Call Me Avuncular” Christie, who revealed that less than 2 weeks after a dust-up about his weight in February… he had gastric band surgery. Normally, this kind of thing falls under the heading of “Wait… why are we talking about this?” except that everyone was talking about his weight. This then means that doing something about it is some sort of indication that the Gov. is presenting himself for public consumption. Perhaps a poor choice of words. OK. Put another way, this revelation shows that Christie is cognizant of the chatter around him and wants to change the trajectory of the conversation. Mike Huckabee famously lost more than 100 pounds before his 2008 bid for president, and while that didn’t do very much for his electoral results it did sweep away the disparaging remarks and totally change the narrative. And the narrative in the IP is incredibly important.

Other IP players are doing the same sort of reconstruction of the fables (a tip of the hat to R.E.M.) to include Bob McDonnell of Virginia and Bobby Jindal ofLouisiana. Both of the Bobs are facing a wee-bit of trouble as they look ahead, but I think we will have to let that play itself out more before we address it here. See? Something to look forward to.

I would be remiss were I not to briefly discuss Mark Sanford’s SC-1 win last night. In a fun interview with the National Journal I said that his win was more about party politics (S.C.-1 being an R+11 district) than about the people actually liking Sanford – or about Sanford actually hosting a true comeback. I will not disparage the obviously troubled voters of South Carolina, but instead leave it to the genius Andy Borowitz who came up with this headline and this posting on the Borowitz Report: Sanford’s Comeback Gives Hopes to Liars. I leave this posting with the line I came up with yesterday but was not used in the Journal piece: "The Republicans of S.C.-1 were faithful to their party, even if it meant voting for a guy who wasn’t faithful to anybody.”

I really do love this stuff. Even if, at this time of the semester, I am exhaustipated.


  1. By that time, Teddy Cruz will have the same amount of experience as the current office holder. He may not have the clout or historical nature, but he can fire up his base and give a new face to the party. Perhaps it may be too conservative to some, however, in 2-3 years he has time to form the image of the IP to get in shape for the lights. Not the one that Christie is trying, but calmly stepping forward.

  2. Great article! It's like I never left college. I even read it in my "Alison Dagnes" voice. Thanks for the share!!

    B Mod

  3. Brilliant, hilarious, spot-on... about end-of-semester rituals and shenanigans and yes, that minor invisible primary, party politics and presidential campaigns stuff. You had me at Philandering Phirst... the Phightin' Phirst!

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