Thursday, August 22, 2013

There’s Running and there’s “Running”

The baddest of the running bad-asses in Chambersburg is my friend Johna, both whip-smart and jamming-fast, but I can only talk to her when she’s stationary - otherwise she is a sprinting blond dot way ahead of me. Recently I had her cornered and our conversation turned to politics. Johna posed the question of the Democratic nomination in 2016: Hillary or Biden? It is a great question, and the fact that Johna asked it made me think about the differences between running and “running.” Stay with me here: Johna runs a 7 minute mile and runs about 20 miles a day. That is RUNNING. That is running in a way that most of us cannot fathom. That is running for reals, as the kids say, and compared to Johna I am a koala (it’s the sleepiest animal in the world. I looked it up). I run 6, maybe 8 miles at a sluggish pace and while I am “running” I am not really running. Johna runs for a personal record (PR), I run to listen to music and avoid people. Johna will win medals, I will be able to eat two goldfish crackers and not gain weight. Johna is running. I am “running.” And even though both forms of running involve the essentially same movements, they are entirely different activities.

The same thing can be said for the race to the White House. There are good reasons to “run” for president in our fabulous Invisible Primary, beyond the base craving to look in the mirror and say “Hello Mr. (or Mrs.) President.” I recently did a fun interview with the Financial Times where I spoke about this, so please allow me here to briefly address those reasons to “run” for president, as opposed to actually RUNNING for president.

·         Name recognition = Book and TV deals. You may think me cynical, but give Mike Huckabee a shout at Fox and ask him how it all worked out for him? Cha-Ching!
·         Power positioning: You may not make the show, but you may get a job at State. And if you are, say, the Governor of Montana, State looks pretty good right about now. Not that there’s anything wrong with Montana.
·         Ideological positioning: A tip of the tin foil hat goes to Uncle Larry here, for his steadfast devotion to Ron Paul. The good doctor just kept it going, long past the expiration date, just to make a point. And then he handed down the baton to Rand, to keep that running going in what I will for now on call the “Paul Relay.”

These reasons add up to a field full of contenders and wannabees, and sometimes it’s tough to tell who is who. The news stories in the slow August recess weeks are chock full of 2016 prognostications, and if you glance through the top-10 lists on both sides, you will see that everyone appears to be VERY serious about running for president.

My former boss at C-SPAN, Brian Lamb, always says: “Follow the money” and it’s good advice. When these cats start hunting for real campaign contributions we will be better suited to see who is running and who is “running.” It’s good to remember that both running and “running” are not necessarily mutually exclusive, and the reasons to do both blend in nicely with one another. But it is fun at this stage of the game to try and guess who is running for a PR and who is running to distract themselves from syllabi that are due... in 4 days. Just saying.

You go, Johna!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Middle of Orientation Post

Not much of a post today, but I've got a little time to kill as I'm in the middle of a talk on time management as part of my orientation for my new gig at South Dakota State.

Whilst effectively multi-tasking between the rah rah lectures and blog reading, I came across this post on skipping Iowa by Jonathan Bernstein.

To reiterate one point: no, it's not too early to talk about this. Laying down the groundwork for Iowa an the other early contests is the essence of the invisible primary. We're fast approaching the time that  events like Tom Harkin's steak fry start to attract possible Democratic hopefuls, say Joe Biden who dropped in this year, and candidates of all stripes will begin trolling the state fair for more important reasons than checking out the butter cow.

One other bit I'd add one the long list of candidates that skipped Iowa, only to flame out in spectacular fashion later is Rudy Giuliani. By skipping these early contests, Giuliani and these other candidates he mentioned showed a fundamental misunderstanding of the process necessary to win the nomination. While that might have been excusible in the 70s when parties and candidates were figuring out the new system, today it's just plain stupid. As we know the triangulation on a candidate by party activists is key to winning the nomination. Pulling out of these early races either shows a candidate doesn't understand this, or that he or she is so desperate at that point because of their systematic failures in the pre-primary phase.

So to rope this back to Christie, if he's serious and smart, he'll no doubt be popping up here in the near future.