So how late can a Rick Perry*, or Sarah Palin, or “Candidate X” wait before jumping into the race?
If we presume that an aspiring Republican president would want to appear on the ballot, and not be forced to try to run a write-in campaign — a pretty safe bet, no? — then we can look at the deadlines for filing to appear on the primary ballots.
In the Iowa caucus, caucusgoers are given blank sheets of paper on which to write the names of their preferred candidates, so there is no “filing” per se for candidates.
In New Hampshire, the filing deadline to appear on the ballot for the presidential primary is November 21.
In South Carolina, the state GOP informs me that the filing deadline for the Republican presidential primary is November 1.
Nevada is a caucus, and thus there is no formal “filing” of candidates.
Back in 2008, the earliest filing deadlines were in Utah (October 14), Florida (October 31), and Michigan (October 23); you’ll recall the controversy that surrounded Michigan’s and Florida’s early primaries.
Presuming that no Republican wants to concede South Carolina — the winner of the Palmetto State primary has always gone on to win the nomination — then the real deadline for getting into the race is November 1 — a mere 105 days away.
* Perry’s decision is expected within the next few weeks.
UPDATE: Tim Hagle, associate professor of political science at the University of Iowa, writes in to clarify: “In your post you note that Iowa caucus-goers are given blank sheets of paper to fill in names. That’s not quite true. Whether it’s done by the state party, the county party, or a candidate’s organization there’s usually some type of ballot that lists all the folks that are in the race. You are correct that there’s no filing deadline of any sort, but to get on such a ballot someone must probably have declared as a presidential candidate. An undeclared candidate like Palin might get on, but someone officially undeclared is more likely left to write in status.”