The Campaign Spot

Why the Rush to Jump on a Bandwagon in the 2016 Field?

From the Morning Jolt:

Why the Rush to Pick a Favorite in the 2016 Field?’s Matt Boyle goes into overdrive, insisting that Scott Walker is ensnared in a massive, race-changing scandal because his newly-hired strategist, Liz Mair, has . . . er, dual citizenship.* (Hey, if that’s a big deal, what about Ted Cruz’s former dual-citizenship status? What, is the senator some sleeper agent for the poutine menace? “The Manitoban Candidate”?)

This morning, Liz Mair departed Scott Walker’s campaign — presumably less because of her dual-citizenship status than because of the vocal whining from Iowa Republican-party officials over her previous mockery of the state’s first-in-the-nation status. This is perhaps the first major mistake of Scott Walker’s nascent campaign, with quite a few folks who know Mair incredulous that the guy willing to stand up to the unions in Wisconsin would knuckle under to the griping of state GOP officials.

It’s March 18, 2015. We have ten months to go until anybody casts any votes that matter, in the Iowa caucus tentatively scheduled for January 18. And yet somehow, some folks — who aren’t political professionals, and who don’t have a financial or career incentive — are energetically jumping onto candidate bandwagons and making their choice and attempting to derail other ones.

Where is this impatience in political junkies coming from? I can see having favorites or guys you like already. If you follow politics — and if you’re reading this newsletter, it’s a safe bet you follow politics — you probably already have an opinion on Scott Walker, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, and the other names being mentioned. You may have strong opinions already. But are you ready to pick your guy now? Do you feel like you know so much about all of the candidates already that you don’t want or need to see anything else from this crop of candidates? No debates? No policy proposals? No watching them on the stump?

Maybe this impatience is a reflection of our impatience for the end of the Obama era. Hurry up and get it over with, so our country can get on the road to a real recovery.

It also may reflect that rank-and-file Republicans aren’t looking forward to the next ten months. Ten months of opposition-research dumps. Ten months of attack ads, and then candidates denouncing attack ads, and candidates insisting that they can’t control the independent-expenditure committees running the attack ads. Ten months of candidates making off-the-cuff comments while trudging through New Hampshire or Iowa snowdrifts, and the media treating those comments as major gaffes. Ten months of campaign staffers insisting that the other guy’s poorly-worded off-the-cuff comment represents a giant game-changer that will swing a lot of votes, while their guy’s poorly-worded off-the-cuff comment is an irrelevant nothingburger. Ten months of arguing about whether a 4-percentage-point change in a poll represents momentum or just statistical noise. Ten months of Frank Luntz’s focus groups of totally objective, totally undecided likely voters being treated as the Oracles of Delphi. Ten months of complaining about who gets invited to the debates. Ten months of complaining about who gets the most time to speak at the debates. Ten months of complaining about the questions at the debates.

These next ten months don’t have to be an awful experience for all involved. We may know the basics of the big names running in 2016, but we don’t know their life stories. We don’t know every major factor and influence that made them into the people they are today. We don’t know the details of when they’ve most been tested as a leader, and what they learned from it. We don’t know what they regret and what they would do differently if they had a second chance. We don’t know their agendas in detail. We have a general idea of how they would be a leader — i.e., Rand Paul isn’t likely to invade anyplace — but there’s always room for more details – details they may or may not want to share or elaborate upon.

Who knows? You may learn something you don’t like about the guy you liked, and you may learn something you like about the guy you didn’t like.

Those bandwagons aren’t going anywhere.

* This is where I’m supposed to disclose that Liz Mair is a friendly acquaintance; even if I didn’t know her, I’d still think that Boyle’s investigative avenue is as dumb as a box of rocks.

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