Why the Hypothetical Candidate Always Polls Well

Smart political figures know and understand the importance of incumbency.  This is why only the most ridiculous candidates are running for President this time around.  Call it the Fred Thompson syndrome.  Call it the Rudy Giuliani syndrome.  Whatever you call it, it’s a losing strategy.  The simple truth is that candidates who aren’t running for office always poll better than candidates that are.  There are a couple of reasons for this.  First, hypothetical candidates don’t have to answer tough questions with the same amount of scrutiny that an established candidate does.  Second, the idea of a candidate is often looked upon with greater favor than an actual candidate running in an actual election.  Case and point: Michelle Bachmann.

Bachmann attracts a crowd wherever she goes, but not because she gives really great policy speeches that are outlined in tons of detail.  Indeed, she can’t answer a question no matter how simple the question is to answer.  The reason that conservatives love Michelle Bachmann is that she stands up for principles that are not only ridiculously premised, but also positions that are popular among the electorate.  When she does take a position that doesn’t poll well she attributes it to her “deep devotion to God.”  That’s fine, but God can’t explain climate change.

Still, my bet is that if she runs for the Republican nomination, she will either fall flat or be a fringe candidate.  She’s got baggage just like any other candidate.  In her case, however, her baggage may not be as great as other candidates like Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney.  Romney has the tough task of standing by a health care plan that is identical in principle, philosophy, and premise as the Affordable Care Act.  That’s tough to do in a Republican primary and eventually he’s going to have to answer questions that deal with how similar the two health care plans are and that will force him to give an answer that either won’t make a lot of sense or be too far to the left of the extremely right-wing base of the Republican party.

Then there’s the rest of the crowd.  Huntsman would make a great candidate if he hadn’t served in the Obama administration, unfortunately for him, he did.  It’s kind of hard to take a candidate that goes by the nickname of “T-Paw” seriously.  Newt Gingrich cheated on his wife because he was just too patriotic.  Herman Cain is crazy.  Ron Paul will be a fringe candidate as always and if Rick Perry gets in, well, things will just keep getting weirder.

If Bachmann enters the race, it’s essentially anyone’s game.  In the end, it boils down to mathematics.  The only states she’ll lose before Super Tuesday are New Hampshire and Florida and that’s only if Rudy and Mitt form some sort of bizarre alliance to piss off the tea-baggers.  After that, she’ll sweep the south just like Mike Huckabee did in 2008.

Then she runs into the west and the industrialized northeast.  These are the places that Romney will do well.  If this is how it plays out, the nomination will boil down to New York and California: aka Republicans’ worst nightmare.  If this happens, it’s anybody’s game.  On paper it would seem like Romney would have the advantage.  After all, he has the fundraising clout and Bachmann will have to win over independent voters with open-primaries.  For all the talk of the crazies in the Republican party, many political commentators have ignored the fact that many states have an open primary system which allows voters from either party to vote in their primaries.  Since Obama won’t be facing a primary challenge, expect liberals to turn out in droves to derail the Republican nominating process.  Hilarious hijinks will ensue and the party will then have a crazy, right-wing fundamentalist as a candidate.

There are a lot of people who want Michelle Bachmann to run, but they shouldn’t.  Why?  Hypothetical candidates do better than candidates that are already running.  Fred Thompson topped the Republican field for President in 2008, then he started to run a campaign and fell flat on his face.  The reason that this happened was because people liked the idea of Fred Thompson just like old people like listening to him talk about reverse mortgages.  He sounds like a credible guy, but upon further scrutiny it becomes evident that he has absolutely no idea what he’s talking about.  The same is true of Michelle Bachmann.

Republican insiders say that Bachmann would get crushed in a debate by “the intellectual heavyweights like Newt Gingrich.”  People forget that in a campaign your actual viewpoints don’t matter, the only thing that matters is consistency and a candidate’s mass demographic appeal.  This is why I think Bachmann could win.  Newt Gingrich may have a brain, but right now it’s not functioning very well.  He had a moment of brief truth-telling on “Meet the Press” a couple weeks ago, but then he had to retract his brief moment of sanity because he pissed off the ideological wing of the Republican party.  This is the great conundrum that Republican Presidential candidates face.  How do you appease a crazy wing of your party that doesn’t understand anything that can be backed up with facts and how can you sound like you hate Obama enough to challenge him to a duel?

Remember in 2004, when Zell Miller challenged Chris Matthews to a duel?  That’s really what Republicans want this time around.  Only they don’t want it to be a philosophical duel, they want it to be a live, pay-per-view, MMA event.  This is probably where Republicans are the most delusional.  How quickly they forget that Barack Obama is a brotha that grew up in a tough neighborhood.  Unless Republicans honestly believe in divine intervention or they believe that bibles can actually deflect bullets, they should at least concede that Obama would be able to KO any of his opponents.

What’s more is that in debates people aren’t looking for candidates to give good answers to tough questions, they want to hear candidates tell them what they want to hear.  During the 2008 campaign there was a great ideological battle fought between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.  It was fought on the debate floor and it was then that we realized that this guy was for real.  He didn’t just talk the talk, he backed it up.  Few people remember how poorly Hillary’s “change you can xerox” comment went down.  Now imagine that the person saying that illogical comment isn’t someone with the clout of a Clinton, but someone who has the backing of people who can’t tell the difference between the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution.  Change we can xerox, indeed.

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