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Two Time Losers?

Ruffini has some interesting thoughts on the Presidential aspirations of the eternal candidates.

This year, it’s the first-time candidates who seem to have the momentum. To some extent, there seems to be a crowding out of the second-time candidates who occupy much of the same market space. (Just look at Obama vs. Edwards on the Dem side.) I do think the first-time candidates this time are more skilled than in normal years. (Giuliani, Obama, and Romney are no pushovers.) But I also think something about the almost seamless transition from election cycle to election cycle is making people yearn for fresher candidates.

I’m not actually sure if this is actually a recent occurrence. If you ignore the reelection of Bush and Clinton, this has actually been a trend that arguably began in the wake of the professional campaign. Clinton had not run for President before he was elected and there were a couple of holdovers from 1988 (Hart and Jackson, specifically) running against him. Similarly, Bush in 2000 faced off against Forbes, Keyes, and Alexander – all of whom ran in 1996.

To look at the obvious argument, none of those repeat candidates had done as well in 1984 or 1996 as Edwards did in 2004. None had secured the Veep nod and run in the big show. That doesn’t, however, mean their experience in the primaries can be ignored. All had learned from their prior losses. All should have been much more effective in repeat runs. That they weren’t indicates that we have had a longer track record of giving consideration to the fresh face.

Until the 1970s and 1980s, a lot of the Presidential contests came down to the fresh faced versus the entrenched. Johnson had run in 1956 and 1960, losing to Stevenson and Kennedy, before being picked as the Veep. Kennedy narrowly avoided being in the Edwards situation when Kefauver won the VP nod in 1956. If he had gone down to sound defeat as Stevenson’s #2, would he have won in ’60?

The election of Johnson in 1964 had more to do with Kennedy than it did with Johnson or Goldwater. Similarly, the election of 1976 had more to do with Nixon than it did with Carter. 1988 was a reflection of people’s feelings about Reagan, and the fact that he helped us through the recovery from the Carter/Ford/Nixon years. Once the nation was on even footing again – 1992 – the nation turned back to its original path and began looking for new ideas and new faces in its Presidential preference.

I agree with Patrick’s original theory – that Edwards is going nowhere – but disagree with his assertion that this is due to some new phenomenon.

Written by Michael Turk