Ron Paul, Herman Cain et al: Why are so many GOP candidates running?

POLITICO’s Reid Epstein and Ericka Bolstad of McClatchy put together very similar stories in recent days asking a simple question: What the heck are all of these no-shot presidential contenders doing in the GOP field?

Before the sparks fly, Decoder sympathizes – sort of – with Ron Paul supporters who are melting down right now at the suggestion that Paul belongs in this group. Yes, he polls above everyone else in the POLITICO photo montage shown above. And we would not put him remotely in the same category as, say, Buddy Roemer (anyone heard of him? We think not). But when it comes to Paul’s actual chances of winning the nomination… C’mon. It’s not going to happen.

Candidate by candidate, here is the DCDecoder take on why GOP presidential hopefuls – not named Rick Perry or Mitt Romney – are still hanging in there.

Ron Paul:

If you don’t think Paul is in it to win it, then he might be engaged to further the libertarian cause for his son, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul (R). Paul’s “pretty motivated to win now,” Paul’s New Hampshire campaign chairman, state Sen. Jim Forsythe, told POLITICO. “But I know a lot of people in the movement are looking at Rand Paul further down the road.”

Gary Johnson:

Beat Ron/Rand Paul to the punch as the libertarian movement’s next standard bearer. Johnson’s campaign manager told POLITICO: “Ron Paul is 76 years old, this is wearing him out. A lot of people will see that Ron is a fantastic prophet, and he’ll need an Aaron at some point. I think that’s the way it’s going to go.”

Herman Cain:

Elevate himself to “party elder” status. Cain, who has spent 0 percent of his life up to this point as a politician, could ensconce himself as a thought leader and part of the public face of a segment of the Republican party. (Also, he’s selling a book).

Rick Santorum:

Rebuild brand Rick. Santorum, smarting after being absolutely dismantled in his third bid for the US Senate, has improved his public image by serious debate performances and his decent fourth-place finish in the Iowa straw poll. As the chairman of the Pennsylvania Republican party noted, Rick has seven kids and needs a job: he “is exposing himself to a lot of different people, and a lot of different people will want him to work for them.”

Buddy Roemer:

Get national attention for two issues that drive Buddy Roemer bonkers: big money campaign contributions and America’s trade policy with China.

Newt Gingrich:

A combination of Santorum and Roemer. Gingrich’s debate appearances let him show off his broad intellectual approach and help shape the GOP’s discussion of various issues. He may also be hanging in there to gain distance from his early gaffes, including his massive credit line at luxury jeweler Tiffany’s, his vacation to Greece, staff defections, and his knock on Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R) budget plan. Brand Newt needs some time to rebound. We would also add two other candidates – that escaped mention in these articles – to the list:

Jon Huntsman:

Playing for 2016. Huntsman is hoping his introduction to a national audience this year puts him in a better position to run in 2016 (if the GOP doesn’t win this year’s election, of course). At that point, Romney would likely be off the national scene and Huntsman would be a significant player in New Hampshire, where a recent poll put him in third place with 10 percent support.

Michele Bachmann:

Cement her status as a leader of the most conservative wing of the GOP and tea party. Bachmann has consistently portrayed herself as a “fighter” in the debates, recently arguing that conservatives should not “settle” for a candidate who doesn’t represent their views well. While her momentum has died after winning the Iowa straw poll, Bachmann could solidify her role as Queen of the Tea Party. (Also, she’s selling a book).

Want more? Check out RealClearPolitics’ excellent site for tracking the latest in polling data to see how the candidates stack up in the eyes of the public.

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Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 09/28/2011 - 07:09 am.

    The reason is simple. There’s better than even money that whoever gets the GOP nomination will be the next president. If you’re a republican with eyes on the White House, do you really want to wait another eight years? This is your shot.

  2. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 09/28/2011 - 09:24 am.

    All of these has-beens, wannabe’s, and never-gonna-be’s, including Perry and Romney, are running because the GOP field has been left wide open. Anyone who would have been a more serious, more viable candidate is sitting this one out,…

    because the Tea Party’s ability to manipulate the rest of the Republican Party into supporting their extremely dysfonic and destructive policies has completely turned the public against the Tea Party, itself, and Republicans in general.

    It’s very likely that it won’t matter how the economy is next summer and fall, it has already been made abundantly clear to everyone who is not a Tea Party “conservative” “true believer”

    (i.e. not one of those who must BELIEVE in the things they hold so dear because those things NEVER stand up under serious logical or critical examination),…

    that the only workable solutions to our nation’s problems lie in precisely the OPPOSITE direction of whatever is being proposed by the Tea Party and the GOP, which clearly is too cowardly to stand up to the Tea Party types,…

    and the awareness that, if they DON’T, they will be exiled to the political wilderness for the next many years (if not decades).

    Whoever the Republican nominee is in 2012, he or she will, no matter how they try to sell themselves, no matter how scary they try to make Obama appear, be seen as the equivalent and political heir of Michelle Bachmann, Rand Paul, Paul Ryan, with a bit of Joe McCarthy mixed in.

  3. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 09/28/2011 - 09:51 am.

    Dennis–
    The interesting thing is that while the political betting sites show a generic Republican beating Obama, they don’t show any of the actual candidates doing it.
    That’s why the serious candidates (if there are any) are running for 2016 (see Huntsman; Christie).
    Otherwise, they’re political retreads looking for a last chance in the light.

  4. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 09/28/2011 - 12:44 pm.

    Paul – That’s the rationale the democrats used in 1992 when no one wanted to run against GHW Bush and so the skirt-chasing governor of a small state that was last in everything won because he felt our pain.

    People say that no one was more surprised than Bill Clinton, but I disagree.

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