Thursday, June 23, 2011

It's Easy To Believe You Can Win

I'm not sure how Matt Bai reconciles a realization that Jon Huntsman "will surely not attract a lot of evangelical followers" and is also "intolerable" to Tea Partiers with a belief that Huntsman has a chance to be nominated, but I absolutely agree with his answer to the question of whether Huntsman is really running for 2016:
This is, in fact, a very popular theory of Mr. Huntsman’s motives, and I address it in the piece. But I have to tell you that, in my experience, it’s just not in the nature of most serious politicians to run for any office — including the presidency — expecting to lose. I don’t doubt that 2016 is in the back of Mr. Huntsman’s mind, but I’m pretty sure this campaign isn’t some clever ploy to set himself up for later. He has convinced himself he can win now.
Look, I don't think Huntsman has a chance. But you know who does? New York Times reporter Matt Bai! That's pretty good! Not just him; Intrade ranks him as the 4th most likely nominee (if you interpret it that way). There are others, too. Who do you think Huntsman's strongest supporters are going to believe: the doubters, or the believers? So they're going to clip every "Huntsman's a serious contender" story they see, and you can bet he's going to see every one of those.

And that's the way it is for every candidate: there's someone out there, with some sort of reasonable credentials, who is optimistic about his or her chances. Nate Silver says that Herman Cain can win. Jonathan Chait thinks that Michele Bachmann can win. You can even find people who said that Newt Gingrich could win. I won't embarrass anyone by linking to a "Take Trump Seriously" piece, but, you know, they were out there. For what it's worth, I said that Jim DeMint and Haley Barbour had plausible chances of winning.

Meanwhile, there are lots of pieces out there too about why each of the candidates has no chance to win -- and again, I'm sure Huntsman's supporters are clipping all the arguments for why Romney can't win, and Palenty is going nowhere, and Bachmann has no chance. He sees those; he may or may not see the ones about how they might win after all.

And that's even before you get into the ego of the whole thing. What politician doesn't look around at the other candidates and just know that he or she at the very least belongs in the group?

Now, it's also possible that Huntsman, or other candidates, also think of future benefits as part of the plus side of running now. But I fully agree with Bai on this one: the odds are very good that he believes he can win.


  1. Bai is just super into being obviously wrong about everything, at least when writing about Huntsman. Yesterday he complained that the news media was treating Huntsman's campaign with "scorn." But the mainstream media is thrilled about Huntsman, it's *all they could talk about all day* -- even though he's polling around 1 percent and drew maybe a few dozen people to his announcement.

    Herman Cain, meanwhile, is polling around 17%, and had thousands of people at his announcement. But he didn't get front page coverage from CNN, the NYT, NPR, Time, USA Today, and Google News.

  2. I have an untestable theory that your own plumline post, bullish on Perry's chances should he run- in fact you had him as one of the few plausible nominees besides Romney and Pawlenty- persuaded Perry he could win.

    Disagree Huntsman would not run even if he expected to lose. He seems smart. He saw Romney and Huckabee leading every poll, which goes with McCain, Dole, Bush Sr and Reagan- all GOP presidential nominees on 2nd or 3rd try. And no doubt also saw Tea Party mobilizing to block moderates. Maybe he thought he could win in 2012 but just as likely he thought even if he wants to run in 2016, a losing race helps him for that.

  3. Earlier posts on this topic suggested that Huntsman will only hear positive assessments of his 2012 chances; I'm not sure I agree with that view.

    If I were a Huntsman supporter, before I dedicated my limited resources or time to his quest for the Presidency, I'd want some assurance that he understood the challenges of getting there in 2012, and that he was committed to seeing it through to 2016 (if necessary). Without such assurance, I am not sure I'd invest the time and money to build his Presidential brand.

    Therefore, 2016 almost certainly plays "some" role in Huntsman's 2012 activities. A large role? A small one? Whatever the correct answer, Team Huntsman must act as though 2016 plays no role in his current plans, for reasons that should be obvious upon brief reflection.

    Which makes this a perfect topic for academic discussion. Passionate arguments can be made all over the spectrum, and there's little chance of proving any of them wrong.

  4. I always figured Huntsman was running for VP. If the GOP nominee is anyone buy Romney, then Huntsman seems a shoe-in for VP.

    He's the only "candidate" that isn't running hard to his right, which is good because once a nominee is selected, he or she will have to quickly moderate themselves for the general election, part of this is picking a VP candidate that's perceived as more moderate, safe, centrist than the candidate. After the Sarah Palin debacle I doubt the Republicans will make this mistake again, there is simply no political benefit to be had in choosing a VP who is designed to appeal to the base - they've already chosen you, screw them over already


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