Thursday, February 10, 2011

Annals of Silly Presidential Candidate Rumors

Is Donald Trump the most preposterous potential presidential candidate to get reporters to talk about his prospects semi-seriously? The strongest competitor I can think of is Warren Beatty, who did it early in the 2000 cycle. Unless you count Newt Gingrich...

(To do this properly, you really need two categories. 1. People who never ran who never really were going to run but were treated as if they might. 2. People, whether they ran or not, who had no chance to win but were treated as if they had a chance to win).

Who am I forgetting?


  1. Oprah? Tom Brokaw? General Petraeus? John Bolton?

  2. Not sure how semi-seriously is intended here. Are we saying that Al Sharpton and Morry "The Grizz Taylor" are below the line? In a sense, they were serious candidates, and they were covered in at least a semi-serious style.

  3. If you're asking instead for someone who was covered semi-seriously as a *contender* and not merely a *candidate* (which Trump has never been) it's a much tougher question.

    There are perfectly serious contenders who would be preposterous presidents - think of Steve Forbes for example, or even better Alexander Haig (Forbes was a better contender than Haig, but Haig was taken seriously even though he never got traction).

    But then there are people who are taken seriously in the media but who are preposterous to imagine as actual contenders - Fred Thompson, mentioned earlier, is an example. The idea that Fred was going to sweep forward and ignite the public imagination was, to be kind, fanciful. Wesley Clark might be another. Jerry Brown.

  4. Okay, let's get to the elephant in the room: No one without political or military experience has ever won the presidency. Very few have even been nominated by a major party (Wendell Willkie in 1940 was the last, if I'm not mistaken). That's why I automatically have trouble taking seriously either Trump or Herman Cain, even without considering anything else about their personality or abilities (or in Cain's case, recognition). But many conservatives continue to be attached to the idea of a businessman-president who never held public office before. It's what fuels a lot of these quixotic runs.

  5. I'll never forget the dozen or so frat boys jumping up and down in the background of a CNN stand-up during the '96 NH primary season -- someone was talking to Mike Barnacle, I think -- and shouting 'Freezin' for a reason! Steve Forbes!'.

    I always wondered -- what was the reason?

  6. How about any third party candidate ever? Particularly those of the "No Labels" variety, like Bloomberg. Or speculation that someone like John McCain or Bob Kerrey would run in the primary, lose, and then mount a third party challenge.

  7. There was a crazy billionaire who announced he was running for president on a TV show known for maudlin fluff. He got treated seriously. Even after he withdrew from the race because the CIA transmissions in his fillings told him his daughter's wedding would be ruined, he was treated seriously.

  8. I dunno I tend to think of Sarah Palin as the most preposterous potential presidential candidate to get reporters to talk about {her} prospects ...

  9. Sarah Palin won statewide office. Once you've rode with The Grizz, believe me, Sarah Palin seems a veritable Gibraltar of stability.

  10. Also, crazy he may or may not be (or have been), but Perot once trounced the Democrat and the Republican in a national presidential debate, and led a national poll.

    He was a contender, and if you can't imagine a President Perot or equivalent you need a better imagination. Especially if the Republican Party sunders at some point in the life cycle of the Mad Tea Party. Could you not see a fourth candidate coming up between a Palin, a Romney and an Obama? Someone who has business credibility and is

    committed to balanced budgets
    pro-direct democracy

    might just tap enough disparate elements to squeeze through in a four-horse race...

  11. Let's not forget the John Anderson juggernaut...

  12. "Ten Commandments" Judge Roy Moore of Alabama had his moment in the sun as the conservative 3rd party candidate who was supposed to make Bush's life miserable in 2004:

  13. Bill Moyers 2008. Put forward publicly as a potential Dem or 3d Party (Reform) candidate by none other than Ralph Nader and Molly Ivins. Also, prior to the 1988 cycle, Moyers was privately contacted by a couple of major Dem consultants about seeking the nom; he seriously entertained the serious offer to manage his campaign, but later turned it down.

    (can't resist this near-fit that sounds wacky but which might actually have been a winner or near-winner) Walter Cronkite for VP, 1972. McGovern's press sec'y Frank Manckiewicz recommended him as the Most Trusted Man in America, at a time when McG was only 5-7 pts behind; his suggestion was unanimously rejected by the McG inner circle and no one took it seriously thinking Cronkite would never do it. Later, when the disastrous campaign was over, McG had a chat with Walter and told him how his name came up for Veep.

    Cronkite stunned McG, according to Manckiewicz, when he said that he would have accepted if asked. Reason: WC's strong anti-VN War attitude.

  14. brodie,

    Perhaps, perhaps not. Jack Shafer thinks it's bunk, and I think he's right:

    As far as being a winner:

    But it certainly belongs in this thread, anyway.

  15. Thx for the Shafer piece and the link to your '09 post, both of which I hadn't seen before. Well, I dragged the McG thing in here innocently, just reporting what one well-placed source has said about one intriguing possibility.

    As for winning or coming close, if there was ever a year Dems needed to throw a Hail Mary, 1972 with McG at the top of the ticket probably was it, and a Cronkite VP stunner of a pick could well have shaken things up and made the WH nervous. And unlike Palin, Walter could have answered questions on what publications he read, and made a more effective case about Nixon and VN than the perhaps too lefty and rather uninspiring McG. Of course as a political neophyte, he could have been a disaster, so who knows.

  16. I second Alaska Spice...

  17. Wow I wish that McGovern bit was true. I got so excited for a second. :/


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