Thursday, March 3, 2011

Buddy Roemer, A Captain Bateson Class Presidential Candidate

There are apparently now two Republicans who have taken the formal step of forming an exploratory committee to run for president. We already had Herman Cain, and now we get Buddy Roemer. To refresh your memory: Roemer was governor of Louisiana for one term during the Bush administration. The George H.W. Bush administration. He was defeated for re-election in 1991, and then defeated again in a 1995 comeback.

Roemer joins a great tradition, most recently represented by Mike Gravel in 2008. I'll call them the Captain Bateson class of candidates -- they're oddly out of sync with normal time, just like Captain Morgan Bateson of the U.S.S. Bozeman in the classic Star Trek episode "Cause and Effect." Roemer will have been out of office just over 20 years; Gravel topped that, since he served in the Senate until 1981. It helps if they were defeated for re-election and then rarely heard from since.

Who else?

2004: Carol Mosely Braun (defeated 1998)
1992: Paul Tsongas (did not run in 1984); Jerry Brown (termed out in 1983)
1988: Donald Rumsfeld apparently ran briefly then and in 1996, per wikipedia; gone from Defense after 1976
1984: George McGovern -- didn't leave the Senate until defeated in 1980, but still counts; Ruben Askew (did not run in 1978)

Who else? Does John Connelly 1980 count? Does Newt count this time around? He's been out of office forever, but very visible in the interim, unlike I think everyone on the list here.

Oh, and -- yes, we could call them Harold Stassen candidates, but I don't think that captures it as well.

Obviously, two of the ones I listed returned to their previous offices, which seems pretty weird to me, especially since it's so rare.


  1. If Roemer turns out to be half as weird as Gravel, it'll be pretty entertaining.

  2. Do Jerry Brown and Paul Tsongas in '92 really count? Between the two of them, they got 38% of the popular vote.

  3. If the tradition is defined to include the presidential candidacies Mike Gravel and Donald Rumsfeld(!) I think it has to include Paul Tsongas.

  4. I would call a "Harold Stassen candidate" someone who runs over and over again and keeps losing. The fact that they make a career out of running for President often prevents them from having a normal political career in elected office.

  5. The metaphor isn't quite right, since Capt. Bateson had the excuse that he didn't know he was trapped in a time loop. Roemer et al are actually cognizant of the passage of time and yet believe it doesn't affect them.

    Perhaps they are more like Han Solo in Episode VI -- frozen in carbonite for years, and when they jump into action they're uninformed, blind and incompetent and only win by luck.

  6. Wow, I'm not agreeing with Seth at all. Han Solo is even less aware of the passage of time while it's happening than Bateson -- plus, nothing really happened when he was gone, so he's not out of sync when he's revived, just recovering. Also, he's cool, and Bateson (and these candidates) aren't.

    Also, in my experience there's no such thing as luck.

  7. It's interesting, in retrospect, that both the second- and third- placed finishers in the 2012 Republican field were arguably Bateson-class candidates. Jonathan Bernstein noted that Gingrich was an arguable case at the time, but if Moseley Braun (who'd been defeated 6 years earlier) was Bateson-class in 2004 then surely Santorum must have been in 2012?


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