Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"Running For President Is Hard"

That's the correct conclusion Greg Sargent draws from his reporting on Michele Bachmann's tough day -- which started out with what appeared, to me at least, to be a very weakly supported story about her health and medication regimen in the often-unreliable Daily Caller, which of course meant lots of questions on the campaign trail, which unfortunately for her wound up with a couple of her campaign staffers roughing up a reporter.

(The DC story is here; I agree with what Dana Goldstein said).

There are a number of reasons why Members of the House, especially junior Members, don't compete seriously for presidential nominations. One of them -- not the only one, but one of them -- is that most of them have virtually no experience at all in contested elections with an attentive press. The skills needed to handle a bunch of reporters asking hostile questions are just different from, say, the skills needed to spar with a host on a cable show that no one watches, or the skills needed to deliver a speech to a supportive audience. Indeed, most presidential candidates who have had experience at the statewide level show a need to get up to speed when they move up to the presidential campaign trail, but at least they've probably had some similar experiences.

And of course one thing that Bachmann hasn't had to deal with before this are the interactions of disgruntled former staffers with attentive reporters.

I'll put it another way: you know what successful House candidates have virtually no experience with? Unfair stories about them in the press. That's because most Members of the House get virtually no media attention. At best, they get regular gigs on cable news shows, but in that capacity their job is just to repeat party talking points; they aren't being pressed in the way that a candidate in a competitive election is being pressed (and if they say something foolish, they have the luxury of just disappearing for a few weeks until everyone forgets about it).

More broadly: Getting nominated is usually about building coalitions among party-aligned groups and organizations, and it helps a lot to enter the campaign with strong relationships with as many groups as possible. Statewide campaigns -- and actually participating in governing -- are good ways to construct those relationships. Indeed, they're good ways to learn how to construct those relationships. That's an important resource that Michele Bachmann didn't really have, most likely, at the start of her campaign. It's certainly possible to overcome such things, but at least in my view not very likely at all.

1 comment:

  1. Great musicians and great ballplayers make the remarkable look easy, and great candidates do that too. Whether its W refusing to ever answer hypothetical questions (there’s nothing to be gained by answering those and a whole lot to lose) to Bill Clinton being able to adlib on obscure policy questions for hours, running for President is very, very, very hard. If she thinks Brian Ross is mean just wait until someone asks her what newspapers and magazines she reads.


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