Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Catch of the Day

I think this properly should go to Noam Scheiber, although he cites another piece when he says:
Here's why it doesn't matter if Warren or her fundraisers say she's not running in 16: she cant possibly know herself 
We can refine this a bit, I suppose. She certainly might know if she's running right now, even though she wouldn't know whether she'll still be running by the Iowa caucuses. And she might want to deny running, even if that's the case. She also might have some reason to be absolutely certain that she would never run, even if the thing dropped in her lap.

But for many candidates at this stage, it's more ambiguous, and the particular structure on the Democratic side in this cycle makes it even more so. Presumably there are several potential candidates who are in if Hillary Clinton drops out, but out if she remains in.

For Clinton, as many of us have noted, it makes sense to delay the overt candidacy as long as possible; not only does that leave all her options open if she's really undecided, but even if she is clearly running for now there's nothing much to be gained by becoming an overt candidate.

The thing is, for Warren or Clinton or whoever, making the move from "doing everything one would need to do to be in a position to being an active candidate in the months leading up to Iowa" to an overt candidacy may very well depend on how the first part of things goes.

Which is to say that for actual politicians going through the process, the decision isn't so much of a "if you could be president would you do it" or even a "if you could be the nominee would you do it" as much as it is "considering the chances of winning both the nomination and the general election, which are constantly shifting, is it worth continuing to move forward?" Which leaves two potentially moving variables: the point at which the politician believes it's worth making the run, and the assessment by the candidate of how close she is to that point. What I mean is that some potential candidate (say, Elizabeth Warren) might definitely be up for being president if it was handed to her and definitely wouldn't run if it was a sure loss without having definitively decided exactly what her perceived chances would have to be for her to be an active candidate in 2016. So deciding whether to run really means figuring out both the odds of winning that make it worth running, and what the current odds of winning might be -- which includes both the overall emerging political context and, as time goes on, what's happening in her own not-quite-a-campaign.

Combine all that with some legal and some practical political reasons for candidates to avoid overt candidacies until fairly late in the process -- along with a system in which contesting the nomination actually begins (at least) three years before Iowa. So we have good reason to heavily discount whatever they say about their (current? possible?) candidacies.

Therefore, in real life, we don't really have two separate piles of candidates and non-candidates; we get a whole bunch of people who are in between. Especially in the first two years of the cycle.

In other words? A very good shorthand for all of that is "she can't possibly know herself." So: nice catch!


  1. yes she can know, herself. because she *knows* herself. if she has determined that she does not want to be president (or vp), or if she has determined that she does not yet have the experience necessary, then she knows, now, that she's not running. and her denials here to local reporters just last week have been unequivocal, and pointedly (but gently) pissed off. not noncommittal, not coy, not open to interpretation.

    1. +1

      The problem is, of course, that it is really tough to separate those who doth protest too much from those who protest the right amount. However, that does not mean that all those who deny running are running.

      Look, it we can credibly claim that there are people who run for president to get other things (like Fox shows or higher speaker fees or whatever), then we have to admit that we can have a mixture of types in the pool of deniers, too.

      Some people say they are running for president; of that group, we can say that some actually are while some are just trying to get something else out of it. Some people say they are not running for president; of that group, we can say that some are actually running for president but playing the coy game while others are really and truly not running for president.

      I will state here that I am not actively seeking the Democratic nomination for president in 2016. How many of you believe me? (I hope everyone, as I'd be terrible at it)

    2. Of course, and all I'm saying is that, contra Scheiber, Warren *can* know right now that she is really and truly not running. Despite the strategic considerations of running. In fact, it's Scheiber and the rest of us who can't possibly know if Warren is really and truly running. Or what value she places on any of the strategic considerations we like to ponder. That's why we speculate.

    3. Yep. I was agreeing with you.

    4. oh!

    5. I'm considering announcing my decision not to run for president, but only if I can figure out a way to get something else out of it. I'm sure there must be someone out there willing to pay to keep me out of the race.

  2. But what is Warren, or Clinton, doing now that could possibly make a difference by Iowa caucus time? I can't help but think that whatever "campaigning" they're doing now is as irrelevant, as the media hype du jour over Obama is to anyone's vote in 2016. Even from the perspective of party activists it's too early to be making meaningful decisions, even they might not know who they want until primaries actually start. There is some winnowing of the Republican field in 2011, but in 2009? What happened in 2005 that was relevant to the Obama vs Clinton race that would actually shape up in 2008? What difference do a few early visits to Iowa and New Hampshire matter this early in the game?

    To put it another way, if a sufficiently credible candidate were to ignore the early part of the process and jump in at the 2-year mark, what is there to stop them? Some people are likely to attract presidential speculation under any scenario (HIllary), but that in itself surely can't constitute "running", since such a candidate has to do ..nothing at all. This year has been marked by something of a Hillary bandwagon (including some fierce critics of Obama; I do not place myself in that camp but would prefer a contested primary). But events could make that absolutely irrelevant even by this time next year.

    1. It's a long time before the caucus voters have to make up their minds, but if you wait too long to test the waters, you may find that the donors and candidates are already paired up, the experienced field managers already hired, private endorsements already made, and so on.

    2. It's a fair question, Anon.

      So, we know that people are end up winning the nomination tend to run essentially the whole time. Look at Romney: I would argue that his concession speech in 2008 was his first effort at 2012. Hillary resigning as Sec State could be credibly argued as her getting ready for 2016 (if only to recharge her batteries first). Now, running and preparing to run may be different things in reality, but the problem is that we only perceive these things, and their behaviors can look similar.

      When is "too late?" I don't know, but if I'm one of these folks, am I going to test that question? No. I would know that voters aren't really at all relevant either. No, to make it to the voters I have to survive the invisible primary first. I'll need the donors, the party chairs (if only to convince donors I'm legit) and the staff (if only to convince donors, party chairs & media I'm legit) lined up in advance. Even if I'm not going to need them to do anything until 2015, I need to get them in my corner before the other guy does.

      What made the war inevitable was the growth in Athenian power and the fear which this caused in Sparta. It's not that the candidates WANT to run in 2013. It's that, well, the OTHER guys (or gals!) are going to start doing that early, so I'd better too. If those other guys are crackpots, I can keep my efforts quiet and low-key. If they're legitimate competition, I need to start lining up staff now.

    3. To pile on to my point, these speeches in Iowa or whatever aren't aimed at the audience they're in front of: they're aimed at the county party chairs and donors who may or may not be in that room, but are likely to hear how well the speech was received by people who opinions matter to them (either directly or because they are representative of people who do)


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Who links to my website?