A Layman’s Guide to the Race for the White House 2016: The Basics

January 29th, 2015

Our potential list of possible Republican candidates in 2016 is growing faster than algae in a petri dish.

Likely, this will continue until the Iowa Straw Poll and a number of other straw polls and beauty contests.  Following that, prospective candidates will start dropping out slowly as various information leaks about them usually thanks to the crack opposition research teams of opposing candidates.

That’s when the real contest begins.  Week by week primaries will occur in various states.  Candidates will start falling like hornets flying through a spray of Raid.  With all the behind the scenes intrigue and backstabbing that typically goes on, it’s too bad Agatha Christie isn’t around to write it as a sequel to And Then There Were None only this version would be named And Then There Was One. The irony is that after all the drama and vitriol that happens, those participants who tried and failed will be expected to enthusiastically endorse the winner or risk banishment from the Republican kingdom forever.

How we get to the place where the next GOP candidate is crowned at the Republican National Convention is truly worthy of a Netflix series. 

So I will save all that for my pitch to the networks.  What you need to know and understand, as a voter who actually cares about who runs this country, is how and why all this happens so you can be better informed about your possible role in the process.

There are two big elements to any presidential campaign.  Money and organization.  As a candidate, lack those and you might as well shift your attention to your singing skills and audition for American Idol.  Your odds of winning are that much better. 

This is why many candidates, no matter how appealing we might believe them to be, never have a prayer of becoming president and why some people we peg as too vanilla, boring, or “establishment” ultimately get the nomination after a little drama and a few bumps in the road.

People who’ve been in politics a long time know where the money is, and their contacts are strong with the best people in the business for running a presidential campaign.  And it pains me to say this but politics is indeed a business (which is a subject of another blog). 

Some of the best in the political business will only work for certain people.  Their reputations rest on success and failure although with politics goes lots of failure.  It’s kind of like a professional baseball player.  If he hits for a .300 average, meaning he missed seven of ten times, he’s considered very good.  Political consultants can miss sometimes but do it too much and they’re toast.

This makes it more difficult for longshot candidates to emerge victorious.  It also means that prospective nominees who blow their leads look that much worse.  Hillary Clinton’s defeat by Barack Obama is an example.  A first year Senator beating the Clinton machine shouldn’t have ever happened statistically and is still a blemish on her political record.

So if your current favorite for the nomination is an underdog, there is some cause for concern.  It truly could be an uphill climb, but history still shows it can be done. On the other hand, if you support Jeb Bush or Mitt Romney, two well-funded prospective candidates with lots of organization and name identification, you can be somewhat confident despite the noise of dozens of voices seeking the coveted prize.

Whoever you’re supporting, hope that person is organized and very good at fundraising. If you really like them, try finding out if an organization is being created in your state to help them and jump on board early.

This is particularly important in the early primary states.  Iowa and New Hampshire are no brainers.  If you live there, it’s easy.  If you don’t reside in one of those states, perhaps you’d like to “vacation” there (although be careful if you’ve already given the maximum campaign contribution permitted by law). 

South Carolina is a wonderful place to visit and knock on doors.  When I worked on the Bush campaign, I was dispatched there to serve as the Volunteer Coordinator for all the out of state volunteers.  While it was hard work, I’m sure everyone who went had a memorable experience and felt like they made an important contribution.

If you’re from Ohio, particularly Cleveland where the GOP convention will be held, you may want to volunteer to assist with the convention. It will happen July 18-21, 2016. Years ago, the book tour for my book, Comeback Moms, included a couple of summer days in Cleveland, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Going down the home stretch to Election Day, there is even more work to do.  It’s particularly critical if you are in one of the “swing states.”  You pretty much know now if you’re in such a place because they’ve stayed fairly constant since 2000.  So folks in Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin, Colorado, and a dozen or more other states will be right in the thick of the battle for the White House. 

Obviously, lots of things can happen between now and November 2016.  While much can generally be predicted in a presidential race, there are always great unknowns and lots of drama and surprises. That makes it very interesting indeed. 

Don’t believe it?

Just ask our 34th president, Thomas E. Dewey.

See what I mean?

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