The "Why the Hell Not?" Presidential Candidates: A Bluffer's Guide

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
May 24 2011 9:10 AM

The "Why the Hell Not?" Presidential Candidates: A Bluffer's Guide

To my mind there's nothing more boring than asking someone whether or not he'll run for president. Every four years, two people win major party nominations for president. One of them wins. Why spend too much time covering the rest of them? Is there some compelling reason why Buddy Roemer is more worthy of press attention than, say, the scientists who just got their new Hepatitis C drug approved? Go and make the argument. I'll listen.

Still, most Republicans remain bored or unhappy with their presidential candidates. This presents opportunities for Republicans who want some more attention. If you have not kept up on the candidates-who-won't-win-but-are-being-asked:

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 


- Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, 45. Elected in 2002 (a former state senator, he carved out a seat for himself in redistricting), McCotter is known, if he's known at all, as a guest on Fox News's Red Eye and a witty (and affordable!) speaker at conservative events. THE BOOMLET: It began with an April 27 column by S.E. Cupp, who is also a frequent Red Eye guest. THE AGENDA: Making Republicans address "the challenge of globalization, the war for freedom against terrorists, the rise of Communist China and whether moral relativism erodes a nation built on self-evident truth." SELLING A BOOK? Yes. HIS CHANCES: Fox News pundits have been doing more poorly than expected thus far.

- Rep. Paul Ryan, 41. Elected in 1998, rising to chair the Budget Committee this year, Ryan benefits from a little-read provision of the Affordable Care Act which requires the word "courage" to be used in every sentence about his ideas. THE BOOMLET: Bill Kristol can't stop talking about a Ryan candidacy, because the GOP needs "a bold and comprehensive critique, and a grasp of sound political economy" in its next candidate. Republican allies of Ryan mention it unbidden; Rep. Trey Gowdy told me he asks Ryan to run just about every day. Yesterday, Eric Cantor confirmed that he thinks Ryan would be a good candidate. THE AGENDA: He doesn't have one, but when he's asked, he draws more attention to his work on the Budget Committee. SELLING A BOOK? No. HIS CHANCES: Honestly, this is an example of why the draft campaigns (if "mentioning someone on TV sometimes" counts as a draft") are so silly -- Ryan has defined the GOP's agenda for 2011. If you want to see what happens to doubters, look for Newt Gingrich.

- Gov. Rick Perry, 61. He became governor of Texas when George W. Bush left and has won re-election three times, buoyed by the businesses and humans that a low-regulation, warm-weather state attracts. THE BOOMLET: It was ginned up again most recently, last week, by Rush Limbaugh saying Perry could crack the race "wide open." THE AGENDA: He's happy giving speeches about how much better of Texas is without the meddling of the federal government, although thanks for that stimulus money back in 2009. SELLING A BOOK? Yes. HIS CHANCES: He's repeatedly said he doesn't want it, and he's polling at 4 percent in his state , which is rather worse than he needs to do.

- Gov. Rick Scott, 58. He was elected to his first political office in November, after a remarkable career in the health care industry that endured his departure from one company as part of the largest fraud settlement in American history. THE BOOMLET: It comes from "people who have talked to him" who think he thinks about it. THE AGENDA: None; it's just a theory based on his public image. SELLING A BOOK? No. HIS CHANCES: He's ruled it out today.

- Rudy Giuliani, 66. His 2008 campaign blew away the previous record for money-spent-for-one-delegate. But there's no John McCain this year. Thus: THE BOOMLET: He keeps visiting New Hampshire and polling in the single digits there. THE AGENDA: Same as it was in 2008. SELLING A BOOK? No. HIS CHANCES: His friends talk it up, but his praise of the OBL mission were something of an historic break from his old criticize-Obama-all-the-time stance.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 



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