A quirky predictor of the presidential race?
Yesterday I was ruminating on the fact that running for the US presidency has become a full-time job. The only full-time job that allows a candidate scope for constant campaigning is, in fact, the presidency itself.
If you look back over recent campaigns, you'll notice that the presidential candidates who were then holding elected offices other than the presidency have not fared well. (Think of Senators Goldwater, Humphrey, McGovern, Mondale, Dole, Gore, Kerry, and McCain; and Governor Dukakis.) In my lifetime only two presidents (Kennedy and Obama) have been elected while holding another federal office--and in one of those cases (Obama), he was running against another federal office-holder (McCain).
But now look at the list of presidential candidates who were not holding public office at the time of the campaign: Nixon in 1968, Carter in 1976, Reagan in 1980, and of course Romney this year. Four times, a non-federal-office holder has run against an incumbent president with sagging popularity: Carter against Ford, Reagan against Carter, Clinton against Bush, and Romney against Obama. Do you notice anything? To date, the outsider has always won.
Sorry, my error(s)! In an earlier version of this comment I mistakenly listed both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush as candidates not holding elected office. Both were sitting governors at the time of their campaigns. They did not hold federal office, it's true. But that distinction does not seem terribly important for the purposes of this argument. Among candidates who were complete outsiders then, the score stands at 2-0, not 4-0, and the results can easily be written off to a small sample size.
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