Long-Shot Presidential Candidates

There are several reasons why long-shot marginal candidates, even those with name recognition, run in presidential primaries.

  • They want “former presidential candidate” on their resume, which can increase speaker fees.
  • They’re promoting a new book.
  • They need national exposure to raise money for future campaigns or endeavors.
  • They want to make history, such as being the first [  fill in the blank  ] to run for president. In 1972, long-shot candidate Rep. Shirley Chisholm was the first black to run for the Democrat nomination. Chisholm generated a lot of media attention and spoke at the DNC convention.
  • They want to participate in at least one debate where they can promote specific policy positions.
  • They have been encouraged to run by social media followers. Marianne Williamson, running in the Democrat primary, has a half-million TikTok followers. Vivek Ramaswamy, on the Republican side, has 180,000 TikTok followers.
  • They are so über rich that they can afford to finance their own campaign. Steve Forbes spent $70 million of his family fortune running for the Republican nomination in 1996 and 2000. In 2016, Carly Fiorina spent $25 million of her own money to do the same. Billionaire Michael Bloomberg spent $558 million just on television ads even as his quest for the White House quickly crashed. For 2024, Trump and Ramaswamy are using much of their own wealth to fund their campaigns.
  • Their spouses want to be First Lady or First Gentleman—even if the spousal candidate has health issues. (For more details, google Jill Biden or Giselle Fetterman.)

And then there’s Harold Stassen

Long-shot presidential candidates sometimes run once and move on when their campaign ends, having achieved their goals or spent their money. Others consider the initial run a launching pad and try again four years later. But few are like Republican Minnesota Governor Harold Stassen. He was elected to the governorship in 1938 at age 31 and ran for president every four years thereafter, starting in 1940 until 1992. In “Long Shots Part 2: Why Do They Do It?” Eric Felten and Carl M. Cannon of Real Clear Politics write:

…Stassen started as a serious politician, and became a running joke, mostly by mounting quixotic presidential campaigns again and again and again. More than that, actually. Stassen ran as a “favorite son” candidate in 1940, apparently to get a top speaking slot at the Republican National Convention. He gave a nice speech and endorsed GOP nominee Wendell Willkie. He reprised his effort in 1944. He ran in the 1948 campaign, too, making the cover of Time magazine and coming close to getting the Republican nomination.

But Harold Stassen wasn’t a man who knew when to quit. He ran again in 1952, 1964, and 1968 (against Pat Paulsen, among others). He wasn’t much of a threat to Richard Nixon, but the strength of the GOP nominee wasn’t his primary concern or Stassen wouldn’t have run against Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1984. His last two campaigns were in 1988 and 1992, a Harold Stassen presidential candidacy by then being as certain a quadrennial event as the Olympics. And though Stassen grew defensive about it, his seriousness of purpose never went away.

“I know I’ve had an impact, that some things I’ve done have really counted for world peace, for the passion of the individual,” Stassen said late in his career. “I sometimes wish people would ask not how many times I’ve run a political campaign, but how many times I’ve been right on the issues.”

2024 presidential campaign

Long-shot candidates are often helped by the unwitting actions of other candidates. For instance, Joe Biden is immensely helping Democrat Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Many political observers believe Biden will not be the Democrat nominee and is just a placeholder. Polls show a plurality of Democrats do not want Joe to run again because of (check all that apply):

  • Mental health acuity-dementia issues.
  • Age, as he would be 87 years old at the end of his second term.
  • Policies lean too far toward Marxism.
  • Corrupt (e.g., the Biden crime family).

However, the longer Joey stays in the race, the more difficult it becomes for undeclared candidates to announce, and that enormously helps Kennedy who continues to campaign. Three Democrats who are itching to run for president are:

  • Vice President of Word Salads Kamala Harris
  • California Governor Gavin “Hair Gel” Newsom
  • Secretary of No Transportation Pete Buttigieg

In the meantime, as they dither, long-shot Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. grows his base by holding rallies, speaking on TV and radio programs (including conservative shows), writing op-eds, giving interviews, and posting on social media, although far-left big tech has made it difficult, but not impossible for him to get his message out.

It must be wonderful having so much money and/or support that you can regularly run for president. At least you know you are running. We can’t say the same about Joe Biden who often introduces Vice President Harris as president, shakes hands with the air, yells during speeches, walks aimlessly on the stage following speeches, frequently falls, and responds to reporter’s questions by turning away.

As the 2024 presidential campaign continues along, it might be time for me to announce that I am running for president. I would be a long-shot candidate (but still with better chances than Chris Christie), but “Robin Itzler, former presidential candidate,” would look so cool on my business card.

Image: Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. (edited). YouTube screen grab.

Robin M. Itzler is a regular contributor to American Thinker. She can be reached at PatriotNeighbors@yahoo.com.

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