The Silly Hat Throw Season is now in full swing. Presidential flagpoles face metal fatigue from so many names going up and down them. Everyone’s political vanity is loosed in this season, and a media now constructed to avoid serious political discussion for as long as possible is more than willing to play along.
There are about 10-12 reasonably serious potential Republican candidates for president in 2012. Not all of them will run. As I pointed out in a recent column, the larger number will narrow to 4-5 soon enough, and by the time the primaries and caucuses have begun, there will only be 2-3 hopefuls left in the field. At that point, there may be a close and bitter fight for the nomination itself, or there may not, because one strong candidate emerges more quickly than predicted.
But for now, there are dozens of individuals, most of them reasonably well-known (although not necessarily in politics) who desperately seek publicity and notoriety at any price.
Trust me, Donald Trump is not going to be the next U.S. president. Neither is Michele Bachmann. Nor Rick Santorum. Not Ron Paul. Not Fred Karger. Not Buddy Roemer. Not Gary Johnson. Not Herman Cain. Not John Thune. Not even Rudy Giuliani.
Mr. Giuliani was a serious candidate in 2008. In fact, at one point he was the nominal frontrunner. However, he ran an incredibly poor campaign, and proved to be an inept campaigner personally. Should Fred Thompson attempt to run in 2012, I suspect he will be similarly regarded. There are no indications that either of them understands they were their own worst opponent.
Comebacks are possible. Richard Nixon is the most famous example in the past. This year, Newt Gingrich could be another.
There will also be in Iowa and New Hampshire a slew of totally obscure candidates who put themselves on the ballot. It’s a free country. But no one has to give them an inch of mention. (A few who say or do outlandish things will get some media attention.) Good for them. Some persons live only for a little publicity.
It also takes a strong ego to be a serious candidate for president. And an even stronger one, perhaps, to serve as president. This year, unlike the last cycle, the serious candidates are not rushing in to announce their intentions. The current political environment, the national economic environment, the international environment is so uncertain, so ambiguous, so provisional, that wise men and women are taking their time. I think, their public statements notwithstanding, most of the serious candidates have already made their decisions. In their own good time, they will tell us their intentions.
Meanwhile, we are left to entertain ourselves with the self-puffery, pretensions, and antics of pseudo-candidates who will promenade through nightly news programs, op eds and, of course, the blogs to seek out attention. It’s the silly hat throw season.