The incentives are lining up for a pretty wacky couple of months in presidential politics.
Ed Kilgore made a great point the other day about what’s going with the Republican Party’s race for the 2016 presidential nomination. Simply put all sorts of factors are lining up for a pretty zany next couple of months. After all Republicans are desperate to make the cut for Fox New’s August 4th presidential debate as only the top 10 candidates in polling will be allowed on the stage:
By saying it will invite the ten top candidates in the “five most recent national polls” prior to August 4, and suggesting that standard methodological polls alone will suffice…Fox is implicitly inviting a clustering of such polls just prior to August 4, with the big question being whether well-regarded academic polls like Quinnipiac’s will be included along with major media polls.
So it’s increasingly clear the polling spike marginal candidates need to make the cut needs to happen in late July—not earlier, not later. Thus, says Smith, John Kasich’s scheduled July 21st campaign launch probably couldn’t be timed much better; if he gets a post-announcement bounce, it could bounce him right up into the top ten. For those in the danger zone who have already announced—Perry, Jindal, Santorum, Graham, Fiorina, Pataki and maybe even Christie—the only way to get this sort of bounce is to force one’s way into the news.
So for these candidates, the big strategic question is whether throwing a bomb or three in late July to make the Fox debate cut is worth the long-term risk of self-marginalization. The alternative is to accept a place at the kiddie table “forum” earlier on August 6 and hope media, activists, donors and party elites don’t mentally strike one’s name from the insanely long list of contenders.
And that’s not all. August is a notoriously dull news month, after all a lot of the country goes on vacation, and if anything things get even more boring inside the Beltway. But the modern news media never gets to take a break. After all newspapers and websites still have to publish stories, everyday, so journalists can get a bit desperate to come up with something to write about. Which in turn is one of the reasons why we often see those silly cable news blowups about shark attacks or random missing persons in late summer.
A complex multisided presidential nomination contest with people making outrageous claims or committing cringe worthy gaffes is of course a great way fill this “newshole.”
Will this have any affect on the general election next year? Almost certainly not, as by then the race will have settled into Hillary Clinton (sorry Bernie) versus whoever the Republicans end up picking and all the gaffes and silliness from 2015 will have been long forgotten. There just really isn’t any hard evidence that gaffes or debate snafus have an impact on a general election more than a year later. But in a crowded field like what the Republicans have right now, wining (or losing) a media cycle or two really can have a big impact in terms of who has to drop out and who can fight on to Iowa and beyond.
Regardless of your politics these types of situations can be a lot of fun, at least for us political junkies. So grab some popcorn, jump on twitter, and get ready for some politicians behaving badly in the next few months.
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