Best to Be Unemployed When Running for President?

Now that we have all pretty much gotten over the meme that governors invariably make the best presidential candidates, the New York Times‘ Ashley Parker comes along to remind us that it’s still no bowl of cherries to run for president for the Senate–though the peril may be more to the interests of the nation than to the candidates, viz. the dangerous game Marco Rubio is playing with the Iran nuclear deal, in conjunction with future presidential candidate Tom Cotton. Bernie Sanders’ candidacy gives this dilemma a bipartisan dimension, though you don’t get the sense Bernie has to do to much Machiavellian calculation before taking a position.

But for the Republicans, yeah, racing from fundraisers in the money centers back to the Capitol for symbolic votes isn’t fun; nor is it easy to get into the habit of thinking that Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina–not to mention potential Super-PAC funders–are more important than the actual state you represent.

So if it sucks to be a sitting governor or sitting senator, that presumably means not being in any office at all is preferable, albeit at the opportunity cost of not being in a position to make vote-winning gestures instead of simply agitating the air (not that there’s much difference in many cases).

If you look at the list of actual or likely Republican candidates for president, eight of them (Bolton, Bush, Carson, Fiorina, Huckabee, Pataki, Perry and Santorum) do not hold elected office, while eight others do (Christie, Cruz, Graham, Jindal, Kasich, Paul, Rubio, Walker). So maybe we have the makings of a controlled experiment here.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.