Candidates: Opportunism, Competition, and Change
The candidates who have the best chances of becoming the nominee are “traditional” candidates. 1 Traditional candidates hold or previously have held a high-profile elective office. While many high-profile politicians could run, most do not even if they might want to be president. A critical part of understanding “who runs” is that the politicians who make the strongest candidates are strategic about their willingness to run. Strategic politicians are ambitious and opportunistic. 2 Political ambition usually is demonstrated through a career path of seeking a more prominent elected office and then using that office as a platform for rising to an even higher office. 3 Most vice presidents, governors, and senators have advanced to their position through lower level offices. Strategic politicians calculate their chances of winning and they run when they believe those odds are high. They gather information about their chances when deciding whether to run for the presidency. They pay attention to polls. They consult their friends and associates. They may even begin fundraising through a leadership PAC to gauge their ability to raise money for a run for the presidency. They often travel to Iowa and New Hampshire to test the waters.