Unconventional campaigns

Jonathan Bernstein wonders if Sarah Palin, with a national profile and an enthusiastic base, could run for the presidential nomination successfully without playing by the normal rules:

Of course, Sarah Palin sits at this point of the campaign with total name recognition and terrific enthusiasm from a not insignificant number of GOP primary and caucus votes.  Those assets may mean that she can wait until longer than usual to start following the normal rules of how one runs for president.  Or, perhaps, she’ll try to capture the nomination without doing those things.  Is it possible?  Well, we don’t know; no one has ever tried it in the forty years of the modern presidential nomination system.  To be sure, no one knows which campaigning efforts really matter.  What we do know is that elite endorsements and support matter, and I’m pretty skeptical that an FNC-plus-large rallies-plus-TV ads campaign can do the job.  That’s especially true because Palin’s poll numbers right now are hardly overwhelming even among Republicans — they like her, but they’re not yet sold on her as a presidential candidate (in comparison, that is, with other Republicans, which is the relevant question now, as Ramesh Ponnuru points out in a solid post on Palin’s prospects).  Were she more popular, then I could imagine groups and their leaders endorsing and supporting her simply because they would be afraid of being left behind, but at least now that doesn’t seem, to me, to be the case.

Of course, we may be able to think of some that were able to win nominations by playing from a slightly unorthodox playbook (the current president comes to mind), but, generally, those who don’t follow the “accepted” steps generally do poorly. Case in point: Rudy Giulliani, who thought he could wait until Florida (where he was strongest) to step up his game. The strategy failed miserably, despite the fact that he started off with deeper party support and far better approval numbers than Sarah Palin would. If Sarah wanted to run for president, she would be better to start working within the party (probably even earlier than other candidates, since it’s clear party leaders don’t trust her), especially since the Republicans, at least, almost always nominate the party favorite.


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