Let 1,000 flowers bloom -- and a dozen presidental contenders
Bill Kristol writes in opposition to the herd mentality that demands that the 2012 presidential favorite be determined now:
What we need in 2011 is what Lincoln called, in a different context, "an open field and a fair chance" for all plausible contestants to demonstrate their "industry, enterprise, and intelligence." We need many candidates -- experienced and not so experienced, old and young, congressmen and governors, formers and futures -- all making their case, in debates and on the stump, in forums big and small, addressing issues of all sorts and reacting in real time to developments of all kinds.
We should keep that in mind as pundits, starving for scraps of news, wax on and on about early polls. The temptation to dub someone a "darling" of this or that group, based on the comments of a few pundits and columnists should be resisted. From the daily chatter among activists and operatives, I can unequivocally state that no one has yet captured the imagination, let alone the hearts, of the Republican base. One or more of the current crop might -- or it might take a new face in the field to galvanize conservative voters.
There are two factors to keep in mind for those contemplating a run -- and for those activists and potential staffers who are surveying the contenders. First, it takes a big organization and a lot of money to win the White House, but not that much of either to win an early state or two. Recall the campaign of Sen. John McCain. He hired a huge staff and burned through a pile of money in 2007. Then he had to scale down to a few loyal advisors and run on a shoe-string budget. In early 2008, he placed well in Iowa and then won New Hampshire. The money followed victory. Certainly, McCain was a well-known commodity, but in the 24/7 information age, and with multiple debates, the candidates, especially the better ones, will become familiar to the Republican electorate.
Second, the more candidates in the race, the easier it is for a quality candidate to make his mark. Let's say there are ten credible candidates on the ballot in New Hampshire. A candidate could win with a third of the vote and a strong contender could elevate his profile with 20 or 25 percent of the vote.
In short, no candidate should forgo the race because he doesn't have $20 million in the bank in March 2011. Not every candidate will want to sacrifice income or privacy to make a run. But aside from personal calculations, why would any viable conservative sit this one out?
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