Figuring out who the candidates are and what it means to be winnowed out
As of today I am launching my Definitive List of Republican Presidential Candidates, which can be seen here.
One important feature of it is that it is not particularly definitive. That is, it’s always somewhat blurry just who is running for president, particularly at this early stage of the cycle. There are a few candidates who have explicitly announced they are running (Trump, Haley), a few whom are being treated as candidates even though they haven’t announced (DeSantis, Pence, Pompeo), and some who are clearly doing the things that presidential candidates do, but haven’t received much attention for it yet (Hutchinson, Scott).
I take a fairly expansive few of this field and treat people as candidates if they have done at least some of the things candidates do, including:
Announced they are running for president
Spoken in Iowa or New Hampshire in the past year
Been interviewed on Fox News
Hired campaign staff
Raised money (or promised to spend a large portion of their own)
Received endorsements from prominent politicians
I’ve put details of these in the spreadsheet. I’ve tried to keep these as simple as possible, but some require a bit of explanation. I’ve also included a column in there for when the candidate withdraws.
(My thanks to my Parties & Interest Groups class in the Winter 2023 quarter, who did the bulk of initial labor on this and created the basis for a great class discussion.)
By my count, we’ve had 15 candidates so far, and two of them (Ted Cruz last month and Larry Hogan today) have been winnowed out.
Which brings up an important question: what do I mean by “winnowed out”? I take a pretty party-centric view of the invisible primary, meaning that candidates right now are presenting themselves to party leaders, elected officials, prominent donors and endorsers, conservative journalists, and others, and trying to gauge what kind of support exists for them. It’s those party insiders who, through their warm or cool responses, signal whether the candidacy should continue.
Take Larry Hogan, for example. He’s been signaling since his term as Maryland Governor was winding down last year that he was interested in a presidential run. Mainly, he wanted to see if someone like him — a popular and relatively moderate Republican who sharply criticized Donald Trump following the January 6th riots — had a path to the presidential nomination. Pretty clearly, he wasn’t seeing one. He pivoted last month to saying he would support Trump should he become the nominee, but apparently appealing to both the pro- and anti-Trump wings of the party simultaneously didn’t impress anyone. So today he dropped out, because it was clear to him that the current Republican Party had no interest in nominating him. I view this as a party making a decision, rather than a candidate failing at a task.
(It’s possible to take a more candidate-centric view here, that Hogan did some things but did them incorrectly, or even that he was never even running and just confirmed that today.)
So, when I say a candidate has been winnowed out, it means the ambition was there, but the Republican Party signaled to them that it was uninterested, effectively forcing them out of the race.
I’ll concede that this list is imperfect. Should Donald Trump, Jr. have been on it? Probably not, although if his dad weren’t running he might have given it a shot. Was Josh Hawley running prior to his November announcement that he wasn’t? Maybe — I’m drawing the line at withdrawals in 2023. Should I really be including Corey Stapleton? Well, my students loved him. And what about Cheney? Surely she knows there’s no way she’d ever get nominated, but maybe just being on the debate stage with Trump is her real goal. I’ve elected to keep her in, but again, it’s fuzzy.
At any rate, I welcome your suggestions about people to include/exclude. But otherwise I’ll keep updating this as the year goes on.
I think you should add an "other" category that just contains a % likelihood that someone not on your list gets the nomination. Would be fun to track that over time.
Trump has basically he will run even if there is a Republican who wins. What do you think then?