Monday, December 14, 2015

The First Shall Be Last

With my candidate for President, Martin O'Malley, still polling in the low single digits, the media have begun to write him off (assuming they ever wrote him on) for 2016, but there are some folks who suggest that O'Malley, at 52, is young enough to make another try for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020 or 2024.    
Not so fast.  If he gets no more votes in Iowa and New Hampshire than the polls currently indicate, he will be likely the first Democrat to drop out of the campaign following the Iowa and New Hampshire contests. And that may well spell doom for his future presidential ambitions.
Do you remember Alan Cranston's 1988 presidential bid?  Bruce Babbitt's 1992 run for the Presidency?  Bob Kerrey's 2000 presidential campaign?  No?  Exactly.  Alan Cranston, Bruce Babbitt, and Bob Kerrey - whom I supported when he ran for President in 1992 but couldn't vote for because his campaign had long since folded by the time of the New Jersey primary - all ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984, 1988, and 1992, respectively, but all of them were the first to drop out after the voting in the first two states on the primary/caucus calendar.  None of them ever ran for President again.  If O'Malley were forced withdraw as a candidate after Iowa and New Hampshire, his chances of another go for the nomination would be slimmer later than they are now.  It isn't just the "loser label" that would be pinned to him; it would be the fact that he couldn't raise enough money, and he's already strapped for cash in this 2016 campaign he's running.  It likely cost too much for any of the other candidates I mentioned to run the first time, so why would they consider second bids later on?  Even O'Malley's mentor Gary Hart, who came close to winning the 1984 Democratic presidential nomination, was in so much debt as a result of that run against Walter Mondale that, on April 15, 1987, two days after he declared his candidacy for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination, a Hart fundraiser hosted by Hart's friend Warren Beatty was raided by federal marshals, who absconded with $30,000 to pay off Hart's campaign debts from 1984.
Incidentally, it isn't just Democratic candidates whose presidential ambitions are forever buried by being the first to drop out after finishing last (or close to it) in Iowa and New Hampshire.  Consider Pete du Pont's exit from the 1988 Republican presidential nomination contest after the New Hampshire primary in the same week that Bruce Babbitt pulled out of the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination contest.  Or, as Dennis Miller said on "Saturday Night Live," "Babbitt.  Du Pont.  Who cares?" 
And don't get me started on presidential candidates who quit before a single primary ballot has been cast or a single caucus head count has been taken.  
I obviously hope Marty pulls through, and I also hope he runs again if he doesn't.  But history isn't kind to those who quit the presidential nomination contests first.  As Alan Cranston himself (below), a U.S. Senator from California, said when he withdrew from the 1984 Democratic presidential nomination contest, "I know the difference between reality and dreams." 

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