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Should a Candidate Wait?

Post # 271, Bob McKnight's Florida Commentary

For Republicans, announcing early will just draw Trump's ire and name-calling. But waiting will not leave many wealthy and uncommitted donors for a candidate to enlist.

I am often asked, "Is there an optimal time for a candidate to announce their candidacy?" The answer is generally an early announcement gives you more time to plan your campaign and raise money, but a later announcement lets you get a final look at the race, with a maximum amount of information to analyze the race. Another axiom is if you feel you are a strong candidate, an early announcement might scare opposition off.

The question is timely now with candidates looking at the 2024 Presidential race as well as some key Congressional and Governor races around the country. Now that President Biden has announced he is running for re-election, no serious Democratic candidates are expected to announce, unless a surprise pops up.

But on the Republican side, the question of announcement timing is very important. According to the polls, the favorite GOP candidate for President is former President Donald Trump. His base of about 1/3 of the country is probably as solid as any, Republican or Democrat. But his negatives are historic. He is not helped by being impeached twice by the House and indicted once as this post is being written. He is in all probability going to be further indicted, from his pending lawsuits. His recent civil conviction for sexual abuse and defamation of character will certainly harden his opposition from Independents and suburban women of both parties.

But, If he becomes a convicted felon, Trump will still be able to run for President. The GOP leadership is terrorized by Trump's vengeance. Until recently few if almost any would dare suggest an alternative to Trump. If Trump is criticized by Republicans, they usually became a "former" statistic.

But this year appears a little different because of Trump's serious troubles. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has been copying Trump's hard right policies, and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has been criticizing Trump's record. A large group of possible candidates led by Former Vice President Mike Pence, former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, and now Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin have all sent signals of their possible candidacy, even if Trump runs. If Trump is weakened at the deadline, more candidates will probably announce.

History is not much help in judging the timing of announcements--in 1976 former Georgia Governor Jimmie Carter made an early announcement and his shoe leather got him the nomination over favorites like former Maine Senator Edmund Muskie and Washington Senator Scoop Jackson.

In 1968, unknown anti-war Minnesota Democrat Senator Gene McCarthy announced his candidacy early, and his primary showing against incumbent President Lyndon Johnson gave favorite New York Senator Robert Kennedy the confidence to announce. Kennedy was assassinated and the ultimate Democratic candidate, Vice President Hubert Humphrey lost to Republican President Richard Nixon.

By all accounts, the 2024 candidates will be many, we just don't know whether they will announce early or late.



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