Jonathan V. Last wrote in today’s “The Triad” email:
Hillary Clinton passed on the 2004 race, thinking that she’d have a clear shot in 2008. Chris Christie pass on 2012, thinking that 2016 would be better. Elizabeth Warren passed on 2016 because she thought 2020 would be an easier environment.
No, no, no, no, no. If you have an opening to run for president, you take it. The single most impressive decision of Barack Obama’s political career was him taking a shot at the title in 2008 when he glimpsed the appearance of a window. They should teach this in Politics School.
And it doesn’t even really matter whether or not you win. Bernie Sanders saw his chance in 2016 and even though he lost the nomination, he built a movement because the opportunity was there and he seized it.–Jonathan V. Last, January 15 2020 email.
The Obama case is certainly exhibit A for this view. It might even be the case had he lost to Hillary which I suspect even he thought would be the case. However, Hillary should not have blown the 2008 race which she did, and it was still probably right to eschew running against an incumbent which is harder to do than when he’s termed out.
If Last is right however it only specifically sustains the proposition “Already nationally known candidates should take their shot” but long shots should be more selective. If a rehabilitated (post-Senate & cabinet) Hillary couldn’t be Donald freakin Trump in 2016 could she, only 4 years from her husband, have beaten a still popular incumbent? The Democratic primary in 2008 for Obama – nationally known at best for a single nomination speech actually affirms this. It’s the same reason Jeb Bush reasonably did not run in 2008 though perhaps a 2012 case could be made.
There are a whole slew of national democrats that would like to have 1992 back.
Even longshots should pick their battles. Trump — the sui generis among sui generis presidential candidates — has been vetting races since probably 1988 but chose well.
What are the cases where someone went early but should have waited? Marco Rubio, surely and Ted Cruz arguably. Perhaps Romney 08? Would a clean run in 12 have been better? Pete Buttigieg may find out.