Does Starting this Early Give Romney an Edge?
by Jonathan Singer, Mon Jun 01, 2009 at 03:43:35 AM EDT
Ben Smith earlier this week:
My instinct on the 2012 Republican field, with its crop of half-in-half-out governors, is that the people who are unambiguously angling for the job -- at this point, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee -- have a certain advantage.
I don't see it. There is simply very little real indication that candidates who start "unambiguously" running in the days and weeks after a President is inaugurated actually have an edge over those who get into the race later.
Having recently finished reading What it Takes, the outstanding book on the 1988 primaries, I do remember that presumptive Democratic favorite Gary Hart was pushed out of the race long before the first vote was cast and that Dick Gephardt, who had begun staking out Iowa in 1985, won that state and just about only that state.
Thinking back even just the past few years, it's not hard to remember that the big winners on the Republican side during the run up to 2008 were not the candidates with the strongest organizations, whether within a state or around the country, but rather a woefully underfunded former Governor (Mike Huckabee) and a big name who by the time voters were going to the polls had only about enough money to fly himself from state to state (John McCain). Mitt Romney, who started early and invested tens of millions of his own dollars didn't win, nor did Rudy Giuliani, whose endorsements and $59 million raised earned him a single delegate at the Republican National Convention.
This isn't to say that starting early is going to inhibit a candidate, Romney or otherwise. What's more, there have certainly been cases where the candidate organized earliest has won (though that has tended to be in cases where the candidate is an heir apparent like Al Gore and George W. Bush in 2000). But the idea that those clearly in the race today have a real advantage seems like a conclusion based on common wisdom rather than actual reality, and I would be fairly surprised to see the eventual GOP field devoid of some strong late-breaking entrants.