Are you ‘thinking about’ running for president? Join the club.

Yesterday, Jeb Bush announced he was "thinking about" running for president. Earlier in April, Hillary Clinton revealed that she too is "thinking about" running for president.

What does it all mean?


Jeb Bush is thinking about running for president this much. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Right now, not much. "Thinking about" running for president contains multitudes, as someone "thinking about" running for president probably misquoted Walt Whitman once. The successor to the "Shermanesque" statement on a presidential candidate's path to announcing, "thinking about" — like "hooking up" or "hiking on the Appalachian trail" — means different things to different people.

There are the people who say they are "thinking about" running for president and mean "I am basically fully staffed for a presidential campaign but don't want you to treat me like a presidential candidate quite yet."

There are the people who say they are "thinking about" running for president and mean "I have talked to donors and they seem to like me so that's something."

There are the people who say they are "thinking about" running for president and mean "I want you to write a story about me thinking about running for president so you have no choice but to give press to the policies I actually want you to write about."

There are the people who say they are "thinking about" running for president and mean "I want you to write a story about me."

There are the people who say they are "thinking about" running for president and mean "I used to watch the 'West Wing' a lot and thought I was a Josh but now think I'm a Jed."

There are the people who say they are "thinking about" running for president and mean "I have thought about running for president exactly once but I am an honest person so I will tell you that I'm thinking about it."

There are the people who say they are "thinking about" running for president and mean "Well, I am related to at least one person who was president and everyone keeps wondering whether I am running for president so, yeah, I've thought about it."

Who knows what Bush and Clinton mean when they say they are "thinking about" running for president. Given that history books that could be filled with presidents and not-so-presidents who have daydreamed about the White House, it would be safe not to read too much into their statements. Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton are either going to run, or they aren't. We'll know soon enough either way.

Behold, an abridged compendium — and parable about the dangers of reading to much into politicians' thinking on the record — of people thinking about running for president.

John Ashcroft, 1997: "Sen. John Ashcroft is spreading the word that he is thinking about running for president."

Bruce Babbit, 1988: "Babbitt says he started thinking about running for president in 1982, after seeing the limits of local power over issues such as education and economics."

James A. Baker, 1994: "Former Secretary of State James A. Baker 3d is thinking about running for President in 1996, according to an article in today's editions of The Houston Post."

George H.W. Bush, 1978: "Bush said Monday he's thinking about running for president and won't settle for any lower elected office. But he said he might consider being secretary of state under a Republican president."

George W. Bush, 1999: "Obviously, I'm thinking about running for president. ... If I wasn't interested, I'd say I'm not interested. I'm interested and I'm thinking about it."

Wesley Clark, 2003: "Gen. Wesley K. Clark, who has been thinking about running for president as a Democrat, moved a step closer to joining the race yesterday by announcing that he is indeed a Democrat."

Mario Cuomo, 1987: "Mr. Cuomo said a few days after his re-election that he was going to begin thinking about running for President. He has yet to announce any decision."

Mario Cuomo, 1991: "Last Friday, Mr. Cuomo told a group of supporters that he was thinking about running for President, but later played down his remarks in yet another tantalizing rendition of what he himself once labeled a 'semantic carousel.'"

Newt Gingrich, 1995: "Gingrich said that he is still thinking about running for president himself and issued a pointed warning to Dole, saying the Kansas senator would have 'the biggest problem' as a presidential candidate if he fails to win approval for key Republican legislation this year in the Senate."

John Kasich, 1998: "I'm not looking for any stepping stone. I've made my assessment -- the people who may run -- and as a result, I'm thinking about running for president."

John Kerry, 1998: "U.S. Sen. John Kerry doesn't deny that he's thinking about running for president."

John Kerry, 2006: "Senator John Kerry said this week that he is thinking about running for president again but he hasn't made up his mind as of yet. Well, that should put to rest all those rumors about him being indecisive."

Paul Laxalt, 1986: "Sen. Paul Laxalt, R-Nev., is thinking about running for president and thinks it would be 'a kick' to have headlines that said Ronald Reagan was the best friend of the president."

George McGovern, 1983: "The former senator and 1972 Democratic nominee is thinking about running for president again. Really."

Walter Mondale, 1981: "The next presidential election is still a long way down the road. Yet Walter Mondale already is positioning himself for the race for the Democratic nomination three years hence. ''I'm obviously thinking about it,'' he told this reporter in an interview the other day."

Ted Nugent, 2013: "'Hi, I’m Ted Nugent. I have nine children from seven women, and I’m running for president.' Nugent takes a sip of water, having delivered his potential slogan. 'Yeah, I’m thinking about it.'”

Sam Nunn, 1987: "Nunn indicates that he is thinking about running for President. If he does, he will have problems."

Barack Obama, 2007: "So when Obama, an Illinois Democrat, told Clooney last year that he was thinking about running for president, the actor was excited but cautious. 'I told him I would do anything for him, including staying completely away from him.'"

Rand Paul, 2013: "'Well, you know, the thought has crossed my mind,' the Kentucky senator said on 'Fox News Sunday.' 'And I am seriously thinking about it.'"

Sarah Palin, 2012: "Delivering remarks before a Long Island business group on Thursday, Sarah Palin said she was 'still thinking about' whether or not she would run for president in 2012, and emphasized that 'I haven't made up my mind.'"

Ross Perot, 1992: "For Ross Perot, a very rich man who is thinking about running for President, getting on the ballot in all 50 states is only slightly less tricky."

Nelson Rockefeller, 1959: "He agreed that it was fair to assume from his telegram to New Hampshire supporters that he was 'thinking about running for President.' 'It would be very hard not to under the circumstances and in view of the questions I have been asked over the last three or four months,' he said. Mr. Rockefeller declared emphatically, however, that he had reached no decision."

Buddy Roemer, 2011: "I'm the only person thinking about running for president who has been elected as a senator and a governor."

Mitt Romney, 2008: “'I was in Salt Lake and had the chance to go by him and see him and told him that our family was going to be thinking about running for president,' said Mr. Romney. 'He smiled and said it would be a great experience if you won and a great experience if you lost.'"

Paul Simon, 1987: "Once again, Sen. Paul Simon is thinking about running for president."

Robert C. Smith, 1997: "Such is the case with Robert C. Smith, the state's rough-hewn senior United States Senator and a staunch conservative who has had the temerity in recent weeks to announce that he is thinking about running for President."

Fred Thompson, 2007: "Mr. Thompson said he wound up thinking about running for president because he has young children."

Ted Turner, 1992: "There had been rumors that he had been thinking about running for president this year. Admitting that he thought about it 'for five minutes, or 10,' he added that he already is a president. Besides, Fonda disapproved of the idea. 'Jane was already married to one politician and she said she wasn't going to be married to another. You can't do something like that if your wife doesn't want you do to it,' he said."

Douglas Wilder, 1994: "His greatest regret? 'Even thinking about running for President,' he replied. His four-month quest for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 1992 cost him support back home that he never regained.

Samuel Yorty, 1971: "Why is Mayor Yorty thinking about running for President? Mr. Bretzfield says the Mayor is 'the most qualified man in the United States to express the moderate, the conservative viewpoint of the American public.' He added, 'Sam is the kind of guy who can go out and sell people.'"

 

Must-reads:

"A Defiant Rancher Savors the Audience That Rallied to His Side" — Adam Nagourney, The New York Times

Jaime Fuller reports on national politics for "The Fix" and Post Politics. She worked previously as an associate editor at the American Prospect, a political magazine based in Washington, D.C.
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