In early March, back when the official Republican field was still very small and before "Deez Nuts" ballooned the number of people declaring capricious presidential bids, a little-known former IRS comissioner named Mark Everson released a video announcing his plan to win the 2016 nomination.
Everson's race lasted 246 days, coming to an end on Thursday with a quiet statement praising the conversations he'd had with "Americans across our great country" and hoping for an elegant resolution to the "vigorous but sometimes sloppy contest underway amongst Republicans." Everson's campaign actually lasted more than three times as long as Scott Walker's. He spent about as much as former New York governor George Pataki. He made more early-state visits than former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore. Despite that, Everson was never included in lists of the Republican field, an oddity that we explored in July.
In a phone conversation on Thursday afternoon, Everson explained why he thought he was never included with those top 17 (then 16, then 15). "It's a sad reality that the media has gotten lazier over the years, through the use of the technology that they now have," Everson said. "They don't have to go anywhere to see what's really happening. They can just see what's online and read countless other accounts from other colleagues and render their judgements. So it's harder for someone to break in now."
Everson suggested that the media and the polling were locked in a sort of exclusionary circle. The media doesn't cover lesser-known candidates, so those candidates don't get into polling, and that polling then dictates who is in televised debates. "How is it that the [Republican National Committee] can have this guy on a website," he wondered, referring to a straw poll on GOP.com that included his name, "but it's not good enough for the mainstream media?"
Everson admitted that he'd made some mistakes, including focusing on Iowa instead of New Hampshire. In the former, even a positive editorial from the Des Moines Register didn't generate much traction for Everson, but in New Hampshire, he found a much more receptive audience. (Though he went to New Hampshire later in his effort, and he admits that "I got a lot better at this. I was pretty awkward when I started.")
He was not without support once he met voters. One woman, he told me with obvious incredulity, asked if he'd consider being a vice president. ("And she meant it!") Others approved of the policy initiatives at the heart of his candidacy. As a former IRS commissioner, Everson was skeptical of some of the tax proposals introduced by better-known candidates. "Americans are ready for a real conversation about the issues," he said, pointing to his discussions in New Hampshire. "They absolutely are." When I pressed him on the success of the Republican front-runners despite having less-fleshed-out ideas, Everson pointed out that there were a lot of Republican voters who still weren't backing them.
"The last thing you should do is wring your hands and say, 'it's not worth the effort,'" Everson said of his campaign -- and future long-shot campaigns. "That's wrong. That's wrong."
Asked who he might vote for or endorse now, Everson said that he hadn't really thought about it. After brief consideration, he added a pointed summary: "I'm not so sure that the Republican electorate believes it's as strong a field as some have contended."