It was crazy to think a freshman senator, an African American with an unusual name, could win his party’s nomination and the presidency. It was far-fetched to think a governor of a small Southern state whose convention speech bombed and who sat out the Vietnam War would beat a sitting president who managed the end of the Cold War and won the first Gulf War. A peanut farmer from another Southern state was never going to win the nomination, let alone the presidency. And yet Presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter were the past three Democratic presidents.
On the GOP side, one need look no further than President Trump to realize the person the media designate as “not serious” or “improbable” can win — although governing is another matter.
With the exception of vice presidents, most candidates running for their party’s nomination are often long shots, if not unknowns, when they start out on the trail. And yet, there are among the longest of long shots a not-insignificant number of winners.
Conversely, American political history is littered with favored candidates who didn’t win their nomination (e.g., Jeb Bush, Richard Gephardt, Hillary Clinton in 2008).
Therefore, for former New Jersey governor Chris Christie (a once “serious” Republican presidential candidate who won not a single delegate) to say, as The Post reported, that he sees “no current path for a successful primary challenge” for his friend Republican Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland is, to be blunt, meaningless. (Hogan says there isn’t currently a path, but he leaves the door wide open to run in the aftermath of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report or an economic downturn or just about any other change in circumstances.)
Most of the current Democratic contenders on paper have no realistic chance to win, and yet they’re in the race. Some run to make a point or to increase their profile. But most correctly say: Hey, why not me?
In the case of Hogan, there is even more reason to run. The Post reports:
[Christie] heaped praise on Trump’s possible rival, saying it was “love at first sight” when he met Hogan n 2014, then a businessman running an underdog campaign for governor. Christie described Hogan as a practical leader who is capable of bringing people together.
“He’s a uniter,” Christie said.
Christie and Hogan, who have what Hogan describes as a “bromance,” joked Thursday about their different relationships with the president, who Hogan has sharply criticized.
In addition to Hogan’s qualifications and personal qualities, Hogan of all people knows that a moral imperative can dwarf mundane political concerns. Hogan speaks reverentially about his father, Lawrence Hogan, a Republican congressman who was an often lonely voice in his party in favor of Richard Nixon’s impeachment. “He showed us true meaning of honor, integrity, and meaning,” the governor said at his second inauguration. It doesn’t take courage to cast your lot with the winning side, with the sure bet; it’s only in defying odds, expectations and the political mob that one attains greatness.
In short, it’s not any nuttier to say Hogan could win the nomination than to say a sitting president (Lyndon B. Johnson) could decide not to run after a rival didn’t win an early primary state. (Eugene McCarthy only placed second in New Hampshire before Johnson dropped out.) It’s not any more far-fetched than saying a Republican businessman with no political experience could win the governorship of a deep-blue state.
Like greenlighting movies, picking a surefire winning presidential candidate or declaring a candidate a candidate has no chance of winning is a fool’s errand. As the late screen writer William Goldman said, “No one knows anything.”
Hogan should ignore Christie and other naysayers. I’d tell him, run if you have something to say. Run if you think the times require it. Run if your conscience demands it. And run if only because no one else has the nerve to do it.