- - Monday, July 27, 2015

With all the negative media attention regarding the amount of people vying for the 2016 Republican nomination, there is a political dynamic that many haven’t considered. The crowded field might actually be good for the Republican brand. Despite any talk show blather centered on GOP aspirants, those with political acumen understand that there are only a few real presidential contenders. Certainly not all sixteen or so candidates have an actual chance at becoming president of the United States. Math dictates otherwise.

Of course there’s always a slim possibility that someone in the Republican field might emerge from the pack. But even these candidates — despite whatever hopes they may have — understand that it’s not very likely. We can fully expect the field of hopefuls to be cut (at least) in half by Super Tuesday, and in half again the day after. However, in this age of the 24-hour news cycle and public relations via social media, throwing one’s hat into the arena (despite never being a serious contender) can be politically advantageous to those who still have unresolved political ambitions.

For instance, Chris Christie, in his second term as a Republican Governor in (blue) New Jersey is seeing both his local and national popularity wane. Does he have a real chance at gaining the nomination? Probably not. So one must consider that prior to becoming governor, Mr. Christie was the United States attorney for the district of New Jersey. As such, there is a distinct possibility that Mr. Christie is not actually vying for the Republican nomination, but rather positioning himself to become attorney general should a Republican be elected president.

Likewise, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard Carly Fiorina is struggling to garner any real support, despite doing her best to make headline-worthy affirmations. Yet just a few years ago, (while Ms. Fiorina was supporting Mitt Romney’s campaign for president), when asked if she would consider the role of Treasury secretary, she was quoted as saying “Well, obviously that would be a great honor.” There’s no reason think that it would be any less of an honor should Jeb Bush, Scott Walker or Rand Paul become president.

To be fair to these candidates, this is the age we live in. Before almost every person in the United States had their own digital footprint, these post-election positions were acquired “behind the scenes” via handshakes and intra-party reputation. Now the president must consider the reactions to cabinet nominations on cable news and social media. This is a 21st century political dynamic, uncharted and potentially lethal to everyone involved.

So with this in mind, is it such a stretch to envision the popular Dr. Ben Carson dropping out of the race early, and becoming the surgeon general? Could Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s (more conservative) change in his stance on immigration better position him to be the next director of Homeland Security? Is there a more ideal potential vice president than the eloquent, and rational former New York Gov. George Pataki? The reality is, that staying relevant on the Sunday talk shows, and digital media is vital to one’s political future. Running for president keeps everyone involved in the minds, and on the tongues of the electorate.

… And then there’s Donald Trump.

The truth is that no one in the GOP knows how to approach the reality-television-star-turned-candidate. Mr. Trump has no sense of political propriety. He’s a public relations nightmare for anyone who raises his easily raised ire. But while he is loved by a portion of the conservative base for his bombast and perceived candor, those qualities simultaneously send much of the coveted independent demographic running into the arms of Democrats. So for whomever the eventual candidate may be, they will have the added burden of luring those voters back to the right.

Petulant, and easily insulted, the Donald is a political wildcard insofar as while he also has no real chance at becoming the Republican nominee, and he is the only candidate with no political aspirations beyond this election. That makes him very dangerous to other Republicans. Dangerous to those running for president because they want to be president, and dangerous to those running to extend their political livelihoods.

Indeed, Mr. Trump inspires a Howard Stern-like fear of reprisal. If one is adding their name to the list of 2016 hopefuls in order to better position themselves for a Cabinet post, they must consider the potential fallout of disagreeing with Mr. Trump. The thin-skinned billionaire has the ability to change any Republican candidate’s public perception via his ability to spew vitriol.

Also, unlike other candidates, Mr. Trump probably doesn’t really care about the political fallout of his personality. Mr. Trump’s high-profile candidacy is more likely a Kardashian-esque infomercial — orchestrated so as to promote his self-indulgent brand — than it is an actual run for the presidency. As such, the party would like to reign in the Donald’s loose tongue. But as we all know, Mr. Trump is not one to play nice in a sandbox.

Welcome to the age of Facebook politics.

Rich Woods is an author, blogger, and satirist who previously hosted a popular web TV channel called “UnlearnTV” that averaged half a million viewers per week. He worked for several decades in New York City construction and is a tireless advocate for rationality and reducing the influence of Christian fundamentalism in American politics. He is hopelessly in love with his wife, Jane. Mr. Woods wants to inform voters of how their beliefs are being used to get them to vote against their best interests through his new book, “Yahweh to Hell: Why We Need Jesus Out of Politics.” Woods has worked for decades in construction and knows how to offer insight and humor from the blue-collar point of view.


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