When Choosing a Presidential Hopeful, Look Beyond the Headlines

Jul 29, 2015

Andrew Downs, Director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics at IPFW.
Credit Courtesy / Andrew Downs

The first presidential debate is scheduled for Aug. 6th on Fox News.  This might seem ridiculous given that the presidential election is 16 months away (for those planning ahead: it's Nov. 8, 2016). But keep two things in mind.

First, the nominating process kicks off in February (just seven months away).  Second, as of July 24th, there are 521 people who have filed statements of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission (FEC).  There are 129 people who want the Republican nomination, 83 who want the Democratic nomination, and 309 who want the nomination of another party or are running as an independent.  It is going to take some time for voters to work their way through that list to find their favorite candidate. 

One of the names that is not on the list of people seeking the nomination is Indiana Governor Mike Pence. 

Earlier this year when Pence was rumored to be a presidential candidate, people were excited about the potential attention that Indiana would experience.  Pence’s announcement that he would not pursue the nomination dampened the spirits of some of Indiana's political junkies, forcing them to look for their thrills elsewhere, like the elections being held this year. 

When Pence made his decision about what he would do in 2016, he did not leave Indiana without a presidential candidate.  In fact, as of July 24th, there were 13 people from Indiana who filed a statement of candidacy with the FEC.  There are Hoosiers who want to be the nominee of the Republican Party, Green Party, Personal Choice Party, and American Freedom Party.  There are nine running as independents or unaffiliated. 

Even readers in Northeast Indiana can find a neighbor or two on the list.  Todd Richard Glore from Fort Wayne is making his second run at the office.  James Robert Byers from Elkhart is making his first.   

"What does it mean that 521 people want to be President of the United States? Does it mean anything that this is an increase over 2012 and 2008...?"

Some of the 521 candidates have put some forethought into their campaigns.  There is one candidate who filed his statement of candidacy for the 2016 presidential election in December of 2008.  Three more filed in August of 2009, September of 2010, and February of 2011.  Twelve people filed in 2012 after the presidential election.  Perhaps those 12 were waiting to see if the winner of the 2012 election would be able to run in 2016 as an incumbent or would be term-limited.  Not surprisingly, the bulk of the candidates (370) filed this year. 

What does it mean that 521 people want to be President of the United States?  Does it mean anything that this is an increase over 2012 and 2008 when 420 and 368 people respectively filed for the office? 

Perhaps people are dissatisfied.  Perhaps they just believe that they have good ideas about how to make things better.  Of course there always is the possibility that some of the candidates are just seeking a few minutes of fame.  Limberbutt McCubbins may be the best known example of that.

What is a voter to do when there are 521 candidates to research?

There is a school of thought that says voters choose the candidate with the positions closest to theirs and who has a chance of winning.  In other words, few voters will cast a vote without the faint hope that the candidate receiving the vote might win.  If voters agree with this, then the list of candidates can be reduced dramatically. 

One way is to consider only those candidates who are interacting with voters.  If a voter goes looking for information about a candidate and cannot find any, then the candidate probably does not have a good chance of winning.  Most successful candidates make it easy for voters to find information about them. 

Another way is to consider only those candidates who have worked their way onto the ballot.  Each state has rules for whose names will be on the ballot.  To get on the ballot in Indiana, candidates have to get 500 signatures from registered voters in each congressional district (4,500 signatures total).  Obviously, if a candidate cannot accomplish this, they do not stand a very good chance of winning the nomination let alone the office. 

Finally, voters can look at how much money the candidates have raised.  Unfortunately, it costs money - lots of money - to run for President.  If a candidate is not raising money, or raising very little, there is not a good chance the candidate will win.  Voters can find fund raising information on the FEC web site.

Fortunately, there is plenty of time before the 2016 Indiana primary election on May 3rd.  Why not take a look at the list of presidential candidates?  Maybe you will find a name that surprises you.  Try to find some information about the people on this list.  Maybe you will find a candidate to support. 

Besides, even if you do not find a new favorite candidate for President of the United States, you will have trivial knowledge that might come in handy.

 

Andrew Downs is Director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics at IPFW.

Opinions expressed in this column are those of the individual writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the staff, management or board of Northeast Indiana Public Radio. If you want to join the conversation, head over to our Facebook page and comment on the post featuring this column.