You Don’t Have To Finish Second To Get The Silver Medal

2020 will be a summer Olympics year and in American politics it is already 2020. With that in mind I thought I’d compare getting a silver medal and being chosen to be the running mate on the Democratic ticket. Let’s explore.

Normally (is there any normal left in American politics?) presidential candidates spend the very early primary campaign mostly in Iowa and New Hampshire; the sites of the first caucus and primary respectively. The conventional wisdom is that you have to win or finish strong in either or both to be viable. Pundits will often speak in terms of three to five tickets out of the state. With South Carolina’s first in the south status they are not far behind in early attention. For Republicans it is an indication of whether you can lock up the solid south or not. For Democrats it is the first state with a large African-American electorate; an all-important and challenging to turn out Democratic voting bloc.

Something that has struck me as strange this year is the number of Democratic candidates who are showing up all over the map. I’ve already lost track but it seems there is something like 17 candidates at this point. In any event it is a large number and many have to realize they don’t have a shot at the gold medal (sticking with the Olympics theme). With that in mind, why are many of them running and why are they showing up in seemingly the strangest places?

I really feel a lot of them are auditioning for the Vice Presidential spot. Unlike in the Olympics, you don’t have to finish in second place in the balloting to get the second prize. One way to impress the eventual nominee – who will be the kingmaker when it comes to determining who gets the Veep slot – is to show you can win over people in battleground states.

Another reason to expand the early map is in an effort to impress the major endorsers. They usually (and prudently) keep their powder dry early. I’m talking about individuals like Barack Obama or organizations like Emily’s List. They can be powerful allies down the political road.

Especially if you think you have a shot at the nomination, getting major deep pocketed donors and big league bundlers behind you is important. With enough money backing you can simply stay in the race longer and hope someone ahead of you stumbles.

If you prove yourself viable in swing states, able to raise big dollars and the “big boys” like you it certainly gives you an inside track on the Veep slot. Remember one of my basic political axioms: Politicians only care about two things – money and votes. The beauty of the primary versus the Olympic is that you don’t have to make it to the finals to win the silver.

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