I don’t usually do year-end reviews, but we’ve had so many candidates drop out of the presidential race this year, I just couldn’t help myself. So, without further ado, here are the Democratic and Republican candidates we lost in 2015 (in order of entertainment value):
Bobby Jindal – The Poor Man’s Trump (June 24, 2015 – November 17, 2015): A few years ago, Jindal was floated as a potential presidential candidate, and he was talked about as a levelheaded establishment conservative who could win the presidency. Clearly, he wanted to prove his backers wrong. Whether because too many establishment conservatives had already entered the race, or because too many evangelical conservatives had already entered the race, or because too many tea party conservatives had already entered the race, Jindal had to stand out from the crowd. And, boy, did he stand out from the crowd. Scholars of the English language may claim that “the” and “of” are the most commonly-spoken words, but when Jindal’s speaking, those words become “Obama” and “socialist.” But, Jindal doesn’t just think Obama is terrible – the way he talked about his GOP opponents made them sound like either Satan or the spawn of Satan. And, where someone like Trump might focus his fire on a candidate’s weakness, perceived slight, or the complete exaggeration of something a candidate might have potentially done in his imagination, Jindal uses more of a shotgun approach, throwing all kinds of insanity at his opponents and hoping something sticks. The best part of this was when he would be in a debate and all the other candidates would say something like, “Anyone on this stage would be a better president than Obama, Clinton, or Sanders.” He would stick out as the one to say that only he would be a better candidate, because all the rest of them were either Obama lovers or socialists.
Legacy: The Jindal Point. Any candidate can make a talking point, but only a select few have mastered the Jindal Point. A Jindal Point starts with a talking point that’s already a bit out there but isn’t completely unsafe to use. Then, it’s Jindalized, which exaggerates it beyond all semblance of reality. Of course, anyone who’s listened to talk radio knows that that’s not that hard to do, but the real genius comes with the delivery, which only Jindal can provide. Jindal Points are delivered with a unique blend of desperation, thinking you sound way smarter than you actually do, and the kind of fiction that even the best writers could never hope to achieve…
Scott Walker – 2015’s First to Worst Champion (July 13, 2015 – September 21, 2015): Walker’s quick turnaround from frontrunner to frontdropper was something to behold. He vaulted to the front of the pack when he gave a speech at the Iowa Freedom Caucus, then showed there was nowhere to go but down. It was pretty amazing to watch someone who’s been elected governor 3 times give so many contradictory statements in different interviews, rack up several Most Boring Debate Performance nominations, and try to out-Trump Trump without having anything remotely resembling charisma. Walker was originally seen as a candidate who could win both evangelicals and establishment conservatives. And, to be fair, he did unite them both in disappointment. He seemed to think he had this one in the bag, so he (mis)spent his campaign funds like he wasn’t running against 16 other candidates.
Legacy: The Walker Method. Scott Walker revolutionized how not to answer questions. From the noncommittal answer, to giving different answers in different interviews, Walker seemed to think it would never catch up with him (even though it always did). Some politicians can get away with non-answers, but Walker can’t. His answers ranged from making it look like he supported building a wall between the US and Canada to not answering foreign policy questions when visiting foreign countries. Bill Clinton’s answers may depend on what the meaning of the word is is, but Scott Walker’s answers seem to depend on the type of dice used in Dungeons and Dragons…
Lincoln Chafee – Best Moment in the Sun Since Icarus (April 9, 2015 – October 3, 2015): Chafee’s most memorable moments came in the first Democratic Debate, and that’s not a good thing. In fact, the only sense I could make out of Chafee’s debate performance was that he must have wandered in thinking it was a brainstorming session for how not to debate. Chafee’s debate answers were similar to Walker’s, in that they made you think, “How did this guy get elected governor?” However, while Walker’s were mainly over-rehearsed talking points, Chafee’s were mainly under-rehearsed “Huh?” points. Chafee didn’t seem like he wanted to be there and was barely paying attention at times. Of course, the best moment was when he was asked about voting for a bad bill, and his explanation was that he had just been elected, he was tired, and his dad had just died, so the moderator should cut him some slack. And, just in case there was any confusion, he was asked if that’s what he really meant to say, to which he said, seriously, they should cut him some slack.
Legacy: Chafeean Independence. Chafee used to be a Republican senator, and he made a big deal about voting against things most Republicans voted for. He doubled down on this legacy by showing how independently boring he was in his only debate performance. Ben Carson may put you to sleep when he talks, but at least he sounds like he wants to be there. Chafee sounds like he wants to be somewhere else in the same way that a student who forgot they had to give a presentation to the class until 5 minutes ago sounds like they want to be somewhere else…
Lindsey Graham – Least Convincing Campaign of 2015 (May 18, 2015 – December 1, 2015): With the possible exception of Donald Trump, Lindsey Graham seemed to have the best time running for president. Maybe it was because his poll numbers never rose above the zero digits, or maybe it was because he was McCain Lite running 8 years after McCain lost, but he never seemed to care that his chances of being president never went up. He had some of the best lines from the campaign and made some of the best jokes, but many of his views (like sending ground troops all over the place and talking about how much he missed George W. Bush’s Administration) didn’t really resonate. Graham was also one of the first candidates to try to take Trump down by attacking him, which resulted in a funny YouTube video, but not much else.
Legacy: The Grahamnachronism. Throughout the campaign, Graham’s tone, policies, and overall demeanor seemed like they would have worked great in a different election or a different era, but he never stood out from the field enough to have a chance in this one.
Rick Perry – The Road to Redemption is Paved with John Kasich (June 4, 2015 – September 11, 2015): 2011’s First to Worst Champion primed himself for a comeback in 2015, and he avoided many of the 2012 mistakes that set the bar so low for him this time. Unfortunately, John Kasich’s entrance to the race came right before the first debate, and his late rise in the polls bumped Perry from his 10th place standing, pushing him off the main stage and into the undercard debate. While Perry was a much better candidate this time around, he wasn’t better enough to raise enough money or stand out from the crowd, leading him to become the first GOP candidate to drop out.
Legacy: First Casualty at the Battle of Also-Ran. Perry was the first candidate who’s previously run for president to fail this go round. However, Rick Santorum (2012), Mike Huckabee (2008), and Jim Gilmore (2008) don’t look like they’ll be around for much longer, so stay tuned.
George Pataki – Why Career and Charisma Aren’t the Same Thing (May 28, 2015 – December 29, 2015): Pataki has been Governor of New York 3 times, which is 3 more times than he’ll be President of the United States. His argument for joining the race was that he was more moderate than the competition. If you know anything about presidential primaries, though, that can be a steep mountain to climb. The passionate and the opinionated turn out for primary elections, and moderates don’t become a reliable force until the general election. But, what he lacked in opinionatedness he…also lacked in charisma. And, it didn’t help that there were other moderates and moderate conservatives who’d raised a lot more money. Pataki was pretty much doomed from the start, and his debate performances were pretty uninspiring.
Legacy: Polltaki. It was always going to be an uphill climb for Pataki, but he never got higher than 3% in polls, and as Nate Silver’s website points out, his combined total in all 221 polls didn’t even add up to 100 percent. Which basically means that, most of the time, he registered at 0%.
Candidates I didn’t include:
Jim Webb (July 2, 2015 – October 20, 2015): Although Webb has dropped out of the Democratic nomination race, he’s hinted that he might run as an independent (Not sure who would vote for him. Himself, maybe?).
Lawrence Lessig (September 6, 2015 – November 2, 2015): Lessig’s campaign lasted less than 2 months, he was arguably a one- or two-issue candidate, and he didn’t participate in any debates. But, I’m mainly not including him because I need to finish this up, and finding out as much as I would need to about someone I haven’t kept up with at all would probably take too long. I sincerely apologize to any hardcore Lessigites out there…