Can there be too many candidates?

I was hoping to avoid the 2016 Presidential race for a while longer, but it is becoming too much fun.

Quick.  Can you name all the Republicans?  J. Bush, Rubio, Jindal, Cruz, R. Paul, Christie, Carson, Fiorina, Huckabee.  That’s as far as I got without looking them up.  The rest are: Santorum, Graham, Pataki, Trump (How could I have forgotten him?!), and Perry.  Walker and Kasich will be joining them soon.

Naming the Democrats is pretty easy:  H. Clinton, Sanders, O’Malley, Chafee, and Webb.  That’s two biggies, one in the middle and two also rans – in that order.  In the interest of full disclosure, I am a Sanders supporter and I’m sure I will be writing about that and him as the race proceeds.  I can’t wait for the debates to begin.  I know Bernie wanted them to start earlier, but he seems to be gaining some momentum without them.

The Republicans have to figure out either how to get everyone on stage at once, how to limit the debate field, or bag debates altogether.  The Fox method of the top 10% in the polls will, unfortunately, probably mean no Christie/Trump match-up.  That would be worthy of pay-for-view.  And I’m unclear on how they will handle the Iowa caucuses.  Are there places in the precincts with enough places for each candidate to have a place to stand and caucus?  But then there will be New Hampshire.

The Sunday New York Times had an interesting story about New Hampshire today.

The likely field of 16 Republican candidates is stirring frustration, particularly among voters who say they feel more overwhelmed, even ambivalent, than ever before about their long-cherished responsibilities in holding the nation’s first primary. Some voters said they were already dreading the weeks of political fliers stuffed in their mailboxes, of campaign volunteers at their doors during the day and of television ads and automated phone calls all through the night. Others said they already had candidate fatigue.

For decades, New Hampshire has fought to keep its place at the front of the presidential nominating contests, and party leaders talk with almost religious fervor about the state’s duty to “screen” and “weed out” second-tier wannabes to save most other Americans the trouble. The state’s news outlets, political consultants, and hotel and hospitality industries also make tens of millions of dollars from the campaign operations. Politics is pastime here, but the 2016 race creates a challenge that is the opposite of a leisure pursuit: Is there such a thing for New Hampshire voters as too many presidential candidates?

“I can’t keep track of all of them. It’s ridiculous,” Laura Major, an independent voter from Milford, said as she collected candidate stickers and free candy from volunteers for Mr. Bush and other campaigns along the parade route here.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida at an Independence Day parade in Amherst, N.H., on Saturday. He was among the nine presidential candidates campaigning in the state over the holiday weekend. Credit

Former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida at an Independence Day parade in Amherst, N.H., on Saturday. He was among the nine presidential candidates campaigning in the state over the holiday weekend.

Still another reason to be happy to be away from Boston where the local TV stations will be saturated with advertising since they also broadcast into southern NH.  Not having been through a Presidential election season in Vermont, I’m not sure what happens here, but I don’t think we will get a lot of advertising.  We will have to see.

State Senator Jeb Bradley, the Republican majority leader, said the complications of 2016 went beyond the sheer number of candidates: Voters are also struggling because there is no clear front-runner, as there was in 2012 (Mitt Romney), 2008 (John McCain), 2004 (George W. Bush) and 2000 (Mr. McCain).

“This is the first time since 1996 when we have a wide-open contest, and there are now twice as many major candidates compared to back then,” Mr. Bradley said. As for his own preferences, they are increasing — Mr. Bush, Mr. Rubio, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Mr. Christie, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, Carly Fiorina, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana — rather than shrinking.

“But look, by the time our primary rolls around in February, I just can’t imagine there will be 16 people on the Republican ballot,” Mr. Bradley said.

Others are not so sure. The emergence of “super PACs” could allow just a few wealthy supporters to finance advertising and other activities for their preferred candidates, giving many of the 2016 contenders the resources to survive poor showings in the first few nominating contests.

I love this quote.

“Every day there are two more Republicans jumping into the race, but hopefully the debates will help us sort all of this out,” said Okie Howe, a 98-year-old Democrat and Army veteran living at the Tilton retirement home. She said she wanted to find a Republican to support because she was “sick of Hillary Clinton,” but thought she would probably vote for Mrs. Clinton in the end because the Republican field “was too big to make sense out of.” (As for the 73-year-old Mr. Sanders, Ms. Howe said, “He’s a bit too old, isn’t he?” She then chided herself for “being the pot calling the kettle black.”)

Vote for Bernie, Ms. Howe.

Photograph:  Sean Proctor for The New York Times

2 thoughts on “Can there be too many candidates?

  1. I also can’t imagine there will be 16 candidates on the Republican primary ballot. At the rate they jump into the race, I expect the number will run up into the triple digits.

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