This year is just plain weird in a lot of ways. The rise and fall of so many candidates on the Republican side is unprecedented. All of these candidates had bright, shining moments only to be snuffed out by electoral reality:

Remember when Jeb Bush was “inevitable”? Chris Christie seemed to be the key to Blue States … for a while. Then, Scott Walker seemed to be a shoo-in. Ben Carson shot to the top of the polls, then back down. Carly Fiorina made a short splash. And, of course, Marco Rubio, who was billed as the “savior” of the party.

The irony is that Cruz, the only person now really challenging Trump, is the only candidate who was never a big favorite. In fact, Lindsey Graham joked that if someone killed Cruz, and the trial was held in the senate, the killer couldn’t be convicted! Though just today, Graham has now offered support for Cruz after once distancing himself so strongly.

So, what other years have seen skyrocketing candidates fall back to earth? FiveThirtyEight gave us a list of ten (edited for space):

Howard Baker, Republican, 1980: Baker, who had been the Senate minority leader, was more popular in the first half of 1979 than the eventual winner, Ronald Reagan, was. . .

John Glenn, Democrat, 1984: Glenn had a better early net favorable rating than eventual nominee Walter Mondale, even though Mondale was better known. . .

Gary Hart, Democrat, 1988: . . .Hart was a front-runner in early polls and had a solid net favorable rating. Then came the Donna Rice scandal, and Hart dropped out of the race. . .

Doug Wilder, Democrat, 1992: Wilder was looking to become the first African-American candidate nominated by either major party. . . .Wilder didn’t even last to the Iowa caucus.

Phil Gramm, Republican, 1996: Gramm . . .would end up losing the anti-Dole role to Pat Buchanan, who had an awful early net favorable rating. Gramm won no primaries.

Elizabeth Dole, Republican, 2000: . . .Her early net favorable ratings were identical to Barack Obama’s in 2007, but she. . .was out of the race by October 1999.

Joe Lieberman, Democrat, 2004: He had a better net-favorable-to-name-recognition ratio than eventual nominee, John Kerry. Lieberman was done in by his pro-Iraq War stance.

John Edwards, Democrat, 2008: . . . favorable rating in early 2007 was only 1 percentage point lower than Obama’s, He placed second in Iowa. . .and his campaign was over.

Rudy Giuliani, Republican, 2008: “America’s mayor”. . .may be the biggest dud on this list. [Even with high favorability] Giuliani never came close to winning a single primary.

Tim Pawlenty, Republican, 2012: net-favorable-to-name-recognition ratio was better than front-runner Mitt Romney’s. Pawlenty, though, was…well, dull. . .[lost in Iowa and quit.]

OK—so, what about longshot candidates who made a difference. There’s this from USA Today (edited for space):

1. Wendell Willkie (1940) Willkie [in 1940 to] Franklin Roosevelt. But he made the Republican Party more internationalist, little more than a year before Pearl Harbor.

2. Ronald Reagan (1968, 1976) Reagan. . .left his conservative mark on the party both times. . .[forced] Richard Nixon to the right, which included [his]“Southern strategy.”

3. Eugene McCarthy (1968). . .toppled a president during the tumultuous year of 1968. . .McCarthy showed the power of primaries to upset the establishment.

4. George McGovern (1972). . .won the Democratic nomination in 1972. How? In part by taking advantage of new rules requiring more women and minority delegates.

5. Jimmy Carter (1976) Carter took advantage of the proliferation of primaries to win the Democratic nomination. His first victory came in a then little-known. . .Iowa caucuses.

6. George H.W. Bush (1980) [The] main challenger to Ronald Reagan and became the Gipper’s running mate. Bush’s credible run in 1980 preserved his political career

7. Gary Hart (1984, 1988) [Lost due to] allegations of an extramarital affair. . .“Character issues” and “scandal politics” have been a factor in presidential races ever since.

8. Jesse Jackson (1984, 1988) his two campaigns changed the party. Jackson galvanized minority voters, forcing other Democratic candidates to address African-American issues.

9. Pat Buchanan (1992) Some of his criticism of Bush was exploited by independent candidate Ross Perot as well as the winner of the 1992 election, Bill Clinton.

10. John McCain (2000) McCain defeated the better-funded, more-endorsed George W. Bush. . .McCain challenge reflected ideological disputes that still roil the GOP.

The point is, early winners can be losers, and even “also-rans” can have an impact in politics.


  1. Hopefully Sanders has a staying impact on Hillary and hopefully her pivoting would not go too far to the right.

  2. We all need to be voting for the only one saying how it is instead of telling you what you want hear. TRUMP

  3. George H. Bush, arguably, would never have become VP if he had bot been forced onto Ronald Reagan as part of the deal in the brokered convention of 1980. George H. Bush was the establishment’s, or at that time, the Rockefeller Republicans’, man in place to preserve their globalist agenda. They would simply wait eight years and then use Reagan’s popularity to get their agenda back into office. Bush 41 would never have seen the fall of the Iron Curtain except for Reagan’s bold strategies to accelerate the bankruptcy of the Soviet Empire. Bush 41’s “kinder and gentler nation” speech signalled the beginning of the Republican Party’s surrender to the cultural marxism championed by the Democrats. So, for the last 30 years, the Republican party, overall, would receive at best a grade of D in serving as the opposition to the incremental conquest of the USA by political correctness, cultural marxism, and socialism.
    The author seems to miss the point as to why these traditional candidates have washed out. Its not “weird” at all. The American people are waking up and are challenging the status quo. Words like “populist” betray an establishment bias towards a movement; the word connotes an air of condescension towards something emotional, transitory and uninformed. It betrays lazy reporting. It dismisses the facts that in this digital age many of the American people are availing themselves of the unprecedented availability of resources. They are becoming better informed than any generation in the last century on the issues, the messy processes of government as they are, and how they were originally designed under our Constitution. The American people are waking up from apathy, and getting involved.
    There’s nothing “weird” about that. Its long overdue, but its part of our culture, and to be expected. The government belongs to us. We wrote it, we empowered it, and we can overhaul it if we wish. We have the receipt to prove its ours. The receipt is called the Constitution.

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