Why Do We Talk About the Candidates Who Won’t Run for President?

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Alex Wong/Getty Images

It’s arguable that there has been almost an over-abundance of election-related gossip, rumors, analysis, discussion, and basically any other content you can think dissecting 2016. Many who promised campaign announcements hinted they’d come after the New Year, so the pressure and anticipation is building. And currently we have a Republican Congress, meaning the party elected the executive office could have a major impact on how the coming years progress — and who runs could have a major influence on each party’s chances. So it’s understandable that many are so eager to debate the possibilities.

What is particularly interesting though, is the way analysts and publications continue to consider candidates even after they’ve said they don’t plan to run — even after they’ve said they don’t plan to run very clearly. Why is this? Well, for one, politicians change their minds as conditions change. For another, what may seem like uncertain terms, aren’t always. For example, if former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton chose not run, it would likely lead to a multitude of different political calculations that introduce a completely different lineup for the left. Maybe Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) would run (probably not though). And what seemed like a fairly certain decision for Mitt Romney might change given pressure from his party and his high ratings.

Warren and Romney are perhaps the two most talked about potential candidates that have said they don’t plan to, or aren’t going to, run for the presidency. Warren has remained in the conversation for so long in part because she’s so popular with Progressives, and, let’s be real, because she’d be another possibility for the first female president — and that is a big deal, even if it’s not the most important thing to talk about when it comes to candidates. FiveThirtyEight recently looked for “clues” as to who would run in 2016, measuring three factors, including the number of events in Iowa and New Hampshire they went to, the number of polls they were in, and ratings on their rhetoric about running. Both Warren and Romney were included in the consideration and both were given obviously low marks for their statements on running. Romney had 45% in polls, no events, and only a three out of five for his statement.

He has polled very well, but clearly only some polls are bothering to include him given his reluctance. Warren has been in 100% of polls thusfar. FiveThirtyEight suggests that this should be going down more and more considering she has no events, and a one out of five on the statement score — probably because she was far more extreme in her decision not to run.

“I told them, I’m not running for president,” she said, followed by “I am not running for president,” and really cementing the matter in her interview with NPR, saying “I am not running for president. Do you want me to put an exclamation point at the end?” Yes, some politicians flip-flop, but that would be a difficult statement to go back on. Comparatively, Mitt Romney said, “I’m not running, I’m not planning on running, and I’ve got nothing new on that story,” in an interview with USA TODAY, but the interview correctly pointed out that he did leave some room in his rhetoric to change his mind. His wife, on the other hand, was far more out-spoken about her husband not running, and it seems pretty clear that family would be a major pull back on any decision as she’s opened doors for opponents to argue his family isn’t fully in support of running again.

So people are in part discussing Warren and Romney in hopes that they’ll reverse their position on running. Possibly they discuss them for the sake of comparison. After all, Romney is highly popular and other Republican candidates have not stood up in the polls — and Warren has made waves with her Wall Street reform efforts. It could also be that there simply hasn’t been sufficient time for publications and political analysts to fully weed out candidates like these two who aren’t very likely — or that much like politicians, they prefer to leave nothing out until they’re certain. And it’s hardly as if candidates that are more likely aren’t seeing their fair share of attention. Clinton has been discussed at length, and Jeb Bush has been under consideration for nearly a year now. In the end, it will be easier to take candidates at their word once the onslaught of candidacy announcements has begun.

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