Pataki, Chafee, and O’Malley: No Chance In Hell

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Jun 05, 2015 5:05 PM
 Pataki, Chafee, and O’Malley: No Chance In Hell

What do Martin O’Malley, George Pataki, and Lincoln Chafee have in common? They don’t have a chance in hell in winning their party’s nomination for president. On the Democratic side, given that Hillary’s favorables have taken a plunge, it’s no surprise that Chafee and O’Malley decided to follow Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in challenging Clinton (via WaPo):

A once-sleepy Democratic presidential primary contest is fast coming alive as Hillary Rodham Clinton’s poll numbers fall and a diverse array of long-shot opponents step forward to challenge her.

The recent developments mark a dramatic evolution in the 2016 sweepstakes, which until now has been shaped by the large assortment of hopefuls on the Republican side, where there is no front-runner.

The latest Democrat to enter the race is Lincoln Chafee, a onetime Republican and former Rhode Island governor and senator, who launched his campaign Wednesday in Northern Virginia. Though his candidacy is quixotic, Chafee’s sharp attacks on Clinton’s hawkish foreign policy record — and in particular her 2002 vote to authorize the war in Iraq — could nonetheless complicate her march to the nomination.

Chafee joins an underfunded and jumbled field of Clinton rivals who see the favorite’s coziness with Wall Street and political longevity as weaknesses and who think she is vulnerable to a grass-roots contender who better captures the party’s liberal soul.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a fiery populist who identifies as a socialist, has been attracting some of the largest crowds of any candidate from either party as he summons supporters to join his “political revolution.”

Truth be told, it’s probably going to remain sleepy. Clinton has the money, the organization, the endorsements, and the polling advantage–to the point where she could just ignore her opponents and deprive them of oxygen, especially when it comes to debates.

With Pataki, well, he would have a chance at winning … if he were running to replace Richard Nixon (via FiveThirtyEight):

Ideologically, he’s an old-school Republican (i.e., liberal) running in a modern GOP (i.e., very conservative). He is more moderate than any recent Republican nominee and is the most moderate candidate in the 2016 Republican field, according to our aggregated ideological scores. Pataki is, among other things, in favor of abortion rights and gay marriage. He’s somewhat of an environmentalist.

(Barely) to the left of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, whose candidacy is all but dead, is not the place you want to be given that a plurality of Republicans believe Christie is not conservative enough.

Pataki’s ideological score looks more like Richard Nixon’s, and Pataki would probably have had better luck running to replace Nixon rather than President Obama.

According to the General Social Survey, 57 percent of Republicans identified as moderate or liberal in 1974. Since then, that figure has steadily declined to 43 percent in 1994 (when Pataki won the governorship of New York) to only 35 percent in 2014. That’s large enough to be part of a winning coalition in a primary, but not enough to win.

But the wonks at Nate Silver’s data crunching site aren’t just hitting Pataki; they had noted that Chafee’s anti-war angle is stale, and that Maryland voters really don’t like O’Malley.

On Chafee, they’re kind of brutal on his prospects:

The problem for Chafee is that this is 2015, not 2007. Back then, the Iraq War was at the forefront of the public’s mind. An April 2007 Gallup survey found that 21 percent of Democrats said the Iraq War was the country’s most important problem,1 and an additional 13 percent said the “fear of war.” This gave then-Sen. Barack Obama, who spoke out against the Iraq War from the start, a wide opening in his run against Clinton. Among those voters who said the Iraq War was most important, Obama beat Clinton. Clinton beat Obama on the two other major issues (the economy and health care).

Today, few Democratic voters are thinking about Iraq.

In March 2015, just 3 percent of Democrats said the Iraq War was the most important problem in Gallup’s poll. Only 1 percent said the most important problem was the “fear of war.”

Chafee is polling at 1 percent or less nationally and in Iowa and New Hampshire, and there is absolutely no reason to think he will ever be competitive in the Democratic primary.

He also had what’s being called a disaster of a campaign rollout.

As for O’Malley, Clinton sucks the oxygen out his home state numbers, but Bernie Sanders is doing a lot better in Vermont, meaning that while he also doesn’t have a chance in hell of winning the 2016 nomination–he could mount a decent challenge to Clinton. After all, there are enough far lefties in the Democratic base to mount such a campaign; they just don’t have enough voters to win an insurgent campaign yet:

The people who know him best don’t like him. O’Malley is starting way down in the polls, and he’s not well known. And we have evidence that more O’Malley exposure doesn’t equal more O’Malley support. He earned just 3 percent (compared to Clinton’s 63 percent) in a poll of Democratic voters in Maryland conducted in October by The Washington Post and the University of Maryland.

If this strikes you as a surprisingly low percentage for a two-term Maryland governor and former mayor of the state’s most populous city, it should. It speaks to the fact that O’Malley was unpopular enough in deep-blue Maryland that by the end of his second term, Republican Larry Hogan came out of nowhere to defeat O’Malley’s lieutenant governor in the 2014 governor’s race.

Eventual nominees (excluding incumbent presidents) in the modern primary era have always led in early polling in their home states, even when they polled poorly nationally.

O’Malley’s main competitor for second place in the Democratic primary, Bernie Sanders, got 36 percent of the vote and even led Clinton in an October 2014 Castleton Polling Institute survey of Vermonters. That points to a base of support that should allow Sanders to do fairly decently in the primary, even if he has little chance of winning.

There is one silver lining for Pataki, or candidates with his vein of politics; the conservative base of the GOP is shrinking. Only 42 percent of Republicans describe themselves as economically and socially conservative. It’s at its lowest level since Gallup began gauging the party’s base in 2005. Nevertheless, they’re still the largest group representing the Republican Party. The second largest group at 24 percent regard themselves as moderate or liberal on social and economic issues. So, theoretically, there may be some wiggle room for a Pataki candidacy, or one with a similar flavor in the future, but moderates shouldn’t be hoping for any success.

With Pataki, besides his name recognition problem (Pataki left New York’s governor’s mansion in 2006), and the fact that he will probably have zero grassroots support–he’s pro-choice. The Republican base may have seen its conservative cohorts shrink in size, but there’s probably never going to be a presidential candidate from the right that will support abortion rights … ever. As Jonathan Bernstein at Bloomberg wrote, Gary Johnson, Arlen Specter, Pete Wilson, and Rudy Giuliani have all tried to win the GOP nomination with that position and failed.

Moreover, there’s the well-known factor that the 2016 field is already diverse, stacked with solid conservatives (certainly better than 2012) for Republican voters to choose from, instead of wasting their time on a Rockefeller brand name that’s been damaged since the Goldwater campaign in 1964.

With the Democrats, I would have to say they should hope that Vice President Biden enters the race. It provides the only avenue for them to attack Clinton effectively on a national stage on live television. Biden will probably poll low in the polls, but you really can’t deny debating the VP. And with candidates with similar strength in the polls, there’s no good argument for the networks to deny them a spot. After all, the motley crew that is the 2016 Democratic primary isn’t as large.

This could all be pipe dreams though. I mean, even on a debate stage, they probably still don’t have a chance in hell since no one will abandon Hillary. She isn’t talking to the media, but even then; bank on pretty much everyone willing to follow her into the pits of Tartarus, despite the fact that her possible ethical and legal baggage would disqualify anyone running for president.

For Democrats, it’s settled. For Republicans, the primary wars are revving up–and Pataki will probably fall mid-way through the first round.