The Importance of Political Timing

Posted: Aug 16, 2007 9:13 AM

On Monday, I blogged about how Tommy Thompson's timing was all wrong (he should have run for president in 1996, when he was the popular governor of Wisconsin).

The next day, James Antle, went a step further and recounted the sad list of conservative rising stars (from Jack Kemp to Bret Schundler), who seemingly missed their window of opportunity. 

... One interesting question to ask about all these examples is whether the world changed (thereby passing the candidates by) -- or whether the candidates changed. 

Everyone assumes it’s the political environment that changes over time (thereby hurting candidates who hesitate).  But there is also an argument to be made that it is the candidates, not the times, which change (I think the truth is that both are important factors to consider when considering a campaign run).   And so the key is for a candidate to strike while they are hot.  

If true, this phenomenon would not be unique to politics.  Many creative people seem to have a limited window of opportunity in which to be truly brilliant (Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel are both successful, but could either write a Thunder Road or New York State of Mind ... today?).  Athletes who haven't lost the physical ability to perform, sometimes lose the fire in the belly (see Rocky III).  So it's not ridiculous to suggest that political candidates have a "prime."

And while you can't discount the importance of timing the political environment, candidates should also realize that even in a static environment, their personal stock may rise and fall over the years ...