He's waving goodbye.

Photographer: Daniel Acker

Last Call for 2016 Candidates

Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg View columnist. He taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University and wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.
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When is it too late to run for president in 2016? For Democrats, it’s already too late. For Republicans, the gate is closing soon.

Most Republican presidential candidates have been all-in for months -- Senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz seem to have been fully engaged in the presidential race before they even took their seats in the Senate. However, two Republican governors who look great on paper, Indiana’s Mike Pence and Ohio’s John Kasich, have been tip-toeing around the fringes of the contest. At Bloomberg Politics, Mark Niquette reports the latest on the Kasich not-quite-campaign.

Meanwhile, some Democrats seem to have just discovered the downside of a walkover by Hillary Clinton, and are belatedly calling for candidates -- that is, viable nominees, not just protest candidates or gadflies -- to challenge her.

Technically, the deadlines that matter are the filing dates for early primaries. Those are still many months away. (While the calendar isn't set yet for 2016, the 2012 deadline in New Hampshire wasn’t until late October 2011.)

Candidates can still organize in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina even if they don’t get started until this summer. Former Texas Governor Rick Perry didn't fully enter the 2012 primary until the summer of 2011. His subsequent problems appeared unrelated to the relatively late entry. So there’s plenty of time remaining for Pence or Kasich. 

Perry, however, had a strong fundraising base, and an issue platform spelled out in an early campaign book. Candidates running for 2016 have been competing for party resources – money, key endorsements, other kinds of support from party actors -- since 2013.

On the Democratic side, that competition is basically over. Clinton has come close to monopolizing the support of politicians, campaign and governing professionals, donors and activists, party-aligned interest groups and the partisan media. Even if a competitor jumped in now and mobilized all the party's uncommitted resources, there appear to be too few outstanding to mount a viable campaign. At the same time, if Clinton were suddenly to drop out, other strong Democrats would have plenty of time to engage -- and would. (See Dan Drezner's contrary view here.)

It’s a lot harder to tell where things stand on the Republican side. Candidates have begun to hire staff and secure financial commitments, leaving fewer donors and campaign professionals available for late entrants. Both Kasich and Pence have been participating in the invisible primary -- the competition for resources that precedes actual primary voting -- but in a much less dedicated fashion than Scott Walker, Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush.

Indeed, it's already too late for someone to jump into the invisible primary. The candidates we've got now are probably all the candidates we're likely to get.  

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the author on this story:
Jonathan Bernstein at jbernstein62@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor on this story:
Francis Wilkinson at fwilkinson1@bloomberg.net