Wrong ring.

Photographer: George Frey/Getty Images

Learn to Love the Current 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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For some conservatives, 17 Republican presidential candidates aren't enough, if you can believe it. Or not enough for worrywarts like Bill Kristol, who is calling for new entrants into the party's 2016 nomination sweepstakes. There's even something of a Mitt Romney speculation revival.

One might suppose that others could still join in, since the current GOP candidates only formally announced their campaigns starting a few months ago. And we're still more than five months away from the Iowa caucuses, when the first delegates will be selected for the Republican National Convention.

Sorry: It's too late. The process just doesn't allow latecomers at this point. The candidates may only have made it official in the spring, but all of them have been doing the things presidential candidates do for at least a year now. Many of them got started on or around Election Day 2012.

By now, the major contenders have hired full staffs; collected volunteers, money and other important resources; issued position papers on important issues; worked over lists of party actors from activists to mega-donors; and visited early-voting states multiple times. In doing so, they have made predictable stumbles and have (most likely) learned from them. They'll be stronger as the campaign goes along.

Just because the politicians who aren't in the race have avoided these struggles, and look good by comparison, doesn't mean they have a chance. This goes for Democrats as well as Republicans. 

As FiveThirtyEight's Harry Enten said, referring to the possibility that Joe Biden might formally declare:

And Republican late entrants would be in much worse shape than the sitting vice president.  As for Romney, he already lost during this cycle. Remember?

In any case, Republicans have several solid candidates who support the party position on virtually every issue. Rank-and-file voters will adore whomever the party nominates, at least during the weeks in fall 2016 when it really matters. If Bill Kristol wants to get that process started, the best plan for him (or anyone else concerned about the Republican nomination) is to pick a viable horse and start supporting him. And have a little patience.

  1. Democrats likely began even earlier, since they knew, win or lose, they would have an open nomination in 2016. Republicans probably waited to see whether Mitt Romney would win in 2012. If he had, he would have been in line to be renominated four years later.  

  2. Granted, Biden himself isn't a true late entrant. He has been running the whole time, albeit recently he has probably been running mainly for the role of Clinton's understudy. In his case, it's more that Clinton defeated him back in 2013-2014 than that he would be beginning too late now. 

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

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

To contact the editor on this story:
Katy Roberts at kroberts29@bloomberg.net