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Why Republican presidential re-runs are faring badly

Thus far in the 2016 cycle, candidates who made a strong showing – or at least had a boomlet – in previous cycles are doing horribly.

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    Republican presidential candidate, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, speaks at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, on Aug. 19, 2015. Perry’s cash-strapped presidential campaign is set to keep going in Iowa with just one paid staffer and some volunteers.
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Historically, the Republican Party has tended to nominate the candidate whose “turn” it is. Typically, that has meant someone who made a strong run previously. Mitt Romney in 2012, John McCain in 2008, Bob Dole in 1996, George H.W. Bush in 1988, Ronald Reagan in 1980, and Richard Nixon in 1968 all fit the pattern. In the modern era, George W. Bush in 2000 has been the only exception. (The races not mentioned above all featured a sitting president.)

Thus far in the 2016 cycle, though, candidates who made a strong showing – or at least had a boomlet – in previous cycles are doing horribly. Yesterday, Rick Perry, who was briefly a front-runner in 2012 before his campaign imploded over a series of gaffes, cut his paid campaign staff in Iowa to one. His Iowa co-chair has “has moved back to the team for presidential candidate Rick Santorum, the candidate she supported in the 2012 cycle.” Alas, Santorum, who won Iowa and finished second overall last time, isn’t faring much better than Perry this go-round.

Look at the RealClearPolitics poll aggregate:

Recommended: 14 Republicans running in 2016

All the usual caveats about early polling notwithstanding, the re-runs are mere blips.

John Kasich is technically the leader among the re-runs, since he made a short-lived, if not-much-remembered run, in 2000. At the time, he was a mere congressman, if the chairman of the Budget Committee. He’s now governor of a major swing state. He’s at 4.7 percent, lagging a failed tech executive whose only political experience was a 10-point loss to Barbara Boxer for the US Senate.

Mike Huckabee has made two reasonably successful runs, including technically finishing second to McCain in 2008 (Romney was the real runner-up but dropped out once it was clear McCain would be the nominee, while Huckabee hung around to rack up meaningless votes). He’s at a whopping 4.3 percent, good enough for 9th place.

Perry is a 1.3 and Santorum at 1.0. That puts them statistically tied with my dog Molly.

None of the top seven candidates at the moment have made a previous run for the Republican nomination. Donald Trump has flirted with several runs for president, including actually running for the Reform Party’s nod in 2000. Ben Carson never ran for anything. Jeb Bush is, of course, the son and brother of previous Republican presidents but is making his first go of it himself. Ted Cruz, Scott Walker, and Marco Rubio are all relative newcomers. Cruz came onto the national scene with his successful 2012 Senate campaign. Walker won the Wisconsin’s governor race in 2010, having failed in 2006.  Rubio also won his first major election in 2010.

Again, it’s early. It’s possible that Kasich will emerge as the last serious candidate standing not named Bush and go on to win the thing. But the current mood of the Republican electorate is not only anti-politician, it’s anti-anyone who has run before.

James Joyner is editor of the Outside the Beltway blog at http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/.

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