My list would be very different (Rubio as a contender; Christie, Jindal, and Perry in the 0% category) -- but I share his bafflement:
There just aren't very many candidates who have a serious chance at winning the nomination. So why are so many running? When guys like Dennis Kucinich or Ron Paul ran, I understood why. They just wanted a chance to present their views to a national audience. But that can't be what's motivating everyone on this list. So what is it? What is it that's somehow convinced so many obvious losers that they actually have a shot at becoming the next president of the United States?Let me rephrase that just a bit: What is it that's somehow convinced so many obvious Republican losers that they actually have a shot at becoming the next president of the United States?
He's right that it's not "a chance to present their views to a national audience" -- after all, nearly all of them have exactly the same views on everything. So what's driving them?
You'll say it's in order to position themselves for future right-wing grifting opportunities -- but is George Pataki, to pick one example, really going to position himself effectively for a Regnery book deal or weekly appearances on Fox? And weren't Carson and Huckabee already pretty much at peak grift before they threw their hats into the ring? Haven't they actually forgone grifting in order to run?
If you want to know why a lot of hopeless Republicans are running, maybe you should consider why Republican base voters turn out in state and local elections, why the Tea Party happened, and even why right-wing zillionaires regularly compare themselves to the victims of Nazi and communist persecution.
The reason: the mythologizing power of right-wing media.
FoxNews, talk radio, and the right-wing Internet have persuaded conservatives -- and I think this includes many mid-list Republican politicians -- that we're living in apocalyptic times, facing perils so dangerous that we'll succumb unless a new breed of heroes rises up. The right-wing media says this to its audience all the time, and frequently adds an additional message: What we need are heroes just like you.
We see how this affects the rank-and-file: They strut around in Colonial garb and wave "Don't Tread on Me" flags, when they're not imagining themselves as the Greeks at Thermopylae taunting the Persians with chants of "Molon labe!" ("Come and take them!") -- usually in reference to their guns.
We know that ordinary Republican schmucks think they're heroes of the political movies that play in their heads. We know that a lot of billionaires think they're Hitler's victims. Why wouldn't this message be received the same way by Carson and Huckabee and Cruz and the rest? Where do we think these folks get their news anyway? I bet it's not from NPR.
I think Fox and Limbaugh and Breitbart (and, let's face it, the novels of Ayn Rand) have these people convinced that they're going down in the history books as the brave warriors who fought the Stalinist tyranny of Obamacare or IRS scrutiny of political groups seeking non-profit status. Yes, even George Pataki.