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“We Were Deliberately Wasting Your Time”

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As part of his useful campaign roundup, Dave Weigel notes that primary voters in South Carolina are already tired of Brand X randos running vanity campaigns wasting everybody’s time:

With every week, the Democratic field is separating more into two tiers. There are the Campaigns, which have the resources and organizers to compete in key states. And there are the Candidacies, of people who show up to events in early states but can’t build real operations until they raise more money or find more organic support. There were groans when John Delaney joked that the crowd had a “long way to go” and more groans when the convention crowd learned, after seven candidate speeches, that a dozen more candidates would be coming to the stage.

(One of them, a man named Robby Wells who has appeared at some state party functions, was given the same time onstage as Biden, Sanders and the rest; he tried, unsuccessfully, to talk his way into the same live TV appearances that the top-tier candidates were getting.)

There are different tiers within this other-guys community, with some investing more in other early states (John Hickenlooper, Jay Inslee, Julián Castro) and some with no real organization beyond what they find when they visit with local activists.

But there has been a palpable decline in the patience of Democratic activists who are asked to meet with, or sit through speeches by, people they have never heard of. As “cattle call” season continues, so does frustration with the candidates who seem to be waiting for a lucky break — especially if they do so by taking swings at people such as Biden, who Democrats are already imagining in the presidency. 

As Nobdy puts it:

They’re like roaches at this point. If a Des Moines resident turns on their kitchen light at 1 AM to grab a snack there are like 5 mediocre white men running for the Democratic nomination who scatter into the walls. You have to keep your counters spotless, and especially avoid leaving carbs out. They’re very attracted to white bread.

In related news, Julia Azari has a good roundup of the political science literature showing that primary debates — and, this is crucial, as mediated through the ex post coverage — do really matter. How the presence of all the random white guys running for a .1% increase in the chance they’ll be named a low-level cabinet secretary for a few years is unclear, but in my view the DNC would be right to cull the unserious candidacies from the main debate floors sooner rather than later.

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