by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
If, as it seems from the latest Fox News polls in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, the polling numbers have barely changed since the beginning of the year and the longshot candidates remain in the mid to low single digits, it is more than fair to ask what these longshot candidates expect to change between now and when the voting starts early next year.
Yes, we haven’t had any debates yet. Yes, you can argue that Republican primary voters aren’t that tuned in yet. But just how likely is it that television audiences tune in to watch the first debate next month, and become suddenly and wildly entranced with, say, Doug Burgum, and prefer him to all of the other options?
Considering how campaigns run on money, maybe it is time to rethink the wisdom of an early start and an early announcement. (Or at least, question the value of an early start against a former president with universal name recognition and an extremely loyal following, who announced his bid one week after the midterm elections.) Nikki Haley announced her campaign February 14, Vivek Ramaswamy announced his bid a week later, Asa Hutchinson announced his bid April 2, Tim Scott made his bid official a bit more than a week later, and Larry Elder announced his campaign on April 20. Very little has changed, particularly in the polling numbers, since those announcements. …
… [L]ittle or nothing in this primary race will matter until Trump and DeSantis are on a stage together. On paper, Haley, Scott, and some others have the potential to be compelling presidential candidates. In practice, they’re almost nonentities. They’ve been traveling around Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, doing town halls and giving speeches for a while now, and fairly or not, Republicans in those states don’t seem interested.