Which GOP Candidates Flunk the Freshness Test?

Written by Mytheos Holt on Tuesday September 27, 2011

According to columnist Jonathan Rauch, the problem with our last two Presidents isn’t that they’re red or blue. It’s that they were both too green.

“The nominees in 2000 and 2008 were the least experienced out of all the candidates,” Rauch said. “Bush was Governor for only six years, and Obama, of course, was what? Four years? Which is ludicrous in terms of historical experience – only Lincoln did that.”

Given the performance of this President, it seems Lincoln was unique.

Nevertheless, given this statistic, one has to ask: Is there an ideal time in a politician’s life to run for President? Rauch thinks so, and thinks the current GOP field has few candidates who fit the bill.

Rauch is the author of the so-called 14-year-rule, otherwise known as Rauch's law, which predicts that any politician faces a fixed time limit in which he or she can run for President. But don’t think this means your child should turn his or her first Lemonade stand into a Super PAC. According to Rauch, you have to first win election as a Governor or Senator for the clock to even start.

In an interview with FrumForum, Rauch told this author that of the current GOP contenders, only current frontrunners Mitt Romney and Rick Perry, as well as longshot John Huntsman, would have a chance at the Presidency using this metric.

“Voters like experience, but not too much experience, and they don’t think that any office is really high enough to be President except Governor or Senator,” Rauch said. “Interesting that both frontrunners are at 10 years and both Governors…pretty much everyone else except Huntsman is outside the boundaries of you go by this pattern.”

Despite the odd caveats that are built into this pattern, Rauch’s theory has predictive power, unlike so much other pseudohistorical armchair punditry. Only James Garfield and those Presidents who have served as Generals (Washington, Grant, Eisenhower, etc) break Rauch’s mold. And if you think being a successful businessman or a firebrand in the House of Representatives will help you, bad news. Rauch says those qualities have been proven irrelevant by history.

“You had a Herman Cain figure in 1996,” Rauch said when asked about Cain. “He suffered the same fate as Herman Cain, which is that he [was] completely nonviable. [And] it may be that 6 years in the House is enough to get Bachmann the nomination, but I don’t think it gets her the Presidency.”

Still, Rauch freely admits that his methodology may leave room for surprises. “No one would claim that this parameter is the only thing that matters, not by a long shot,” he said when asked how he could account for the radically different performances by Romney and Perry. “This pattern says nothing about your actual qualities as a human being.”