Gatewood Galbraith was a perennial candidate in Kentucky for years. The Lexington-based attorney is something of a folk hero in the state, especially now that he has died. Stickers and spray-painted images of Gatewood made with stencils appear on street signs, overpasses, and other handy displays around Lexington.
Gatewood — for he is known by his first name throughout the state — was an open marijuana smoker and advocate who used his regular runs at the Governor’s mansion as platforms to bring the issue of pot and hemp into the public debate arena. He spoke truth to power and won the hearts of liberal Kentuckians. He never won an election. But he never lost either.
In his book The Last Free Man in America, Gatewood explained that a mentor had once told him that, “An attorney who runs for public office … never loses.”
Gatewood went on to explain that running for office, even if one loses the election, boosts the public profile of the person running. It puts them in the homes of people with money. It allows them to give speeches, travel, meet influencers and leaders of business.
Even if you lose, you win.
Ben Carson has not officially declared that he is running for President of the United States in 2016. His business manager Armstrong Williams bought airtime for what is being called a documentary and an infomercial. It is titled “A Breath of Fresh Air: A New Prescription for America.” It aims to “introduce” Ben Carson to America.
It is also being called the first campaign ad of the 2016 presidential election season.
Think back a moment to the 2012 election cycle. In the end, it came down to the RNC-anointed Mitt Romney and incumbent Barack Obama. But during the Republican primary season before the general run, one candidate after another took a turn leading polls.
Michele Bachmann came out of the gate strong from the Iowa Caucus, but fizzled fast.
Jon Huntsman went down early because he was not considered “conservative enough”.
Buddy Roehmer appealed to young people, especially during the #occupy events of those months, but he was also ignored by party leaders.
Rick Santorum ran hard to eliminate the stain on his reputation and name.
Newt Gingrich won the South Carolina primary, which had traditionally meant he would go all the way to the general. But he did not. In fact, he curiously failed to register in time for primaries in other states.
Then there was Herman Cain. Some said he was a serious threat to Democrats because he was African-American. He could steal away the black vote.
But Cain fizzled fast when, like Sarah Palin before him, he could not answer questions about issues of national importance. He was accused of sexual misconduct. He never made it to face Obama.
Ron Paul’s approach seemed to be much like Gatewood in Kentucky: run frequently as a means of highlighting what is wrong, not necessarily to win. Party desperation floated him a long distance, but in the end he too came up short against Romney.
Week after week, one candidate then another took the spotlight, touted as The One. The One who could beat Obama. The One we’ve been waiting for. The One who would keep the GOP from having to nominate a Mormon who had implemented Obamacare’s predecessor in his own state.
Romney got 52% of the GOP primary vote. The rest was split between Paul, Santorum, and Gingrich. Cain, Bachmann, et al, were also-rans.
But did they lose?
Since Herman Cain’s “loss” he now has a conservative radio show that airs in the same markets as Limbaugh and Hannity. He has an online “TV channel,” much like Sarah Palin’s. And he has over a million likes on his Facebook page.
And, wouldn’t you know it, Herman Cain is ready to run again.
Rick Santorum has also seen progress since his loss. He published two books. He got an online column with a conservative site for a while.
Santorum also told Meet the Press, “I’m open to looking into a presidential race in 2016.” And he told RealClearPolitics, “I’m doing everything right now as if I’m running,” he said. “So we’re moving forward and trying to line up supporters — both grassroots and donors.”
Newt Gingrich has published books for years, even conducting book signings along the campaign trail, boosting sales and making his appearances pay. Before the primary, Gingrich owned shares in a booking agency owned by his daughter that handled speaking engagements for both himself and fellow candidate Rick Santorum.
Elections are good for business. Deep-pocketed idealists hand over millions to run promotional ads for businessmen who continue to reap the benefits long after they “lose.”
Ben Carson is jumping into that realm early. Is he concerned about wearing out his welcome as a candidate? Did he give any thought to holding his announcement, a la Hillary Clinton, so as to stay fresh with voters ahead of the election season?