And you thought the field for the presidency was set? Think again. Think this was the year you had to declare last year to have a chance? Wrong again.
Hello Mike. Hello Fred. Hello Newt.
The water's fine, or at least it feels that way the first time you jump in, before you notice all the sharks in the corner.
The press loves you, or at least they do until you say yes, and they start clawing you.
The other guys are just a bunch of wimps, or at least they look that way until you start playing, and look in the mirror, and find you look just like them.
Once the idea of running for president gets into someone's head, it's almost irresistible.
If those other guys can do it — and they can barely swim, haven't had an original idea in years, are flip-floppers who can't get their footing and don't have any more money or rich friends than you do — why not you?
If George Bush could get elected with his inexperience, and Bill Clinton with his experiences, then who couldn't?
Your staff is as good as their staff, or so they will tell you, over and over.
You're as smart as the rest of them, or so your staff will tell you, over and over.
It's not too late, or so the press will claim, at least until you get in and they start carping about how you waited too long.
Cancer? John Kerry had cancer. Rudy Giuliani had cancer. John Edwards' wife has cancer. Why should cancer stop Fred?
A few indiscretions? Bill Clinton had indiscretions. Why should that stop Newt or Fred or Rudy? What's a few failed marriages among friends?
No life is as good as the life of the would-be candidate.
If only it could stay that way.
Every story is different, but they all have common elements.
Mike Bloomberg is only switching parties, again, to reflect where he stands right now. Me, I'm the Queen of England. He's running, is what I say. Which of the people around him, who literally stand to make millions right from his checkbook, is going to tell him it's too late, or he'll only be the spoiler? Exactly none. What they'll tell him is that Ross Perot spent less than $100 million of his own money, and if he hadn't told people that the Viet Cong were trying to land in his backyard for his daughter's wedding, he might actually have won.
Fred Thompson is running. The only question is the date. Don't be mean to him, said an e-mailer last week, after I appeared on FOX News Weekend to point out that the blogosphere was alive with stories about his past as a serial dater, serious lobbyist, and lazy Senator. Sorry. I'm just reporting. You decide. But this I know: It will get worse before it gets better.
And Newt? I happen to like Newt. We get along great. Newt could be Cheney but first he needs to get kosher, to go through the process of being attacked and defended to the point that everything becomes the sort of old news that no one wants to hear anymore. How do you accomplish that? Easy. You run for president.
So here's the good word to all the consultants and campaigners and fundraisers and funsters who haven't signed on or been hired yet by one of the campaigns. There's still plenty of time. So long as the perception, correctly, is that no one on either side has this locked up (and that is especially true on the Republican side, where the would-be inevitable candidate, John McCain, has been in freefall), the door's wide open. Or at least the checkbooks will be.
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Susan Estrich is the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California. She was Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and the first woman President of the Harvard Law Review. She is a columnist for Creators Syndicate and has written for USA Today and the Los Angeles Times.
Estrich's books include the just published “Soulless,” “The Case for Hillary Clinton,” “How to Get Into Law School,” “Sex & Power,” “Real Rape,” “Getting Away with Murder: How Politics Is Destroying the Criminal Justice System” and "Making the Case for Yourself: A Diet Book for Smart Women.”
She served as campaign manager for Michael Dukakis' presidential bid, becoming the first woman to head a U.S. presidential campaign. Estrich appears regularly on the FOX News Channel, in addition to writing the “Blue Streak” column for FOXNews.com.