Presidential hopefuls kick off 2016 campaigns Marco Rubio announced his bid for president in Miami, Florida. At left, Hillary Clinton accounced via an online message (Reuters / Clinton Campaign)
Presidential hopefuls kick off 2016 campaigns
Lexile

In a presidential campaign, you only get one Opening Day.

For Ted Cruz, it was a simple speech on a college campus: no notes, no teleprompter and no choice for the students required to be there. Rand Paul packed a hotel ballroom with loyalists and dazzled them with videos and goofy campaign swag.

Then it was Marco Rubio, who entered the race one day after Hillary Rodham Clinton announced her candidacy.

"No matter when you do it, you have the problem of butting against somebody else," said John Brabender, an adviser to another expected GOP candidate, Rick Santorum.

For what's expected to be a field of as many as two dozen candidates, the formal announcement sets the stage for what they hope will be a triumphant march to the White House. Most are carefully choreographed, some struggle to draw attention and each sends a signal to voters about whether they're watching a contender or just another soon-to-be has-been.

"It's the one part of the campaign, besides picking a vice president, that the candidate can totally control," said Scott Reed, a Republican strategist who served as Bob Dole's 1996 campaign manager. "They set the tone."

For Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, that meant weeks of planning for a launch. His plan was to announce before a diverse audience of supporters at downtown Miami's iconic Freedom Tower, the first stop for tens of thousands of fleeing Cuban exiles during the 1960s and 1970s.

Clinton took a decidedly different approach. The lead-up to her campaign kickoff was a quiet one. There were no social media hints or off-the-record tips on where to show up with a satellite truck. She got in with an online message.

Rubio's aides were cognizant about the possibility that Clinton could upstage their meticulously scripted event. After some debate, Rubio and his team decided to stick with their plan, figuring a dueling announcement might actually work in their favor, allowing them to pocket an early fundraising boost by arguing he would be a strong rival to run against Clinton.

Side-by-side media coverage of the two candidates would draw a beneficial contrast, argued another top aide, between a woman they see as an aging icon from the 1990s and a dynamic Hispanic candidate.

That was Paul's thought, too. His team hoped Clinton would launch before their debut, allowing him to immediately begin campaigning as though it were the general election. Instead, he found himself answering questions about his temperament after being unable to detail his policy positions in several contentious interviews.

While a strong launch hardly preordains campaign success, a smart debut can reap more than media buzz. Cruz raised $4 million in the eight days after his speech formally announcing his candidacy. He was the first to get in, too, avoiding what are likely to be diminishing returns as the field grows larger.

"They're going to come fast and furious," Brabender said. "At some point it's going to be increasingly hard to draw out a headline."

Deciding on timing isn't just about avoiding collisions with other candidates or positioning for fundraising. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry made his debut in 2012 just six weeks after his team started preparing for his run.

Four years later, Perry has spent months visiting early primary states, boning up on policy and carefully plotting his entry into the race.

Yet even with enough time to plan, success isn't guaranteed. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.'s campaign launch in 2011 sought the patriotic backdrop of the Statue of Liberty in the same Jersey City, N.J., park where President Ronald Reagan opened his 1980 general election campaign.

But the images of Huntsman were marred by a tour boat that passed by during his speech and planes buzzing overhead. His campaign never caught on with voters.

"Campaign launches can make or break a Presidential Campaign. Trust me!" his daughter, MSNBC host Abby Huntsman, recently wrote on Twitter. "How I wish we could redo that day for team Huntsman in 2012."

Critical thinking challenge: What is a soon-to-be has-been?

Assigned 19 times


COMMENTS (12)
  • erinbundy-Goo
    4/24/2015 - 09:42 a.m.

    A "soon-be has-been" is someone who has failed to gain the attention of the public. The text states that campaign announcements are carefully choreographed. The text also states that some campaign announcements struggle to draw attention. The evidence from the text suggests that a "soon-to-be has-been" is a candidate that has hinted that they will be a candidate, but they either never announced, or they were never successful enough in their campaign announcement to gain the attention and support of the public.

  • Haley Patterson
    4/24/2015 - 01:51 p.m.

    I am really hoping that Hillary gets in as President. It would be nice for women to be in charge since women don't even get enough recognition even today.

  • johnnyg-Kor
    4/24/2015 - 02:40 p.m.

    A soon to be has been is somebody goes through the the process and doesn't make it in the presidential campaign. There's more has-beens than contenders.

  • andrewm-Kor
    4/24/2015 - 02:42 p.m.

    A soon to be has been is a person who goes through the process of presidency once before and does not make it before to the white house

  • jennaw-Koc
    4/26/2015 - 08:45 p.m.

    Rubio's aides were cognizant about the possibility that Clinton could upstage their meticulously scripted event. After some debate, Rubio and his team decided to stick with their plan, figuring a dueling announcement might actually work in their favor, allowing them to pocket an early fundraising boost by arguing he would be a strong rival to run against Clinton. (that was my fav part tbh)

  • jennaw-Koc
    4/26/2015 - 08:47 p.m.

    Rubio's aides were cognizant about the possibility that Clinton could upstage their meticulously scripted event. After some debate, Rubio and his team decided to stick with their plan, figuring a dueling announcement might actually work in their favor, allowing them to pocket an early fundraising boost by arguing he would be a strong rival to run against Clinton. (that was my fav part tbh)

  • adrianas-Koc
    4/27/2015 - 01:49 a.m.

    It's interesting to see the up and running candidates for presidency tactics. I personally believe that Hillary Clinton is very popular and will make it far in this upcoming presidential election.

  • jonahh-Koc
    4/27/2015 - 02:10 a.m.

    a soon to be has been is a person who is coming close to being irrelevant. It is a person who is soon to be forgotten and not important anymore.

  • carlosv-Che
    4/27/2015 - 01:48 p.m.

    to be honest I don't want no body but waka flocka to run because we will have better laws and more freedom to do and it would be better.

  • namelt-Che
    4/27/2015 - 01:50 p.m.

    The good thing is that some of the gas payments that we have to pay for gas will go down. The bad thing is, that we might lose the things that we need.

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