Benefits of a Presidential Bid

So far there are 20 bids in the presidential race. But have you ever wondered why the long-shot candidates even bother?

Perhaps because even presidential losers can end up as financial winners.

Beside the heavyweights like John McCain, Hillary Clinton, Rudy Giuliani and Barack Obama, many other politicians are vying for their party's nomination.

This is nothing unusual, according to political science professor William Mayer of Northeastern University. "The nonincumbent party -- which in 2008 is the Democrats -- usually has a very large field, and on the Republican side they are in the same boat because there's no vice president [running for election]," Mayer said.

The long-shot candidate's motto might be "remember Jimmy Carter." When the race for the 1976 Democratic nomination began, Carter was widely seen as a long shot. But by the time the primary season was half finished, he had left the other, better-known Democratic contenders in the dust.

Nevertheless, today's field certainly has a number of candidates who could charitably be described as having outside chances. That includes Rep. Duncan Hunter of California. Hunter is a conservative in the Republican field, but he has barely registered a percentage point in the latest, albeit early, polling.

In fact, the 14-term congressman is aiming to be the first sitting House member elected president since James Garfield in 1880.

Hunter admitted he is less than a shoo-in when he spoke to ABC's George Stephanpoulos. "On the other hand, somebody's got to win this race," Hunter said on ABC's "This Week."

But Dennis W. Johnson of George Washington University's Graduate School of Political Management disagreed: "It's got to be some kind of psychic ego problem with Hunter. He's got zero visibility, so why is he out there?"

"The best short answer may be, what have they got to lose?" professor Mayer added. "A run gets them a bit of time in the limelight, it can get you in on the political dialogue, and Al Sharpton is a good example of that. He is now a serious player in Democratic politics."

Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado readily acknowledges the challenge he faces for the 2008 Republican nomination. "Yeah, I'm an underdog, but it's been the case almost every single time I've run," he told the Associated Press recently at a GOP event in New Hampshire.

Others at the bottom in the hopefuls hierarchy -- taking no more than 1 percent in recent early polls -- are Sen. Chris Dodd and Gov. Tom Vilsack, both Democrats, and Tommy Thompson and Rep. Ron Paul, both Republicans.

Dodd has been a Connecticut senator for more than a quarter of a century, while Vilsack began life in a Catholic orphanage and went on to serve two terms as governor of Iowa.

Thompson hopes to capitalize on his four years of experience in the Bush administration as secretary of health and human services, as well as his experience as governor of Wisconsin. This will be Paul's second run for the White House. His first was as the Libertarian candidate way back in 1988.

Some of the extreme fringe candidates for 2008 will be competing in their third or fourth campaigns, but as presidential historian Bruce Buchanan noted, "Nixon and Reagan ran a load of times before they got the recognition they needed."

So it would be unsurprising if this glut of latest presidential hopefuls causes some voters to ask, "what are they hoping to gain from a White House run?"

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