credit: Joshua Roberts/Reuters
Donald Trump is not a serious candidate for president. Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee are showing more interest in selling books than in building the policy chops required to be commander in chief. And yet their every move is documented by a media hungry for web clicks, an obsession ratified by a public more interested in the side show than in any sort of rational debate about the future of the country.
What does it say about American culture that running for president has become good for business, and good for selling books? At the very least, the practice is now de rigueur.
"It has become standard operating procedure for presidential candidates to write their own book in an effort to promote a positive narrative.... However, political figures who simply flirt with a presidential run as a way to promote their own books has also, sadly, become commonplace in America," said Mike Dennehy, a Republican strategist who ran the 2008 New Hampshire primary campaign for Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
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"If a political figure wants to write a book, then they should do it and promote it with traditional marketing techniques. But using the bait and switch, presidential campaign approach is a method that preys on voters' feelings and attitudes and is inappropriate," Dennehy added.
Any chatter from Trump, Palin or Huckabee would hardly merit an item in any news outlet except for one factor: Americans are hungry to read about them. Palin's book tour inspired people to line up overnight outside stores where she appeared. Huckabee's Fox News show gets hundreds of thousands of viewers. Trump's reality program gets millions. And the Web traffic news organizations receive when they write about any of the three spikes.
Those same spikes don't occur for the serious candidates. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney made his first real campaign swing through New Hampshire last week and addressed serious concerns over his health care plan.
Romney has spent time building an organization and refining his policy positions as he prepares for a second try at office. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty has diligently courted activists by playing up his record as a fiscal hawk.
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, Ambassador Jon Huntsman and even former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., all have long records of accomplishments, along with relationships with key elements of the Republican base they can exploit as they pursue a bid.
Even former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., who has undeniably used flirtations with a White House run in the past to sell books, looks like a serious contender this time around.
Trump, the billionaire real estate and casino magnate, is the most extreme example. He promises a "surprise" when he makes his presidential decision in a few months, but his most aggressive moves toward a campaign have not included actually leaving New York.