The reason we get so many candidates is because they can personally profit from running even if their candidacy hurts the race.
The first question I ask myself when I hear of some relatively obscure candidate running is: “What does he know that I don’t know that makes him run?”
I always assume that someone has done some numbers-crunching and demographic prognosticating that shows a reasonable chance that the candidate can affect the race or, if others take each other out, leave him as the last man standing or at least with enough stature to negotiate for the Vice Presidency or some other office. After all, Hillary Clinton has shown us how lucrative it is to be Secretary of State.
But there may be other reasons.
Consider this editorial by Ralph Nader: “Why run for president if you don’t have a chance?” Among other things Nader points out that, for some, a Presidential campaign might produce rewards that don’t require the candidate to have a real chance of winning:
Short of winning the presidency, however, there are many other rewards for running.
You can fatten your mailing list and your Rolodex for future opportunities. These can include lucrative jobs, retainers, paid speeches or book advances. After 2008, former Gov. Mike Huckabee made it to Fox News and, by staying in the limelight, set himself up for a second run.
Of course, these candidates will claim, some truthfully, that what they really want is for daily audiences to absorb their strongly held convictions and policy ideas. What better way to make yourself heard than a presidential candidacy? All you have to do is show up and talk every day. The media will listen – at least if you have the money and belong to one of the major parties.
If these candidates had distinct agendas challenging entrenched crony corporate power or citizen-disempowerment policies, they could enrich immeasurably the campaigns and bring out more demanding voters with higher expectation levels.
That last paragraph is, I strongly suspect, a self-justification on the part of Nader, who has been the perpetual third-party candidate.
So if you think the field is too cluttered with so many candidates, there are reasons you might be right.