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CPAC: Plenty of likely candidates, but what about real leaders?

The Conservative Political Action Conference, widely acknowledged as a debut of sorts for Republican presidential candidates, opens Thursday. Sarah Palin won't be there--yet again. But most likely other leading candidates will be, testing their messages, giving speeches and hoping to win the straw poll.

What's unusual is that even though we're less than a year from the Iowa caucus, none of the major figures--unless you think pizza magnate Herman Cain will be a front-runner--have officially declared their candidacy. The Post's Chris Cillizza broke down the reasons why in a piece on Sunday. There's money, for one--starting later makes for a less expensive campaign in what's sure to be a record-setting race in terms of cost. Another reason: the Internet and social media, which make fundraising and message-sharing more immediate, changing the rules of campaigning. And finally, there's the "Palin factor," as Cillizza calls it. Many may be waiting to find out if Sarah Palin is going to jump into the race, because she "fundamentally alters the winning calculus for everyone."

These are people who will be running--or thinking about running--for arguably the highest leadership post in the world. I can understand the first two reasons for holding back. But the third, to the extent it's true, represents the antithesis of leadership, in my view. By its very definition, leaders are people who believe in what they're doing so much that they don't wait around to see whether someone else is going to do it too.

I realize politics is a calculating and highly strategic sport. But forgive me for holding onto a shred of hope that some people run for president because they truly believe they can make a difference, and not just because their political advisers say they have a chance to win.

In other parts of life, we value people who raise their hands first. The employee who signs on first for a challenging project is seen as future leadership material. The activist who gets her hands dirty first with a messy global problem is seen as a pioneer. And the CEO who first tries out some new way of managing his company or running his factories, without the benefit of reports from consultants, is a visionary.

But in presidential races, the person who runs to the front of the line is apparently toast. As The Fix pointed out, first in usually means first out: Only two non-incumbent candidates since 1972 (McGovern and Gore) who were first to declare have won the nomination.

Whether this is a fluke of history or solid evidence that early declarations are a curse is debatable. Perhaps we Americans like our presidents to be coy and noncommittal about their eagerness to lead. If they're so busy with other activities, many of which may be more lucrative, they must be important and powerful, we must think.

Granted, being first out of the gate may mean a candidate is a little more vulnerable. It may mean the message isn't fully focus grouped and straw polled. And it may mean the talking points still need some fine-tuning by party operatives. Call me naive, but if they're declaring their candidacy early because they truly believe they have something to contribute, it also means they're a leader, in every sense of the word.

By Jena McGregor

 |  February 10, 2011; 9:23 AM ET |  Category:  Government leadership , Presidential leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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"leader" of the Clown-ridden Perrenial Azz-hole Candidate conference? seriously? btw, where are simple sister sarah and the hucksterbee? oh, that's right, they are allergic to the gay.

Posted by: johndoe11111 | February 11, 2011 5:44 AM

Republicans, there is no GOP, have been leaderless since 1992. GWB's win was a fluke, name recognition with no accomplishments in his job as part-time governor of Texas.
None of the c-pac attendees have excelled at anything except making millions by writing books and fund-raising or making millions working for Fox.
The only one missing is Giuliani ... who bilked millions out of people and then dropped out in his first and only contest.

Posted by: knjincvc | February 10, 2011 7:30 PM

CPAC: Plenty of likely candidates, but what about real leaders?

They don't have any!! What they have is a handful of rock throwers without an original idea as to how they would go about fixing our national problems. One reason for that is the conservatives are the ones RESPONSIBLE for the vast majority of our national debt!

Another reason is they are also the folks that have slavishly supported dictators for decades because we could buy them.

Conservatism is a dead end - no new ideas, no folks with real courage, no folks that have actually served their nation as something other than an overweight nattering nabob of negativism.

Posted by: Freethotlib | February 10, 2011 7:05 PM

Sarah Palin is a skittish little coward who runs like a mouse from the press, and all of these phony tough guys who are preening and auditioning for the right-wing nod to represent the do-nothings, are afraid of Sarah Palin. They are cowards afraid that the Wasilla Quitter may drag them off to the woodshed to warm their britches if they dare utter a word that angers her. They are walking on eggs in fear of a middle-aged mean-spirited woman who is hunkered down in fear of the press herself in Wasilla, Alaska. Little cowards scared out of their wits by the fake Mama Grizzly who hides behind other's posting for her on Facebook and Twitter.

What a bunch of weenies.

Posted by: DCSage | February 10, 2011 6:00 PM

HAHA, Kypriotis, you realize George W. Bush is no longer the president, right? Because your post referring to the US President is a clear description of ole Dub-ya.

I agree with you that the Bush administration's policies ruined our economy and that Bush was, for the most part, a clown and in some regards evil.

Fortunately the FACTS are that Obama is president now and his pro-middle class policies have created jobs that the job killing Bush policies lost; and Obama's steadfast diplomacy has restored our nations standing in the world.

Gotta give Obama credit for cleaning up nearly all of the mess Bush and the Republicans left behind in only 2 years!

Posted by: jgarrisn | February 10, 2011 5:38 PM

a real leader would not let the opposition attack him/her when he/she can let them keep guessing until the primaries are over...

Posted by: DwightCollins | February 10, 2011 5:13 PM

Clown? That's not a very polite way to describe the President of the United states, although the current incumbent certainly is one, and an evil one to boot.
The good news is that he's so clueless that it almost cancels out the evil.
He and his party caused this huge unemployment, so his response is to destroy the nergy industry, also to destroy most other industry by making
his equally clueless EPA director his co-dictator with almost equal economic power to destroy jobs. Next, after creating a deficit much higher than any in world history--in just two years--he now announces his plan to print more counterfeit money, or "borrow," to lend to bankrupt states to support the unemployed, whom he has tripled in just two years. The Clueless One says also that he'll begin "retrieving" this money in a couple of years by doubling the payroll tax on employers.
Maybe all you geniuses talking about "CrazyPAC" can inform your genius leader that no sane employers are going to hire one person after hearing that lunacy--along with his job-killing agenda. What they are going to do is to lay off as many more people as they possibly can.

Posted by: kypriotis | February 10, 2011 2:37 PM

More of the same old mouldering cadavers. Why is there NEVER anybody fresh in the GOP Prez sweeps? Everyone in this line-up has been booted out of the running for other jobs -- Romney was actually booted out of the Pres shot. The last time I checked, a serious Presidential contender was one with a proven track record of WINNING, not LOSING.
Demographically, this challenge to Obama is a long shot anyway, but if the GOP is serious about the 2012 race, it is going to have 86 these clowns -who are harder to shake than syphilis- and scope out a serious contender. Sheesh!
Calling Chuck Hagel......................!!

Posted by: htimothyjones1 | February 10, 2011 2:11 PM

Where are the real leaders? Would you want to associate with this cast of idiots and clowns. They belong in a carnival. These folks don't scare me as much as though that truely follow and listen to them. A cast of thousands. Fortunately no one can win with 1/3 or less of the vote. The majority of Americans are smater than this crowd.

Posted by: jckdoors | February 10, 2011 2:01 PM

One might, and vet's will, that Buchaman called for a nearly complete cutting of VA disability care to wounded veterans. She specially cited the current war veterans. In addition she is calling for an over 30% reduction in VA care and assitance to all veterans.
She will be remembered.

Posted by: KBlit | February 10, 2011 1:54 PM

Yep. Michelle Backmann is the leader of CrazyPAC.

Posted by: crosseyedamerican | February 10, 2011 1:41 PM

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