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Presidential hopefuls are considering these 5 practical factors before launching their 2024 campaigns

Robbin Mellen Jr., Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of South Florida, The Conversation on

Published in News & Features

The 2024 race for the White House is in motion. Democratic incumbent President Joe Biden said in October 2022 that he intends to seek a second term, even if he stopped short of making an official announcement. But – in what is expected to be a crowded Republican field – only a few candidates had announced their bids by late March 2023.

Former President Donald Trump, the last Republican to hold the office and party standard-bearer, said in November 2022 that he will seek the party’s nomination. And Republican Nikki Haley, one-time U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and former governor of South Carolina, announced in February 2023 that she is running.

In the weeks and months ahead, more presidential hopefuls likely will enter the race. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, for example, is expected to jump in after his state’s legislative session ends in May. And Sen. Tim Scott, of South Carolina, appears ready to announce soon.

Each candidate, along with their campaigns, makes decisions about the right time to jump into the race. But how do they decide?

The Conversation asked Rob Mellen Jr., a political scientist who studies the presidency, to explain five things presidential hopefuls consider before running for the highest office in the land.

The first thing potential presidential candidates consider is whether the incumbent president or, for the party out of office, the standard-bearer, is eligible to seek office.


Candidates who oppose incumbents - and popular past presidents of the same party - face nearly insurmountable obstacles, largely due to incumbent popularity. It offers officeholders seeking reelection a significant advantage. Between 1952 and 2000, for example, incumbent presidents enjoyed a 6 percentage point bonus in the popular vote.

Typically, incumbents have advantages because of their track records, name recognition – which affects a candidate’s level of voter and financial support – and their ability to direct federal money to the geographic areas that support them.

While the incumbent’s advantages typically cause potential challengers to think twice before running for president, there have been exceptions. In 1980, Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts unsuccessfully challenged incumbent President Jimmy Carter for the Democratic nomination. Kennedy failed, though, and his bid divided the Democratic Party.

Republican Ronald Reagan, a former governor of California, beat Carter in the general election and became the nation’s 40th president.


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