Jim Gilmore and George Pataki are currently running for president but have virtually no chance of winning the primary. I doubt most voters would even be able to pick them in a lineup.

They are not really campaigning, they don't have any organization, so why not quit?

Are there any financial and/or tax reasons to keep the campaign active, even if only on paper?

6 Answers 6


Did you know who Jim Gilmore and George Pataki were before they ran for president? Unless you happen to be living in Virginia or New York or are a huge politics buff, you likely haven't. But now you know them. See?

Running for president makes them better known to lots of people outside of their usual circle. This enhances their celebrity status and increases the sales value of their personality. Even though they might not win this election, going through with it might help them to win other elections for lower positions later. Or at least make some money by selling some books and getting a well-paying job in the industry.

It also allows one to get a larger audience for their agenda and soap-box their opinion. Just by being a candidate, their statements and opinions get compared to that of other candidates and thus get far more public attention. I suspect this is one reason why, for example, Bernie Sanders hasn't yet folded against Hillary Clinton in the Democratic preliminaries. His social-democratic agenda is quite a minority viewpoint among Americans, but his campaign gives him the opportunity to convince more and more people of it. It might not help him personally, but it might help his ideas to become more popular in the future.

  • 1
    not only to make your own name more well known, but your positions as well (provided you actually differ from those already in the race) - it might be the only time people might hear about a particular approach to a policy. And of course, there is always 'running for VP or a cabinet position' Commented Dec 23, 2015 at 16:51
  • 1
    I get that, but nobody is talking about these guys, they are not in the media, as far as I know they are not even campaigning.
    – ventsyv
    Commented Dec 28, 2015 at 3:12
  • Tim Pawlenty, Thaddeus McCotter, Fred Thompson, Alan Keyes, Jack Fellure, Duncan Hunter, Gary Bauer, Orrin Hatch, are some of the names of former candidates campaigning in the republican primaries since 2000. I don't think being candidates actually changed anything for them. Commented Jan 11, 2016 at 1:31
  • 6
    Just to be clear, Bernie Sanders' social democratic agenda is supported by a large majority of Americans. This was the case even before anyone knew he was running. salon.com/2015/07/11/… The problem is that Congress does not do what Americans want and the establishment depicts his popular ideas as unpopular and fringe. scholar.princeton.edu/sites/default/files/mgilens/files/…
    – J Doe
    Commented Feb 10, 2016 at 1:25

There are many reasons.

  • Ego.
  • Direct money. Today, in the US, the concept of a SuperPAC is an effective way to make money. Stephen Colbert demonstrated this when he ran for president.
  • Indirect money/publicity. Running for president gets you publicity. Publicity can get you things like book deals, lobbying gigs, news commentary gigs.
  • A desire to shape the public debate. This is arguably the more 'noble' of the reasons to run for president knowing you have no chance of winning. The idea is that at least during your active campaign, you can try and get issues out in the open and hopefully get other, more viable candidates to address the issues.

Many presidents started off as candidates not likely to win (ie Obama, Reagen). You never know when lighting in a bottle catches and they end up winning. Pataki is a popular moderate EX- Gov of NY, he would make an excellent president IMHO.

  • 1
    Obama's online fundraising was state of the art. Jim Gilmore has raised peanuts - less than $300,000. Not to mention that he did even file to be on the ballot in Idaho, Oklahoma and Michigan.
    – ventsyv
    Commented Dec 29, 2015 at 14:28

Even if a candidate has no chance of winning the primary, they might win delegates to send to the national party convention, where those delegates get a say in determining the party platform for the next four years. This presumably affects the ideological direction of the party but I'm not clear how.

And as others have pointed out, the presidential campaign is a national platform for spreading the candidate's ideas. The candidate might be able to force the frontrunner to adopt their position, as Clinton was forced to do several times when running against Sanders.

Or a candidate can take advantage the national platform to promote themselves. Candidates often publish bestselling memoirs during their campaign, or leverage their name recognition in to paid positions as "expert" commentators for the 24 hour news networks, as Howard Dean has done, or bigger ratings for their reality TV shows, as Donald Trump will be able to do.


Some candidates run to bring more attention toward their agenda, for instance: Ron Paul did it to wake people up into Libertarianism.

  • I don't follow the logic. If someone is committed to a certain idea and also has some funds to expend for popularizing it, there exist better ways to expend their budget and deliver their ideas through the mass media. Commented Feb 22, 2016 at 0:04
  • 1
    Hmm… Media usually don't change their rhetoric after the new President comes to power. On the contrary, one first builds their media empires (like Bloomberg or Trump) or "makes friends" with the existing ones (like Clintons) to make them deliver your ideas. Make sense? Commented Feb 22, 2016 at 2:59
  • I can't tell if you're arguing against something I said. Anyway, the mainstream media serves "The Establishment" / "The Deep State" etc, whatever you'd call the tiny elite with "the real power", calling the shots from behind the scenes. Clintons are included, by the way. Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 12:14
  • Note: My original reply above was edited by an admin who removed a couple of anti-government, pro-sanity paragraphs from it. Yay censorship. He must be proud! Commented Apr 24, 2016 at 16:29

Running for office is a good excuse to ask for funding without liability. That might be a good reason.

  • 5
    Campaign donations are earmarked for use in the campaign. Using them for other purposes would be embezzlement. I am not sure if you are unaware of this or want to frame them as embezzlers without providing any evidence whatsoever, but either would be a reason to downvote your answer.
    – Philipp
    Commented Dec 23, 2015 at 17:01
  • 1
    I would add some more informaiton. As @philipp points out, there are constraints. What I think you mean, however, is that if you want to raise your profile, campaign for an issue or what have you, you can do so with a campaign, and people can donate, and then once you are done, all economic issues are handed by Bob for President, not your personal budget. It's kind of like an LLC, that way. An edit might be in order. Commented Dec 23, 2015 at 17:31
  • 1
    There are some constraints, but nearly zero constraints with PAC money. So yes, it is a good way to make money.
    – user1530
    Commented Dec 23, 2015 at 19:41
  • 1
    @Philipp You may want to get more educated in what PACs are. Also you may be interested in how did Stephen Colbert raise over a million dollars and was not required by law to explain how he spent them. Commented Dec 24, 2015 at 5:46
  • @ThePompitousofLove I actually didn't think of that. I was thinking about PACs. But your idea sounds like an interesting way of money laundering. I might edit my response at a later date. Commented Jan 11, 2016 at 1:36

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .