Career politicians more likely to become president, experts say


WASHINGTON — Although presidential candidates in the private sector currently lead the polls, political science experts predict it is highly improbable someone without experience in an elected office will make it all the way to the White House.

Republican candidate and real estate magnate Donald Trump leads Iowa with 22 percent of the surveyed vote, with retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson trailing with 14 percent, according to a poll released Wednesday by CNN conducted by market research agency ORC International.

“In one way it feels like people might look in a different direction as the general mood is distrusting government,” said Justin Holmes, a political science professor at the University of Northern Iowa. “Yet when these folks without experience run, they invariably lose.”

These individuals do not usually create the same connections within the party, which can be crucial when wrangling support in the primaries, Holmes said.

Unseasoned candidates may also struggle to translate their business successes to economic successes for the country when the end goal is so different, said Kelly Dittmar, a political science professor at Rutgers University.

Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard Co. and GOP candidate, ultimately lost her 2010 Senate run against Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., because the political narrative focused on Fiorina shipping jobs abroad at HP, Dittmar said. Her bottom line depended on HP profits, but sending jobs overseas did not translate to economic success for the United States, Dittmar said.

Only a handful of past presidents didn’t hold an elected office, but they still served in the military, such as Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, Ulysses S. Grant and Zachary Taylor, Holmes said.

Visitors at the National Mall doubted private sector candidates possessed enough foreign policy experience. Hospital employee Amy Lovano, 51, motioned to the World War II Memorial with her cigarette-laden hand as she adjusted her “We can’t all be heroes” T-shirt with the other.

“Foreign affairs is a big issue to me,” Lovano said. “I think there is a lot of politics and if you don’t know it, you’ll probably get lost and do some pretty stupid stuff.”

Private-sector candidates do have the advantage of labeling themselves outsiders in Washington who want to push past the gridlock, says David Rehr, a program director at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management.

Dan Vise, 48, thinks career politicians are too entrenched in government and lead to stagnation.

“I really prescribe to the old way that the country was run when we first were founded,” said the investment advisor from Tulsa, Oklahoma. “It was the farmers, the attorneys, the businessmen, who came in and served for a couple of years and then actually wanted to leave,” Vise said chuckling, throwing up his hands.

Sally Cleek, 80, a retired United Airlines employee from Cary, Illinois, thinks Donald Trump is the only candidate who won’t be swayed by special interest groups and will have the guts to make change.

Many agree. The CNN/ORC International poll shows 44 percent of respondents think Trump is the “most likely to to change the way things work in Washington,” with Ben Carson following with nine percent.

While Holmes wrote off Fiorina and Carson, Trump may be a special case, he says.

“Trump, I don’t know what to make of him to be blunt. I’ve never seen anything like this,” Holmes said. “In politics, while it’s highly improbable he’s elected, nothing is impossible.”