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GOP’s presidential front-runner: Not who you think

All eyes this week are on the CPAC meeting of conservatives, a Beltway gathering that will produce the first straw poll of Republican presidential candidates of the 2016 cycle. (Hey, we’re under three years to the Iowa caucuses now!) But the wiseguy reaction should come soon: All of the jockeying for position is irrelevant, because everybody knows that Republicans always select the “next in line” candidate. For example, Micah Cohen claims that Hillary Clinton may benefit from a next in line effect, and that it’s “a dynamic seen in several recent Republican primaries.”

It’s a myth.

But expect to see plenty of it. It was a widely circulated myth during the last cycle, and the nomination of Mitt Romney will surely entrench the myth even more. But still, it’s a myth.

Of course it is true that parties – all parties – are most likely to nominate a candidate who enters the fight as the clear leader. But if “next in line” is more than just a trite statement that strong candidates usually do well, then it doesn’t help to predict anything.

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