If you are a Democratic congressman, governor, mayor or senator who hasn't already decided to run for president, you may spend some time in the next few months pondering a run. Everyone can recite the reasons not to run: Your chances of winning are small; it's hard on your family; money-raising is a soul-killing enterprise; and it can be an emotionally brutal process. But at this point in our history, if you're qualified (a quaint notion, I grant you) and have any inkling you would have something to offer the country, I would say run. Here are a bunch of reasons.
First, in a field of 20-plus candidates, anyone can win. (Anyone did in the GOP 2016 field.) You could win early primaries with 10-15 percent of the vote with that many candidates. (And some of these wannabe contenders won’t run or will bomb out quickly.)
Second, if you don’t do well in early primaries, you’re done and can go back to your day job. Think of it as an investment of about a year. If you catch on, you’ll be in it for the long haul — but with a significant chance of winning.
Third, losing isn't the worst thing to happen. The 16 or so Republicans who lost in 2016 went back to their jobs (some in the Senate or in other public offices). You'll have a bit more stature if you ran an honorable presidential race.
Fourth, if you are closer to the center lane, ideologically speaking (e.g., you don't back Medicare-for-all), you might find surprisingly few competitors. The progressive lane may resemble a traffic jam (just counting progressive senators, you would possibly see Cory Booker of New Jersey, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Kamala Harris of California, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts), but unless Vice President Joe Biden runs, the moderate Democratic slot doesn't have a whole bunch of contenders.
Fifth, you don't need a ton of money, at least not right away. The 2008 campaign of the late senator John McCain, R-Ariz., was broke until he caught fire in New Hampshire. Hillary Clinton had a huge financial edge early on in 2008 and lost. Moreover, the world of online fundraising and the billionaire-backed super PAC take much of the burden off the candidate herself.
Sixth, you might wind up as the VP on someone's ticket. Now, you might be selected as VP even if you don't run, but campaigning for president is surely one way to raise one's profile and get onto shortlists.
Seventh, you may learn something about the United States that you didn't know before. Unless you come from Iowa, New Hampshire or South Carolina, you might not have spent a whole lot of time in these early primary states; the experience of meeting thousands upon thousands of people can be informative and even transformative. Even though you'll be in a Democratic primary meeting primarily Democratic voters, you cannot be on the road for weeks or months without coming to appreciate the diversity of the country and the character of its people. It's good to get outside the Beltway and reconnect with people who aren't jaded or cynical (yet).
Eighth, a lot can be accomplished by a losing campaign. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-Texas, inspired thousands upon thousands of young people and other, previously occasional voters throughout the country. Stacey Abrams put voter suppression on the front pages of newspapers far from Georgia. You have the chance to get free media time to elevate an issue or set of issues you care deeply about.
Ninth, you should walk the walk. You don’t like the tenor of our politics? You think President Trump has debased our political debate? Run a campaign like O’Rourke did — overwhelmingly positive and at times inspirational. You can show that politics doesn’t have to be name-calling, made-up facts and trivial matters. (If you have some time, take a look at a recent speech by Sen. Christopher Coons of Delaware on faith, politics and forgiveness. It’s an example of what public oratory can be. And, sure, Coons should run!)
Tenth, what’s the worst that can happen? You join a legion of distinguished losers — from Henry Clay to Hubert Humphrey to John McCain.
In short, if you have something to offer and are confident you could govern if elected, run. Listen, a whole bunch of people less capable than you have done it.
Jennifer Rubin writes reported opinion for The Washington Post.