Kelly was absolutely correct that more controversial candidates would run: 2004 brought us the problematic candidacies of Al Sharpton, former Senator Carol Braun (who lost after one term due to ethical controversies), and Dennis Kucinich. In 2008, Hillary Clinton started out as the Democratic frontrunner, Joe Biden ran despite being forced out of the 1988 race on plagiarism charges, Kucinich ran again, and John Edwards ran despite impregnating his mistress. Even Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert got in on the Democratic act, briefly running in his home state of South Carolina. The only strange candidate in the GOP field was Alan Keyes, an outspoken conservative who has repeatedly run for the U.S. Senate and the GOP presidential nomination and lost everywhere.
As if to prove Kelly’s point, Clinton ended up as secretary of state and Biden now has the second most powerful job in America.
The rise of bizarre candidates continued in the first midterm election of the Obama era: In 2010, Republican Senate nominee Christine O’Donnell in Delaware was forced to run an ad denying that she was a witch, while Nevada GOP Senate candidate Sharron Angle said that she might pursue “Second Amendment remedies” if she lost. In California, both gubernatorial candidates called each other political “whores” for selling out to special interests, while in New York, an actual boss of prostitutes shared the debate stage with the major party candidates for governor. (She asserted: “The career politicians in Albany are the biggest whores in this state. I might be the only person sitting on this stage with the right experience to deal with them.”) In Ohio, a Republican House candidate was found dressing up as a Nazi soldier.
2) “More really seriously unattractive candidates.” “Parity also encourages and rewards the politically ambitious whose appeal is so radically limited that a major party nomination is out of the question. Fringe candidates are the new kingmakers and king-breakers. Of the past three presidential contests, arguably two were decided by the vote-leeching effects of borderline candidates who could never win the office for themselves: Ross Perot made Bill Clinton president with 43 percent of the vote, and Ralph Nader put George W. Bush in with 48 percent. The third-party messiahs know their new power and naturally will exercise it — and this will shape and distort the politics of the major parties. And voters will recall fondly the days when Pat Buchanan seemed sort of far out there.”