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The Front-Runner Fallacy: Does It Really Matter Who Takes The Early Lead?

Presidential candidates (L-R) Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) pose for a photos before participating in a Fox News, Wall Street Journal sponsored debate at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center, on January 16, 2012 in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. A year before the 2012 election, Perry was polling as the Republican front-runner. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Presidential candidates (L-R) Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) pose for a photos before participating in a Fox News, Wall Street Journal sponsored debate at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center, on January 16, 2012 in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. A year before the 2012 election, Perry was polling as the Republican front-runner. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

The latest polls – and it seems like there are new ones almost every day – show Donald Trump ahead in the Republican Primary with 27 percent, which is one point lower than the Republican front-runner was polling a year before the last election. In that case, the candidate was Rick Perry, who was among those who lost the race to eventual nominee Mitt Romney.

A year before the 1980 election, the Democrat who stood out as the clear lead was Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy, who also lost the nomination. The winner that year was Jimmy Carter, who a year prior to the election wasn’t polling second, third or even fourth.

Other front-runners who never made it include Gary Hart, Hermann Cain, Howard Dean and Jesse Jackson. So what does it mean to be leading a year before the election? And at what point does front-runner status predict the winner?

David Greenberg, whose recent piece in The Atlantic is called “The Front-Runner Fallacy,” joins Here & Now host Indira Lakshmanan to discuss what it means to be a front-runner.

Guest

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