Want to run for president? Write a book.
That has increasingly become the mantra for presidential hopefuls in recent presidential cycles and 2012 is shaping up to be no different. Of the potential Republican contenders for 2012, two have books set to be released soon and another has written more than a dozen.
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's much anticipated "Going Rogue" is set for release in November. Former Massachusetts governor and 2008 presidential candidate Mitt Romney has "No Apology: The Case for American Greatness" set to hit bookstores in March. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has recently reissued "Real Change: The Fight for America's Future" in paperback. And former Arkansas governor and 2008 contender Mike Huckabee's latest - he's written seven, including one in spanish - was released right after last year's election.
For these White House hopefuls, there are a lot of pluses in writing a book, especially if you're out of office - which these all are - and especially if you were portrayed as a lightweight in many media accounts - which Palin was last year.
"It's a way to show some gravitas, seriousness of purpose and depth of thought," said Dan Gerstein, a New York Democratic consultant. "You're saying here's my initial vision and you get to see how it flies."
And to the so-called "gang of 500" or opinion makers: "It lays down a marker and shows that you are thinking about big stuff and that you have something to say," Gerstein added.
Candidates writing these books - let's call them 300 page trial balloons - isn't new. President Obama essentially laid out his presidential platform in the "Audacity of Hope." And that came years after the more introspective "Dreams from My Father." Hillary Clinton wrote "It Takes a Village" years ago, and more recently published "Living History." Before the last election, John McCain had written five books.
In addition to establishing yourself as a more serious thinker, writing a book carries more practical benefits. It is a way to make an opening pitch to supporters, donors and political consultants. Books also typically come with a media tour around the country, which gets your name out there and typically results in TV hits. In fact, in a Politico article earlier this year one of Gingrich's pieces of advice for Palin was to write.
1. Write a book. Palin is already set to do that, which Gingrich applauds. A book, he said, helps a politician lay out his or her philosophy and experiences in their own unhurried words. It also helps score TV time, which in turn helps sell books, he added.
There are some potential pitfalls that come with publishing a book, though. At worst, a book's policy prescriptions can be dubbed weak or uninformed and that could send a candidacy backward before it has ever really gotten off the ground. A book is also a treasure trove for opposition researchers.
"The pitfall is once you've written a book and presented yourself as a proponent of a certain idea that idea can be hung around your neck," said Dan Patlak, a Republican consultant.
"But if the candidate hits it right," Patlak went on, "They could be called prophetic as the election approaches."
Jeremy P. Jacobs is the staff writer at Politics. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org