Publication / DecodeDC/ Scripps
May 23, 2014
View Article

What do pundits and politicians mean when they refer to a ‘deep bench’?

Term is frequently used when handicapping races

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A regular feature that decodes popular political phrases and words.

If you Google “deep bench,” one of the first things you’ll find is, well, just that, images of a deep bench.

What you won’t find is how “deep bench” is used around Washington.

The term is frequently invoked by political pundits as they analyze and hypothesize about upcoming elections, and these days that primarily means the 2016 presidential election – although, as you might be saying to yourself, that’s still two years off.

The pundits and politicians use “deep bench” in one of two ways:

Sometimes it simply refers to a long list of candidates. Imagine a lengthy wooden bench with candidates sitting side by side with deli ticket stubs in their hands. The question is, which candidate will have his or her ticket called for the chance to run and represent the party in the election?

The other way it’s used stems from sports terminology, which is where the word comes from.

According to

“In sports, having a deep bench means having a large number of very talented players. As not all players are playing at the same time, very talented players will be sitting “on the bench” waiting to play.”

So, when used in the sports sense, “deep bench” not only refers to a lot of candidates, it refers to a lot of strong candidates.

For 2016 there’s a longer list of possible names on the bench for Republicans than Democrats.

The Republican list includes: Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Rick Perry and Jeb Bush.

The Democrat list includes: Hillary Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren and Martin O’Malley.