Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Right Place, Right Time

Mickey Kaus, in discussing the media interest in electability:
I don't think 'electability' is a bogus concern in the primaries. But I think Iowa's discredited caucusers are lousy at spotting it. Howard Dean was a more "electable" candidate than John Kerry (and, in retrospect, than John Edwards).
I agree that Iowa means nothing--or at least should mean nothing. It's bad enough New Hampshire has as much power as it does. A handful of party regulars in Iowa telling us what's what is worse.

But I'm surprised to see him buy into the Kerry-was-a-rotten-candidate myth. Okay, maybe he wasn't that inspiring, but the truth is Bush was going to beat anyone they ran against him, Dean more than Kerry. Bush was still popular enough, and the war was still popular enough, that he simply wasn't going to lose. (On the other hand, almost anyone would have beat him if he were running in 2006. Politics is all about timing.)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

If charm or charisma mattered, it makes you wonder why the parties so often put up stiffs to run for office. Sometimes, like the first George Bush, the stiffs win.

11:27 AM, November 28, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dukakis had charisma? Of this list, I'd say the only clear examples of your thesis are the two Nixon races, and I'm not even sure of those; people may have liked Humphrey better, but did he have charm? All the others are pretty strong counterexamples.

What of today's pairings? Hillary's got less charm than Nixon, but do Republicans? McCain? Rudy? I suppose the bigamist does, almost by definition. (Is that considered a slur? I'd consider it bragging rights, if a bit shortsighted.) "Charm" might apply to Thompson, but it's an odd charm.

Kennedy Nixon
Johnson Goldwater
Nixon Humphrey
Nixon McGovern
Carter Ford
Reagan Carter
Reagan Mondale
Bush Dukakis
Clinton Bush
Clinton Dole
Bush Gore
Bush Kerry

1:19 PM, November 28, 2007  
Blogger LAGuy said...

My thesis is that charisma is vastly overrated in figuring who will win. (i agree Kerry was singularly charmless, but that's a ton better than having to listen to Howard Dean for months on end.) People mostly vote for what they believe the politics of the candidate is--if you're in the right place at the right time, you can't lose, and if your timing is bad, you can't win.

Looking at the list since 60:

Kennedy Nixon --Kennedy was more charming, but it was a very close race that could have gone either way, and one of Kennedy's big deficits was his lack of experience, no matter how charming he seemed.

Johnson Goldwater -- Both were outsized personalities, can't really tell who has the charisma, but can tell you this: it didn't matter who the Repubs ran, he would have lost.

Nixon Humphrey - Humphrey probably more charming.

Nixon McGovern - neither has much personality, but, once again, the Dems could have run anyone and they would have lost.

Carter Ford - Carter, i guess. However, it was the time: the people were gonna vote out the Repubs and put in an outsider. That's how Carter got his nomination.

Reagan Carter - Reagan more charming, but recall Reagan didn't have the power to beat Ford in 1976. The times changed, and the public was tired of the joyless Carter.

Reagan Mondale - Reagan again, but he was popular by 1984 and no one was gonna stop the landslide. Run him in 1982 and Mondale wins.

Bush Dukakis - Two negative charmers, but Bush won based on Reagan's record and a great job of smearing his opponent. He was behind for a long time, don't forget.

Clinton Bush - Clinton won, but it was timing again. The only reason Clinton was even the nominee is because all the serious Dems refused to run since Bush was so popular in 1991 that they were scaredy cats. By 1992, with a belief that the economy was dead and the war long over, anyone would have beaten him, especially with help from a third-party nut. Don't forget a few months earlier, Clinton had been running third.

Clinton Dole - Once again, Clinton running in 1994 loses to anyone, but by 1996 he can't possibly lose.

Bush Gore - Close race but a lot of weirdness. Bush unproven, which Gore (or whatever Dems were responsible for dirty tricks) took advantage of to win the popular vote, but Gore is annoying, and finds himself unable to run on Clinton's popular record.

Bush Kerry - dropping from post 9/11 high, but still quite popular, and people still supporting the war. Even though he was behind most of the race, confidently predicted that he had the support that would win him the race. Dean running would have split the nation even further and would have gotten a few million less votes.

8:03 PM, November 28, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dirty tricks in 2000 brings to mind republican rioters in Flordia outside of the vote count not the disclosure of a years-old pre-existing drunk driving arrest of of a self-confessed party boy.(Or are you saying its "dirty tricks" when your preferred candidate loses and superior policies when he wins)

The truth is charisma can play a role among a number of many other factors (some times, "timing" means the voters are in the mood for a big (or a boring) personality after a recent bad experience with the other extreme).

2004 was very close and came down to one state- Ohio- being able to make the difference and certain ill-advised duck hunting and wind- surfing forays and related fashion choices certainly hurt Kerry at the margins.

7:55 AM, November 29, 2007  
Blogger LAGuy said...

"Dirty tricks," of course, comes from Nixon. When I use it I refer to intentionally nasty tactics, and ones that are generally done, or ordered, behind the scenes. I was also referring to stuff that had an effect on the election--for example, announcing a false winner while the polls are still open can have an effect, but afterwards can't. The Republican "riot" had no effect on anything (though the vote counters, who disagreed based on their party affiliation, did--that's not a dirty trick, of course, but just a warning that once you've got an election where partisans are holding pieces of paper up to the light, it may be time to shut it down).

It's not merely disclosing Bush's DUI that's the dirty trick, but waiting until the Thursday before the election to release it, so the final news cycle is all about it, and no rational discussion and reflection is possible. (Or as Dems call it, an October surprise.) Whoever does this is not interested in informing the public, but merely in harming a candidate.

"are you saying it's 'dirty tricks' when your preferred candidate loses"?

Obviously not in this case.

"2004 was very close and came down to one state- Ohio"

This sure suggests that Kerry, then, was a decent candidate who did pretty well taking on a still quite popular (among his wide base) President, and there's no reason to assume the abrasive and more radical Dean would have done any better, as Kaus assumes.

"duck hunting and wind-surfing forays and related fashion choices certainly hurt Kerry at the margins."

I would be surprised if Kerry's duck hunting and wind-surfing (and blaming secret service guys for getting in your way) had any effect at all on the voters. The few who heard about and remembered that stuff didn't care. But Dukakis in the tank, that was something.

10:09 AM, November 29, 2007  

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