May 24, 2007

Volatile Republicans.

In the 2008 campaign there's a way in which the Democrats and Republicans are alike (according to William Kristol, writing in Time):
[T]here's a top two—Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for the Democrats, Rudy Giuliani and John McCain for the Republicans. There's a third-place candidate on the edge of the first tier—John Edwards and Mitt Romney. There's a big jump down to the next tier of declared candidates, none of whom seem to have much of a chance. And there is a possible late entry (Al Gore) or two (Fred Thompson and Newt Gingrich), any of whom would join the first tier.
And a way in which they are different:
The Democratic campaign has been amazingly stable. In late February, if one averaged half a dozen national polls, Clinton was at about 35%, Obama had about 25%, and Edwards and Gore trailed with about 13%...

The Republican race has been more volatile....

[W]hereas three-fifths of the Democratic vote now goes to the two front-runners, fewer than half of Republicans support Giuliani or McCain.... The door is open far wider for Thompson—and perhaps Gingrich—to enter the G.O.P. race than it is for Gore to join the Democratic contest.

And the G.O.P. race features real differences among the candidates on important and salient issues [like abortion and immigration].
Kristol wants to think the more volatile condition is better. But is it?

16 comments:

Tim said...

"Kristol wants to think the more volatile condition is better. But is it?"

For the Reps, yes, as they have to hammer out the issues more diligently to compete, especially in the down ticket races. The head-to-head match ups are surprisingly strong for the Reps, what with the incumbent's poll numbers and endless media onslaught. Those polls suggest the Dems have yet to cement their position - which probably results from Hillary! leading the ticket, and their genetically weak on defense position (did Drum ever articulate that Dem position on national security...?).

For the Dems, not so much, as their race is more about personalities and who the unions get behind rather than actual positions. Hillary! probably gets the union nod, and therefore the nomination. Which is really good news for Reps.

Balfegor said...

For the Reps, yes, as they have to hammer out the issues more diligently to compete, especially in the down ticket races.

The flip side of that, though, is that there are real and substantial divisions within the party that could lead to quixotic third party candidacies -- Ross Perot, Steve Forbes, Ralph Nader types. Large numbers of Republicans and Republican-leaning voters will be voting for candidates with serious and open reservations. And the voter-model politicians and pundits seem to work off of suggests that when voters have those kinds of reservations, and are less than enthused about the candidate, they don't turn out.

I think it's good for the GOP in the long term, in the way that Goldwater was. For the GOP, there's a real sense in which the primary gets to be an ideas and policy primary. But I don't think that translates into an advantage in the actual election. Something of the reverse, actually.

Synova said...

Volatile or dynamic?

I think it's interesting the way we chose words.

Ann Althouse said...

It's Kristol's word.

Simon said...

I think it's healthy for there to be a vigorous internal debate, as long as it remains intramural. It only become a problem if, as Balfegor says, having gone through the process, a few short-sighted louts can't get behind the duly-selected candidate, whomever that may be.

I think Kristol's wrong if he thinks that there's room for both Gingrich and Thompson, but that doesn't necessarily mean they won't both try. My bet, though, is that if Fred gets in, Newt will stay out.

Tim said...

"The flip side of that, though, is that there are real and substantial divisions within the party that could lead to quixotic third party candidacies -- Ross Perot, Steve Forbes, Ralph Nader types."

True enough, although there are divisions within the Dems as well (e.g., see "nutroots"), albeit they manifest themselves differently and, prospectively, worse for the Dems than for the Reps. Hillary! complicates this - and I suspect '08 will be as much about her, pro and con, as it will be about anything else. No one else is as polarizing as she. McCain comes close for Reps, but still less so than her.

My best guess is the threat/prospect of truly meaningful third party candidacies on either side are limited, especially if the election looks like it might be close (as it probably will be), in light of the results from Perot in '92 and Nader in '00.

Partisans on both sides would probably prefer to have a "bad" Rep/Dem than the other side win.

And I agree with Simon - if F. Thompson launches, there is little space for Gingrich (for whom I don't quite get the interest, but whatever).

But we'll see, won't we?

Revenant said...

It has pluses and minuses. A volatile field typically yields candidates with broader appeal, but also gets all of their flaws out in the open.

Against an unknown like Obama the latter would be a disadvantage -- voters will know all about, say, Thompson's shortcomings, but little about Obama's. Against a candidate whose flaws a already widely known (Clinton or Gore) it is less of a disadvantage.

ricpic said...

For the Dems it's just a question of which nomenklatura head shows above the Kremlin wall.

George said...

Let's analyze the candidates, according to the criteria needed to be an excellent president...

1) Is he ugly?
2) Is he lazy?
3) Is he a media master?
4) Is he a girl magnet?

By my scorecard, that's 4 "Yes" votes for Thompson.

Gingrich -- 1 (ugly)
Guiliani -- 2 (ugly, girl magnet)
Romney -- 0
McCain -- 1 (media master)

As for the Dems...

Clinton -- 1 (ugly)
Obama -- 2 (media master, girl magnet)
Edwards -- 0
Gore --2 (ugly, media master)

Since only Fred owns a pick-up truck, it would be unfair to rate the others on this scale.

Mindsteps said...

There is a social psychological finding that is at least thirty-years old and continues to garner research support. With some exceptions, people tend to perceive an individual as more credible when that individual argues a point that appears contrary to his or her interest (e.g. A Pepsi Cola salesperson praising the qualities of Coca Cola). This phenomenon seems to be a rare occurence amongst our politicians and their pundits.

hdhouse said...

hi Timmy....does "hammering out the issues" go to the "Which of you believe in evolution"?

Now that is some issue isn't it. Can we have a show of hands on a flat earth? 3rd law of thermodynamics? "Did God trick us with those fake fossils"?

Ohhhhh I love it when republicans get to the meat of things don't you?

you guys would be scary if....hey wait a minute...you guys are scary.

stepskipper said...

Good. Let the hate flow through you.

paul a'barge said...

No, Kristol wants to think that the Republican race is better because there are real differences on the Republican side.

I would agree with him. Wouldn't you agree that DHIMMIcRATs are
1. devoid of ideas
2. devoid of ideology
3. lusters after power for power's sake

Simon said...

hdhouse said...
"[D]oes 'hammering out the issues' go to the 'Which of you believe in evolution' [question]? ... Can we have a show of hands on a flat earth? 3rd law of thermodynamics?"

I think that would have been an awesome pair of follow-up questions.

John Stodder said...

To use nautical metaphors:

The Democrats are like a ship without a sail.

The Republicans are like a ship without a rudder.

The Democrats know where they're going, but have no energy.

The Republicans at the mercy of events beyond their control.

John Stodder said...

With some exceptions, people tend to perceive an individual as more credible when that individual argues a point that appears contrary to his or her interest (e.g. A Pepsi Cola salesperson praising the qualities of Coca Cola).

This is true, and prompts a thought:

First, an opinion: One of the stupidest, but most intractable public policy mistakes of the past 40 years has been the ever-accelerating, ever-more-futile "war on drugs." It's costly, it's cruel, it's ineffective, and it puts billions in the hands of the worst people in the world -- including Al Queda.

Which of the candidates is most likely to address this issue honestly and seek reforms? Hillary? Obama? Edwards? Like all Democrats in the past two decades, they'll probably try to overcome perceived vulnerabilities on this issue by trying to look even tougher. Romney? Forget it. McCain? I don't see it.

The "Nixon to China" in this race would be Guiliani, the tough prosecutor, calling for a change in drug policy -- making the law enforcement case for decriminalization.

He has to get nominated first. This is not a priority for Republican primary voters, to say the least. If independents could vote in the primaries, it would be a different story.