RS: Are “Electable” Candidates Actually Electable? Part II: Swing State Electability
RS: New Hampshire Is Very Different From Iowa
RS: Paul Ryan on President Obama: Don’t Feed The Troll
RS: Hear Rush Limbaugh Call Marco Rubio A “Legitimate, Full-Throated Conservative” [AUDIO]
NRO: The Two Kinds of Presidential Primary Personality Cults
RS: Are “Electable” Candidates Actually Electable? Part II: Swing State Electability
Is “electability” a meaningless term? It is certainly an overused one, and overused words tend to lose their meaning even when they have something to tell us. In Part I, I looked at “electability” candidates in past Republican presidential primaries. But if we look at recent presidential, Senate and Governor’s races, we can get a better fix on what kinds of candidates win and lose in the 17 states that represent the outer limits of “swing states.” A lot of things matter in contested elections, notably the national political environment. But like it or not, good candidates is one of the things that matter. They may be conservatives or they may be moderates, and in a few cases in blue states they may even be liberal Republicans, but the answer for conservatives is not to ignore electability entirely but to develop and support conservative candidates who are winners.
One way we can do that is by running candidates with proven experience, as they tend to be less likely to make the mistakes that kill inexperienced candidates. As I noted in Part I, it is mostly a myth that the GOP has repeatedly nominated moderate losers in presidential contests because voters somehow got talked into thinking their opponents were too conservative; it has more typically been the case that we have nominated moderates because conservative opposition was divided or marginalized in the absence of a good conservative alternative, and our contested races have often been between two relatively moderate Republicans. That’s what’s so unusual about 2016, in which the voting begins with two viable and talented conservatives in the race (Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio) and real questions about the viability of any of the moderate (Christie, Kasich) and/or establishment (Jeb) candidates.
To complete the picture of electability, let’s look at the statewide races going back a decade, to 2006, the start of the current post-Bush-coalition political era, ranking statewide winners and losers by their percentage of the vote.
As a reminder, you can follow me on Twitter @baseballcrank or bookmark these links to catch up on my latest work:
at The Federalist
and now at National Review
Latest since my last post here:
RS: Eight Takeaways From Iowa As New Hampshire Looms
NRO: The Iowa Caucus Expectations Game: What Do the Republican Candidates Need?
RS: BREAKING: Projected Winners: Cruz & Hillary
RS: Tim Scott to Endorse Marco Rubio
RS: Media: On Today’s Glenn Beck Program
RS: Iowa Establishment Quislings Backing Trump For 30 Pieces of Ethanol?
RS: Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse Responded To Donald Trump and It Was PERFECT
RS: Michael Reagan to Donald Trump: You’re No Ronald Reagan
NRO: Last Night’s Debate Underlines Why Congress Is a Problem for the ‘Establishment’ Republicans
RS: Are “Electable” Candidates Actually Electable? Part I: Presidential Primaries 1948-2012
RS: Where Will The “Republican Regular” Voters Go?
RS: The Case For Marco Rubio Part II: The Salesman
RS: New Hampshire Poll: Hillary Up 17 With Women, Bernie Up 42 With Men
RS: GOP Big Money Goes After Marco Rubio
RS: ARG Polls Love John Kasich When Nobody Else Does
RS: Dear Ted Cruz, Donald Trump & Jeb Bush: Stop Trying To Extort GOP Voters Instead of Persuading Them
One of the siren songs raised in favor of moderate and establishment-backed candidates every primary election season is that they are “electable” and their opponents are not. Sometimes, this is frankly code for “not like those conservatives.” But if the idea that conservatives are unelectable is a fallacy, so too is the reflexive assumption that any candidate described as “electable” is actually the opposite, or is not any sort of conservative. History reminds us that good candidates win and bad ones lose, and while ideology can matter more or less depending where and when the election is held, neither conservatives nor moderates have any monopoly on winning elections. And if you look at the history of failed GOP “electability” candidates, you will find that they were usually moderates who faced significantly weaker and/or non-conservative opponents.
Let’s take a two-part walk through the history of electability arguments, starting with a review of the GOP primaries from 1948 to 2012. In the second part, I’ll look at statewide swing-state races over the past decade to consider what kinds of Republican candidates actually do win contested elections.
RS: Marco Rubio Is Now Getting Attacked Unfairly For Killing Charlie Crist’s Climate Scheme
RS: Ted Cruz Leading Tight Iowa Race In New Gold Standard Poll
RS: The Case For Marco Rubio, Part I: Experience
RS: How A Donald Trump Nomination Would Make The GOP Consultant Class Very Rich
RS: Do Liberals Know The History Of Their Own Ideas?
My last two essays of 2015 were just before Christmas:
RS: Against Despair: A Christmas Credo for Republicans
RS: What Would a Rubio Win Look Like?
On to 2016.
RS: PPP Polls Shows Why Issue Polling Is So Unreliable
One of the favorite shticks of Democrat pollster Public Policy Polling (PPP) is to ask questions designed to make Republican voters look bad. This kind of “troll polling” flatters all the usual sorts of people who love to laugh at what yokels the GOP’s supporters are, and as yet no Republican-leaning pollster has gotten into the regular business of giving Democrats a taste of the same medicine. If the last few years have taught us anything, it’s not to trust individual polls that can’t be checked against a polling average, but by definition these are all one-off polls. But there’s a deeper issue here that the latest PPP trolling question illustrates: that average Americans are far too trusting of pollsters, and the ability of pollsters to exploit that trust shows why polling on individual issues is untrustworthy.
Here’s the latest poll question that has PPP’s followers floating on a cloud of smug this morning:
My longest deep dive of the year, from the theories of John Boyd: Military Strategist Explains Why Donald Trump Leads – And How He Will Fail
In the LA Times: To understand Donald Trump, look to Europe
Debate Review: The Superstars Bleed
Pick Your Favorite Lindsey Graham Face
RS: The Myth of “4 Million Conservative Voters Stayed Home in 2012”
I have frequently criticized liberal and Democratic commentators for relying on the Static Electorate Fallacy, the idea that the 2016 electorate and results will not stray far from the demographic, geographic and ideological contours of 2012, despite longstanding American electoral history showing that elections following the re-election of an incumbent have always featured shifts in the map to the detriment of the party in power. Candidates make their own turnout, and removing a successfully re-elected incumbent always puts more voters and potential voters up for grabs.
But conservative and Republican commentators need to avoid believing our own comforting myths, and one of those has managed remarkable durability even though it should have gone away within a month of the 2012 elections: that something like 4 million usually reliable conservative voters – voters who showed up at the polls even in the down year of 2008 to support John McCain – stayed home in 2012 because Mitt Romney was too moderate. This theory keeps getting offered as proof that all the GOP needs to do is nominate a real conservative and this cavalry, 4 million strong, will come charging over the hilltop and save the day. In fact, poor a candidate as he was, Romney actually got more votes than McCain did; the belief that he got less is based entirely on incomplete numbers reported in the first 24-48 hours after Election Day, before all the votes had finally been counted.
Fifty-one years ago today in Los Angeles, a 53-year-old political amateur, Ronald Reagan, gave a half-hour nationally-televised speech, “A Time For Choosing,” on behalf of Barry Goldwater’s campaign in the following week’s presidential election. 16 years later, Reagan would win 44 states and an almost double-digit popular vote margin of victory, kicking off the most successful and conservative Republican presidency in U.S. history, leading to a 49-state landslide in 1984 and the election of his Vice President for a “third Reagan term” in 1988, the only time in the past 70 years that a party has held the White House for three consecutive terms.
Given the extent to which Reagan’s legacy still dominates internal debates within the GOP and the conservative movement, it’s worth asking ourselves: What did he accomplish? How did he do it? And what can we learn from him today?
I’ve been neglecting this blog rather badly for altogether too long – the archives say I haven’t posted here since September 21, 2014. I’ve been busy in the interim on Twitter, of course, and publishing elsewhere. I probably need to post archived versions of some of those posts here. For now: links.
I will start with The Weekly Standard, where I have this issue’s cover story, just posted today: Giving Thomas His Due, on Justice Thomas’ opinions over the past year and what they tell us about his philosophy. [ETA: Link to the archived original now available here, the print version here, and the live version at the Washington Examiner here]
Then there’s The Federalist, where I tend to post my longer essays these days. I ran a lengthy 5-part essay prior to the Obergefell decision, “Can Gays And Christians Coexist In America?”. Part I looked at the Biblical reasons why Christians believe in one-man-one-woman-for-life marriage. Part II looked at the history of Catholicism and other Biblical Christianity in the battles over slavery and Jim Crow. Part III looked at the Christian concept of scandal and the battle between liberty-based and equality-based views of “LGBT rights.” Part IV looked at the legal arguments over the rational basis for distinguishing between opposite-sex and same-sex marriage. And Part V traced possible ways forward for coexistence post-Obergefell, which admittedly are not looking especially promising at the moment.
The First Principle Of U.S. Foreign Policy looked at various approaches to our foreign policy.
Others from the fall, including some of my poll-analysis posts:
The Ferguson Riots Are Nothing Like The Original Tea Party Protests
Polling Postmortem: The Best And Worst Senate Polls Of 2014 (I keep meaning to run the companion piece on the Governors races before 2016 polling heats up).
Do Democrats Always Win Close Statewide Elections? (covers the 1998-2013 elections; I should update this with 2014 results).
Listening To President Obama’s Ebola Advice Could Get People Killed
And of course, if you missed it last time, my essay on how History Is Not On The Democrats’ Side In 2016 is still an important read on the coming election, undoubtedly the most significant piece I will write on the 2016 election.
The Rise & Fall of the Confederate Flag in South Carolina – I wrote this a few weeks back, but it’s very relevant to today’s news.
Reading Tea Leaves on the 2015 Supreme Court Term – Basically just some educated speculation on who would write what and when, which ended up having mixed results.
Democratic Party Now Literally Selling Hate – a Father’s Day gift post!
Bernie Sanders, Deodorant and Diversity – a meditation on central planning and markets.
Marco Rubio Recounts The History of Obama’s Treatment of Israel – quick hit on a great Rubio floor speech. Rubio isn’t my first choice in 2016, but he’s done nothing but impress this year.
From the fall:
2014 and Republican Morale – a GOP victory lap and a reflection on what it meant.
The Breakers Broke: A Look Back At The Fall 2014 Polls – A personal victory lap on my 2014 poll analysis and how it relates to the polling controversies of 2012.
The 2014 Polls And The 2012 Exit Polls – An earlier look at the same topic and at some specific issues with exit polling and poll methodology.
Nobody at Vox.com Has Read The Fourteenth Amendment
BREAKING: Supreme Court Takes Obamacare Subsidies Case (on King v Burwell).
First Cut: 7 Polling and Elections Lessons From 2014 (Immediate 2014 election aftermath)
Why I Voted Yes On Question 1 (NY) (Election Day post on a NY ballot initiative)
Final Senate Breakers & Governors Breakers Report November 3, 2014
Senate Breakers Report October 30, 2014
Governors Breakers Report October 30, 2014
A Sad and Desperate Attack on Chris Christie – Actually a fairly deep dive on voter fraud controversies.
Governors Breakers Report October 22, 2014
Senate Breakers Report October 21, 2014
Senate and Governors Breakers Report October 10, 2014
Senate Breakers Report and Governors Breakers Report: Oct 1
Introducing The Senate Breakers Report – September 26, 2014, the start of my Fall 2014 stretch drive when I started getting too busy to cross-post here.
WSJ front page, “Senate Control Comes Down to Eight Races“:
Recent election data supports the belief that Democrats dominate in the closest races. Since 1998, Democrats won 13 of 16 Senate and governors’ races that were decided by one percentage point or less, according to a recent analysis by Dan McLaughlin, a lawyer, on the conservative website the Federalist.
I have a column in the NY Post this morning on the great missed opportunity that is 2010’s Republican Party in New York (it’s on p. 25 of the print paper).
I’m obviously still at the stage of just dropping some archival and random stuff in here while I figure out whether there’s time in my schedule to blog. Here’s one of my little scraps of broader publicity: an email I sent to Jonah Goldberg that got posted in The Corner on the National Review Online.