February 02, 2012

Newt's Temperamant Problem & Why Romney Really is More Electable

My post from last week on the myth that moderates can't win and on the electability question caught the eye of a few people so I just wanted to follow up with a couple of thoughts.

First, let me point out that years of political science research indicate that the strongest indicator of who will win an election boils down to economic indicators. In other words, if the economy is steaming along the candidate representing the party in power nearly always wins and if the economy isn't doing so well then it's usually the candidate from the party out of power.

So, as I pointed out, since the economy isn't likely to recover quick enough by November then whoever the Republicans nominate is likely to win.

Obama beat McCain because of the economy. Reagan beat Carter because of the economy. Etc, etc.

That's 90% of the story. But there are exceptions to the rule and there are things parties and candidates can do to shoot themselves in the foot and lose a gimme election.

However, that 10% "other" is not what we party activists and ideologues think it is. What motivates those who switch votes from one party to another on any given election is usually confined to things other than the candidate's stance on policy issues.

Reams of survey data show that independents are the least likely to know anything about a candidate's policy stances. Instead, these independents vote on things like "leadership", "integrity", and "strength".

In other words, they have no idea why they are voting for who they vote for. Mostly they just vote for the guy in power if they think the economy and country are doing ok, vice versa, and if they are indifferent on that point they look to other cues -- very few of which have an actual relationship with what the politician has done or is promising to do beyond vague notions that every one agrees on such as "creating jobs", "making America strong", of "building a brighter future".

Maetenloch, over at Ace of Spades HQ follows, follows up on my point:

The 'independent' voters who decide national elections are not at all like us.

Because the truth is that we're the freaks and oddballs and abby normals for caring so much about politics and hanging out daily at a politically-oriented blog like this one - much less actually commenting at one (you know - the 1%ers of the political geeks).

The 'independents' - God bless their blissfully politically ignorant souls - could care less about the issues and all the details we obsess on.

The point being that the 2012 election isn't going to be decided based on whether or not Romneycare was the template for Obamacare or over the nuances between Gingrich's idea of a fine for those who don't buy health insurance and Obama's fine for those who don't buy health insurance.

But things like the perception of a candidate's temperament will matter to the independent voters. Which is why I have a big problem with Gingrich. I'm just not sure he's electable. Because, frankly, he's a hothead. My initial support of Gingrich was based partly on the fact that I wanted a hothead.

But, I'm not everybody.

Neo-neocon makes the same point:

I think a big part of Gingrich’s problem is temperament, and the problem is real. As far as Newt’s supporters are concerned, his anger is one of his strengths and not a problem at all. When it’s directed at the media it seems to work for him, although that may be getting a bit old. When it’s directed at Mitt Romney it has been working less effectively, especially when it features attacks that are from the left and/or hyperbole.

Gingrich is already a “hot” candidate rather than a cool one, and he runs the risk of seeming intemperate and out-of-control when he goes off like that. I submit that his decision to go angry in Florida was not just a tactical one; it was dictated by his personality itself. Voters in Florida decided that was not the sort of man they wanted facing Obama, or in the Oval Office.

I agree. And if temperament matters to primary voters, who are much more educated on the issues than the voters in the November general election will be, then I think that says a lot about which factors are going to matter.

I think more evidence of Gingrich's temperament problem is revealed in the aftermath of his defeat in Florida. No, I'm not talking about his refusal to call Romney and congratulate him. That's no big deal to me and will soon be forgotten.

But what was Gingrich's first instinct after losing fair and square to Romney? Sue.

Okay, so it's not technically suing, but resorting to procedural tricks is, well, kind of petty, don't you think?

And I kind of think that is an indication of the kind of guy Gingrich is. He thinks he's so important to history that he'll do anything to win. He's a true believer in his own awesomeness. So much so that his personal actions are excused because, you know, history. He's an egomaniac.

Romney? He's just willing to do anything to win because he wants to win. You know, the normal kind of inflated ego that all politicians have.

And just to clarify one point: I don't think that issues are the only thing that matters, as Neo-neocon took my point, only that it's the most important thing to me. And I wish it would mean more to independents and non-ideologues.

As you can tell, Presidential character does matter to to me. It's why I've reluctantly given up on Gingrich.

But you know what matters to most of them? American Idol and The Bachelor.

I was at the hospital the other day visiting a friend. And one of her older relatives was in the room. The older lady must have been in her 70s or 80s.

They were watching The Bachelor. I was a little embarrassed to be in the same room with these two ladies when the bachelor and the girl stripped naked and went skinny dipping.

So I said something along the lines of, "You know, 30 years ago we would have been shocked to see something like this on TV and now it's on in prime time and is highly rated."

I thought I'd have a sympathetic ear from the older lady. But you know what she said?

"That's true, but it's so much better than watching the politicians. They're always fighting over things and raising a fuss over things. I can't stand it!"

Yeah, that's your typical independent voter. They don't want someone who will fight against Obama. They just want someone to replace him. Someone they can trust. Someone who won't raise too much of a fuss. Someone who looks like a President. Someone like Romney.

By Rusty Shackleford, Ph.D. at 11:53 AM | Comments |