Will The GOP’s Universal Craziness Backfire In The General?

Jonathan Bernstein argues that it won’t:

Candidates, campaign, and policy positions are important during nomination battles because there’s so little basis for distinguishing between candidates.

But once we get to the general election, most voters will choose on the basis of party, so it doesn’t really matter what the candidates say. Even if you’re a strongly pro-Social Security Republican, you’re still probably going to support Perry if he’s the nominee because you agree with him and disagree with Barack Obama on abortion, and guns, and foreign policy, and economic policy, and lots more. Besides, you probably will have a generally positive view of Perry as a person and a generally negative one of Obama, both because you will tend to pay attention to information that confirms those views and because you will probably watch Fox News and listen to Rush and therefore be exposed to those views. Indeed, odds are that you’ll simply not believe that Perry really means what he says about Social Security. Of course, it all plays out the same way for Democrats. As for swing voters, what we know about them is that they are usually among the least attentive voters; they’re the least likely to know what Rick Perry said in a book a couple of years ago. They’re the ones who are pushed primarily by the economy and, perhaps, other events. Now, granted, Barack Obama will probably do what he can to make sure that they know, and the evidence is that ideological extremism is indeed a net negative…but Goldwater or McGovern range extremism only costs a few points on election day in November.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1196853181 Karl Kahn

    I understand the “economics and voter ID are all that matter” school of political analysis, but it seems to me that it has taken a series of hits in recent special elections. Honest practitioners of the school of thought should at least acknowledge those recent failings.

    If they want to limit their analysis to Presidential races they should acknowledge that they have so few data points as to make the analysis anecdotal rather than statistical.

    • http://poisonyourmind.com reflectionephemeral

      I guess I don’t know that much about the data here– I’ve certainly seen relatively little about congressional elections. Personally, I like the attitude shown toward economy-based predictions in this Seth Masket post: “All the usual caveats apply here. The forecast for 2012 economic growth is just a prediction — it could get substantially better or worse. And this is just a bivariate regression model, which doesn’t include things like foreign policy or ideological extremism or campaign quality. And, of course, past performance does not necessarily predict the future.” (Good discussion in comments there for the basis of “determinist” models).

      As to Bernstein’s point, I am inclined toward the view he’s arguing against in that post– I think that Rick Perry’s over-the-top insane book shows that he probably wasn’t planning on running for president at the time.

      I hope that Bernstein is wrong– I hope there’s a penalty to pay for nonsensical, unpopular extremism– but I don’t know for sure that he is…