Russ Roberts

Brady on the Electorate and the Elections of 2010 and 2012

EconTalk Episode with David Brady
Hosted by Russ Roberts
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David Brady of Stanford University talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the lessons of the election of 2010 and what we might expect from the elections of 2012. Brady draws on political history as well as survey results from work with colleagues Doug Rivers and Morris Fiorina to speculate about the elections of 2012. Along the way he discusses the power of the independent vote, how ObamaCare affected the election of 2010, and the prospects for the Republican nominee in 2012. Taped a few days before the deal on the debt was reached, Brady gives his thoughts on the politics of the negotiations. The conversation concludes with a discussion of whether Obama will have a primary challenger.

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0:36Intro. [Recording date: July 29, 2011.] Taping four days before the debt ceiling is supposed to be reached. Not sure what's going to happen; living in fascinating political times. Want to take a broad look at the last three years of Congressional and Presidential politics, talk about where the electorate is now, maybe speculations about where we might be headed. A year ago, we spoke, August of 2010, about three months before the midterm elections. You said that a typical Democratic president in midterm elections loses about 30 seats. You then talked about why that could be misleading. And yet, formal models of midterm elections by academic political scientists did predict in roughly that range. They all systematically underestimated what turned out, which was a loss of 63 seats for the Democrats. What happened and why did those models fail? Those models failed because they essentially built into them that the Congressmen and Congresswomen acted rationally--that is, that the members voted in line with what their constituents wanted. With the idea that they wanted to be re-elected, so they thought that would be the highest chance. Good working assumption. But what had happened from 2008, if you recall the expectations from President Obama were so high it was as though everyone believed that the Israelis and the Palestinians would suddenly hold hands and kumbaya and all would be well. Economy was going to get fixed by the experts. And what happened was essentially that about 6-7 months into the Obama Presidency, as they began to focus on health care issue and to a lesser extent on the environment, the public began to perceive the President as a). more liberal than moderate, and b). more partisan than non-partisan. That built up over time. Now, the Republicans within 3-4 weeks--the best he ever did among Republicans was about even-steven--meaning half or 40% said thought he was doing an okay job and 40% thought he wasn't. But within a month or so they'd gone back to traditional numbers opposing. And the Democrats continued to like him. But the rise of Independents in the United States, plurality of people who now when asked "Do you consider yourself Republican or Democrat?" now say they are Independent, they are the ones who began swinging away from Obama. And they began swinging away because they thought he was more liberal and more partisan than what they thought they'd elected. He was supposed to be post-partisan. Yes; by the time you get to the 2010 election, pushing the health care, pushing the cap-and-trade--the result was that the Independents had swung strongly to that. So, the point was, there were 40-some districts that had elected a Democratic Congressman or Congresswoman but who also had voted for Senator McCain over Obama. Vulnerable; and they voted for health care, for cap-and-trade, and we found was sort of on average a district that was 45-55% for Obama, if you voted yes on health care, you got 41% of the vote; if you voted against it you got 51%. So, in a rather systematic analysis that I won't bore the audience with, it turns out that our belief is--with Professors Doug Rivers and Morris Fiorina--where we make an estimate of how much did it cost the Democrats and Obama to have pushed health care and cap-and-trade. And our best bet is that it's about 23-25 seats, which is the difference between the model. So, the facts are that if you came from a district that was moderate or conservative, you voted for health care and cap-and-trade, you greatly enhanced your chances of losing. And the point is that Democrats who voted against health care and who voted against cap-and-trade, they had a much higher probability of staying in office. How many were there of that group, roughly? How many Democrats voted against both of those? About 15-20; and then there are a bunch who swung their vote. So, the 7 people who voted yes on the first health care and then switched to no, six of those got re-elected. Of the 6 who switched and went the other way--no on the first and yes on the second, in the House--5 of those lost. So, another example: The class of 2006, that huge class of New Democrats--87% of them lost, of the 2008 class--and about 80% of them voted for health care and cap-and-trade. So, they came in enthusiastically on the coattails of a charismatic and popular president who pushed an agenda that was not in line with their districts; rather than increase their chances of re-election they fell on their swords, voted for what they thought were their President's and their principles, and are out of a job. I'm not sure it's so much the principles. I'd like to believe that, but I believe they misread the election; they miscalculated that results. I thought the 2010 election--well, you are an economist, you like those parsimonious explanations. They are not always right! But they are parsimonious. So, another interpretation is they misread the 2008 election, thought it was a change in the country's mood. I read the 2008 election as not that the country shifted to the left; simply that the country had not liked the Bush Presidency. The same Independents were talking about. They didn't like Bush; the swing toward the Democratic Party that you could see in the polls came from people who didn't like Bush. But it didn't mean they'd suddenly become Liberal. They just didn't like the war, didn't like way the economy was moving; and so they were inclined and did vote for Obama. So, the 2010 election--I think that the Republicans have misinterpreted that election, too. I think the 2010 election wasn't a mandate for the Republicans or the Tea Party. It said to the Democrats and the Presidents: We've had enough of that; we don't want any more spending; we didn't like the health care plan, cap-and-trade. Slow down. But the Republicans have clearly interpreted it as? Well, 85% or so; the Tea Party have interpreted. One of the most amazing problems in politics is: How does that happen? Why does that always happen that Clinton gets in and over-interprets the election result and over-reaches; and loses big in 1994; and Republicans get a big victory in 1994, first time they've held the Congress. Did they overreach? Then 2004 Bush comes in: Well, I've built this capital up in the election; over-reaches. Obama over-reaches. How people interpret elections, that is a great puzzle. If you think like an economist you have to say why don't they know what they want and here's what it is--why does that not happen?
9:14Being a parsimonious guy, my thought would be--well, there's no "they" there. My thought would be to get your reaction. Nobody owns it. In private-sector transactions we could debate whether this holds widely or narrowly; but certainly in many private-sector transactions, if you overreach, say, as an individual, you pay a serious price. You think you are going to be an MBA player and you are 5'6"; and there are one or two who have done it; and you've got a lot of confidence; but the world slaps you down. It slaps you down lots of places--in high school, in college. Eventually you learn. In politics, obviously learning is hard; there are few comebacks. That's one of the problems. But I do think the bigger problem is it's 435 Representatives, 100 Senators a President; a bunch of infrastructure and powerful people, donors--they don't coordinate very well. The usual feedback loops are not as strong as they might be. A lot of the individuals have the incentive to overreach in certain circumstances but that's not as a group what they really want to do because there is no residual claimant like there would be for someone in a business who thinks they are going to dominate the world. So, part of it I think is just human hubris, but it's the hubris combined with no feedback loops along the way. The counterpoint is: What do you mean, no feedback loops? These guys lose their jobs. It's the political portrait we always hear: they are risk averse, they are cautious. The ones getting elected are. I don't disagree with what you said. I would just add to it the problem is that where does the feedback loop come from? The strongest feedback comes from the people that provide the juice--i.e., the donors and the ideas. So, if you actually ask where the juice came from in the 2010 election, it came from the Tea Party--the ideas. So, there's a feedback loop is noisy and biased. On the Democratic side it tends to be George Soros and the Left faction, pulls each of the parties further to the right and to the left than you'd expect. So, I think the feedback loops comes there. Plus the fact they are willing on this. Like, the guy from Wisconsin that replaced Dave Obey after Obey's 40-some years in Congress. He is torn on this tax thing because he wants a solution, but he's been threatened by the Tea Party in his district--if he votes for this they'll run a primary opponent. And he's in his first term, so he hasn't built up a base of support that can get him through those primaries. So, the combination of their vulnerability--most of the people who lose are in their first or second term, haven't built up that district-level thing yet. Your explanation about the feedback comes from a more biased source. There's an April electorate and there's a November electorate, and the November electorate is what's not in the feedback loop. Interesting. Of course, a thoughtful politician would anticipate that; and the best ones obviously do. But you raise an interesting point--we've probably talked about this in the past--the classical standard model of political competition and other types of competition when you have two opponents one against the other, they move to the center. This goes back to work of Harold Hotelling: the two ice cream vendors on the beach move to the middle, and that way they get everybody to one side. Same thing is true in politics: move to the center; if you are a Democrat, the left isn't going to vote for a Republican; you move to the right; if you are Republican the left's not going to vote for you anyway. But that doesn't seem to be happening as much; the people move to the extremes. Yet "everybody knows" what you've been implying all along, which is partisanship seems smaller, party identification seems less intense; independents seem more important. Generally that would encourage politicians to move to the center. Why don't they? I think the problem is the United States is the only country that has democracy within the party. If you look at the European countries, they have the Christian Democrats in Germany take on the Socialist Party and the Tories take on Labour in England. But the facts are that you get the nominations through party activists for the district. In the United States you have to win two elections. You have to win a primary election; so in the primary election you are running against other Democrats--or Republicans. That means you have to put your own teams together, raise you own money, get your own campaign manager. So then when you win the primary, you are not going to suddenly turn and say: You guys are all gone; I'm going to get the party people. The unique thing about the United States is this competition within the district has always meant that U.S. Congressmen and Congresswomen have to build up, as do Senators, a primary constituency which will protect them in April. Beginning in the 1970s, as single interest groups started out, Colorado where they didn't like some of the Colorado Democrats, they defeated them in the primary. So, the right and the left in the Democratic party can pull them over to the right because people who run against you in April, doesn't matter if you are popular in November. So, Congressmen and Congresswomen are constantly balancing the two. How do I pick the right spot between? On the Republican side, think pro-life. In California 74% of Republican party-identifiers are pro-choice. Why are so few California Republicans in Congress pro-choice? The answer is because they know if they vote pro-choice or too pro-choice they will gin up a pro-life opponent in the primary. On the Democratic side there's all sorts of issue on race, etc. But the standard argument--I think I've heard it attributed to Richard Nixon but he's certainly not the first person to think or say it--is in the primaries you run to the extreme, and then you run back to the center. Are they not as good at that as they used to be? Is it harder to create a nuanced picture? That nuance is meaning dishonest. I get that; used to be you ran to the right and then got to the middle. You can still do that at the Presidential level; in some way you have to. But, I think what's happened is at the Congressional level, it used to be in the old days you could get a score for a member of Congress. The scores were Americans for Democratic Action (ADA)--that started in 1946. They'd pick 20 issues in a given session and they'd say: Here's the liberal position; and then they'd score you. If you voted with them 19 times, you'd get a 95; if you voted with them 10, you got 50, and so on. There were very few scores. Beginning in the 1970s, all of a sudden the League of Conservation voters, the National Taxpayers' Union--all these happened at about the same time the Congress opened up the process. They decided on open votes. They used to have a vote in Congress where members would stand in the back, line up, and then move through without being recorded. Just to get a sense of where things were. No, you could use that as a final vote. A quiet vote.
18:05I'll give you an example of that. There was a Congressman from San Diego--San Diego has a lot of military people, this was in the 1960s and 1970s before they introduced this openness. He'd always introduce a bill saying: Gee, we need to make all our military pensions cost-of-living adjustable. That was a huge cost, military pensions, plus health care and so on. It would always get killed by the long time Democratic chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. So, the guy had the ability to say: I brought it up and it got killed. But under the new rules it's harder and harder to hide that. If you bring it up like that, the Committee Chair can't kill it any more; there's a vote on it. Seems to me that pushes people to. I remember Gillis Long of Louisiana once saying: How's my Americans for Constitutional Action score? before he went out. He didn't want to have too low a score on that. Which is a conservative group. So members are constantly trying to balance those things. I think since the 1970s this openness in Congress, which everybody thought was a great thing. A great economist, Joseph Schumpeter, in Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy has this great argument about democracy. His view is you should have an election and then for the next four years, no one can talk to Congress. Because they should just go back to the electorate. Because his view is the interest groups will distort the information they have. And that didn't used to be such a problem in the United States, but it actually is now, and Congressmen and women have to try and balance those two things and the pressure from the extremes is harder now than it was. And you are seeing that in the budget, debt ceiling. So, in this debate--let's use this as an example. Hard to really know what's going on of course; it's filtered through media, biases of political spin; but the story as it appears to be is this strange conjunction of preps negotiation, maneuvering, or principle, who knows; but on the one side we have the Senate and the President, both Democratic; the Senate have not put forward a budget and the President has not laid out any kind of detail what his preferred outcome is. The Republicans there's a very vocal minority of the 80 folks, you mentioned before, who seem to be saying: We'll be happy either if the United States semi-defaulted, whatever the actual thing that happens turns out to be on August 2, or massive or at least significant actual cuts. Doesn't seem to be any compromising going on here, the horse trading we would normally hear about. Maybe it's happening and we aren't hearing about it. Those are very difficult positions to compromise on. I think that's what the press focuses on. I'll come back to the present crisis, but in 1990 when George Herbert Walker Bush had made a promise of: Read my lips, no new taxes; but then he agreed to tax increases. He dealt with leadership in the House and the Senate and they put a package together that was x percentage of cuts in spending and x percentage of increases in taxes. What happened was Newt Gingrich didn't like the tax increases, so he led the Republicans in the House against it. Ron Dellums and the Democrats who didn't like the nature of the cuts tried to build an inside-out coalition; got beat by the left and the right. So, then the Senate passed its bill, which was a higher increase in taxes, lower cuts; the House had to deal with the bill and the Democrats got a better bill. And then George Bush signed it, despite his pledge. And because a one-term President. Everybody remembers that. So, I think what John Boehner has done is a couple of things. I think he backed away from the grand, $3-4 trillion thing that was never going to pass in the House. What he's done is he's got a proposal that was not voted on yesterday--they canceled at 6 o'clock. And his proposal has a couple of features: there's $1.2 trillion in cuts but there's a promise within 6 months they'll put a committee together to make $1.8 trillion or so more in cuts. But the more important thing is at the end of 6 months there will be another vote and it will give members of Congress a second chance to vote no on increased expenditures; but the President by simply vetoing it will be able to raise the thing. So, it's kind of a political compromise; from his view. And the difference between his and the Reid plan--at a press conference, he said the rich should pay more, etc. The problem with that is, if that's the case, the Democrats have a majority in the Senate; why don't they just put those increases in? Because they don't have the votes. There are 12 or 13 Democratic Senators, like Nelson running from Nebraska who will not buy that. So the Reid plan essentially a little different; but the Reid plan has no new taxes in it. And it has differences like they plan on spending less on the war. But those are just the details. So, if Boehner can't pass his bill, what happens is the Democrats pass that bill and that goes to the House and they'll not be able to get back, and it will look like 1990. My view is they're not going to let it go bankrupt. The stock market has fallen 5 straight days. The big banks, everybody is saying if you don't do this there are such consequences to doing it. So, they are going to get a deal. I think the worst thing about all this is the 24/7 coverage by the news media who don't really know what's going on. Imagine if you were in a Parliamentary system--you'd be having the same disputes, but it would be worked out within one party. But in the United States you've got divided government; because of the nature of our system it's all in the open. Everything, every little maneuver. Whereas in Japan or Britain that would be going on internally. Recent podcast with Keith Hennessey on some of the details of this.
25:45What I find strange about it is that let's go back to the extreme folks who might be leading the election for their district--they might not be--but these 80 freshmen in the Republican caucus--they seem like they're actually going to not vote for something that doesn't have actual cuts. That's going to make it a lot harder to compromise, because some of these cuts--we're using the word "cuts" like they are cuts, but some of them aren't cuts, as Keith Hennessey pointed out in that podcast; some are cuts from a baseline that assumes a lot of stuff that isn't going to happen, so it's really not a cut; they ignore Medicare issues-they forecast big growth, going to cut from that so it's not really a cut at all. You've got to get the House to compromise on that bill; but those 80-something people aren't going to compromise, they have a lot of power. Or no? They can stop the Boehner plan; but the Boehner plan's weakened, the Democrats have members in the House too. So, when the Senate bill comes down, are there 40-50 Republicans, like Dave Dreier of California, who are going to be moderate enough to say we are not let the country go. So the coalition that back in 1990, how the vote passed in the House was it passed by virtue of a Democrat majority, with some Republicans. So you think that will happen again--moderate Republicans with conservative Democrats. I think they are not going to sit around and say we are going to, because I think the consequences of not raising the debt ceiling are not going to be good. Markets don't like it. We can debate whether that's true, but I'm agnostic about it. Clearly, if you are a member of Congress, you don't want to find out. And clearly the leadership would bear a serious brunt, so they've got an incentive, you are suggesting, to come to some agreement that the President will sign even if he has to hold his nose. Ronald Reagan signed. One of the problems of this, I found out from John Cogan who was Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under Reagan was, in the past the way these things were, if you had $12 trillion in debt, $7 trillion, and you wanted to raise the cap, one way used to be able to do it was take $5 trillion in Social Security and write $2 trillion of it off and put it over there. The cap could be raised that way. Because that's sort of funny money debt anyway. In 1995 they eliminated that prospect. Makes it a lot harder to do; makes it in some sense real numbers. Real numbers by Washington standards. The point is they'll sign it because I think both sides think they have an advantage going into 2012. The President thinks that he can win the centrist voters. Running against the intransigent Republicans. And the Republicans think they can win by virtue of hanging tough on spending. And neither side I think is prepared for the fallout for what will happen if the United States starts defaulting on something. Not paying all of its promises. The U.S. rating, which has been triple-A, will go down; that will make the budget difficulties in the future even harder. So, I just don't see how they can not make a deal. Of course, you are assuming they are rational. You only have to have 218 to get there--216, there's four members, deaths and so on.
30:05Let's look ahead now a little further. Let's first talk some Presidential process. Talk about some specifics of the Republican nominating process, what's changed, and how that affects who gets and edge and who doesn't. The normal procedure for nominations has been the first four primaries are retail. What does that mean? The candidates have to actually go out and meet--every voter in New Hampshire has lunch, dinner, with every candidate at some point. They're small; so the Iowa caucuses, you have to go to the caucuses, talk. Retail--they are not states you can win with big TV campaigns. California would be a terrible state to have retail; you can't have retail there. If California was one of the first four it would just all be TV. So, the idea of the first four--there are 7 or 8 candidates; you get down to two. After that, if you consider 2008, an example, there's Super Tuesday. One big event where you've got a lot of primaries; and that's supposed to decide the winner. Going to be a mix of retail and wholesale, because you can't cover every state. Exactly. There's a lot of strategy there. It's testing on your ability to raise money. But the idea is at the end of that Super Tuesday you've got a candidate, so they don't have to be too far right or too far left; they can get back to the center. And they can't beat each other up till the fall. And what happened with Obama and Hillary Clinton, they carried it on for too long; they couldn't get it. Now the Republicans haven't had as big a problem in getting a winner, as you saw in 2008 with McCain essentially winning, and the reason is Republicans have winner-take-all states. Democrats--I'll give you an example. On Super Tuesday, I think Hillary Clinton ended up with 6-800,000 more votes than Barack Obama, but in terms of electoral college ballots they were dead even. The reason is it's proportional. If you win California 55-45, you get 55-45; so Obama lost on that but he gained a bunch of states that were caucus states, where he was better organized. So the end result of that day was dead even in the electoral college even though he lost by 800,000 votes. Not electoral college; but for the Democratic Convention. So, what happened for the Republicans was they had winner take all. So, if you won by one vote in New Hampshire, by one vote in Florida, you got it all. Now the Republicans have changed that this year. So, with the pressure of everybody trying to move their primaries up and get a say earlier, in February there are going to be four primaries: Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina. Very disparate geographically. All small, all retail politics. Then, other states, Florida and other states trying to push up earlier--if you go into March, under the new Republican rules you have a proportional primary. So, the first four are still winner take all? The first four, it varies state by state. The first four, it doesn't really matter because all you are trying to do is sort out and get to who are the two candidates. Getting rid of the street sweepers and down to the players. But after then, if you move your primary into March, it's proportional. Only in April can you have those things. Still, some states might want to move into March. We don't know the full story yet. If they move into March, it's proportional. That would change the campaign for people, because they'd be campaigning but it wouldn't be decisive. So it could extend the season. If too many move into March, you don't get a big enough winner, so the campaign can extend out and they take each other out. You mean the states haven't decided when their primaries are? No, no, they are still maneuvering. Plenty of time.
34:58In those first four, which could be decisive--it could turn out that someone dominates. But I doubt it. One reason being there's a lot of differences in those states. Certain candidates are going to have an edge.What are the key issues in those states? In Iowa, Romney's not running. Literally. And others are not. Two main competitors in Iowa are Tim Pawlenty and Michele Bachmann from nearby Minnesota. Iowa is a caucus state, so it's small, local meetings, party member. Tends to be dominated by social conservatives; very Christian. Michelle Bachmann's going to clean Pawlenty's clock. It looks like, at this point, but he's campaigning hard there. That could even push his numbers lower. New Hampshire--that is pretty much conceded to Romney. It's close to him; he's ahead in the polls, and moreover New Hampshire's an open primary state and with Obama not going to have any opposition you'll get Democrats coming in and voting in that primary. Nevada is kind of an interesting state. The Democrats put it in because there's a lot of Hispanics and it's a big union state because of Las Vegas and Reno. But the Republicans have it in because it's a big Tea Party state, Western. The big one then is going to be South Carolina. So, if you assume Pawlenty or Bachmann wins Iowa and Romney wins New Hampshire; Nevada's not big enough; but the key is South Carolina. For some time now, whoever won the South Carolina primary won the Republican nomination. And that's where George Bush, in 2000, after he lost to McCain in New Hampshire, came back and won South Carolina and then won. South Carolina is a Republican primary. So Independents can't vote for Republicans. Each state is so complicated; technically the way to think of South Carolina is it's a Republican-only primary. And it's a conservative state. So, it's a combination of economic and social conservatives. So, you've got everybody campaigning pretty hard. So, at the end of those four, who is left? Romney may be because he won New Hampshire and he might be alive. You notice on this debt crisis Romney has said nothing. I think that's pretty smart of him, actually. Michelle Bachmann has said she won't vote for it. She's joining the debate. She's said she's not going to vote for any increase, no matter what the terms are. I think. She's against raising the debt ceiling. I think that's going to appeal to the base she has. So you come out of that with maybe a couple of candidates, Romney, Bachmann. Perry may get in the race. For me it's going to be an interesting election because the best economic and political science models that work going back to about 1888 you have two things you assume. How's the economy doing? You can imagine you've got arguments about that, whether it's the consumer price index, growth of real income, six months before. But whatever it is, the combination of Ray Fair's and the economists at Yale model and Doug Hibbs, the political economist who added guns and butter; and the guns part is how many U.S. troops are abroad at any given point in time. So the two elections that were really hard to explain in the modern era were 1952 and 1968. And the reason is because of Vietnam and Korea. So, when you put those in, the model works pretty well. That model says at this point Barack Obama can expect 46.6% of the vote. Not good. Right. But no one I know believes that. And the reason is, well, I don't think the economy will recover enough to give him on the model a winner. You've got the economic-guns-and-butter model, which has worked very well over historical time with the old maxim in political science, which is: You can't beat somebody with nobody. A good example of that is Pete Wilson, who was Governor of California; his last reelection he had a 33% approval rating. Looks like a lost cause. And he won by approximately 10% over Kathleen Brown, present Governor's sister, who did not run a good campaign. She's perfectly intelligent, charming woman but she wasn't in the campaign. You can get beat. Whoever the Republican is, if it's Bachmann--I don't see how Bachmann can win a national election. Romney, possibly, but he's got a lot of baggage: the old flip-flop. He's going to have a harder time in the primary than people think. I don't know how he's going to play in South Carolina. I guess the other thing I'd say is the fact is that there is bias against Mormons. When we run our experiments, we show 10%-15% of people who say they won't vote for a Mormon for President. That's an issue that's not going away. So, I think the 2012 Presidential election is no given thing. I think the President has seen that he wanted to get to the center; when he moved for the let's get the $3 trillion, $4 trillion in savings; I'm willing to give $3 trillion in cuts, I think that was just his move to say he was willing to compromise, understand spending is a problem, etc. I think Republicans weren't buying it because much of that deal was: oh, we'll raise to 29%, we'll talk about that next year; and secondly, his budget was a straight baseline, didn't take any cuts off, and then he agreed he made a mistake; so he made this speech but never submitted a second budget. So, I think when the Republicans when he came in the game didn't believe it. The combination of those things make this a particularly difficult thing. But his strategy is clear.
42:21Let's go back to the Republican nomination. What strikes me as strange about it, given our earlier conversation, is the front runner is Romney, who on paper is not who you'd think the April Republican base would push for. Bachmann is closer to that, but she's got other problems--lack of experience, too extreme for many people, certainly for many independents. It's surprising to me that no Republican candidate has stepped forward who can hit the President where he is most vulnerable, which is on spending and the economy. Romney has this public image of competency, he likes to sell, but he's got his own health care baggage which the Republican base is very unhappy about. He's got no real economic story of success to sell the way past Governors have, even if they haven't earned it. I thought Mitch Daniels was the best candidate on paper; always issues of campaigning; he's got personal issues so he's out. Rick Perry may be that person, but he's untested. Rick Perry can win. Because he's not Romney or Bachmann. Rick Perry--Texas's deficit is now bigger than California's, because California picked up $11 million in new taxes from these IPOs. So, Perry's got some baggage; not clear he's actually going to run. The best candidates who could go after him, Mitch Daniels, Chris Christie of New Jersey--Daniels dropped out; and Chris Christie I believe just genuinely believes he doesn't know enough to be President yet. He knows about New Jersey; he doesn't know the issues, so I think he's going to continue to deal with New Jersey. He's not going to run. This puts him in a very small group. The number of successful politicians who don't think they know enough. I have met him and actually Bob Grady, Council of Economic Advisers, assures me that that's his view and I trust Bob. Any of his other reasons for not running? I think it's very unlikely. So, I don't see a knight in shining armor on the Republican side riding forth. The question is going to be: If the economy doesn't get better, or it gets worse, is the Republican alternative going to be better? For the Independent, it's going to be the lesser of two evils. And they will decide this a lot. They have for some time. And the guns-and-butter--which will be what's going on in Afghanistan, Libya, etc. and what's going on with the unemployment rate and the debt, whatever fallout there is from the current mess--those are going to be the decisive issues. Do you think health care, other side issues--they are not going to be as salient? I think the big issues--other than how they now play into the new four-letter word in Washington, which is math--that you can't sustain the spending levels that we have, and that means some combination of cuts and probably the tax increases, in whatever form. That could be eliminating the employer deduction on the health care. There's a lot of ways to do that. Good idea. I think the way it's going to come up in the election is jobs. They are going to bang away on the government on why there aren't more jobs. And that's going to be the key issue. And the reason, they are going to claim, is there's too much spending, too much health care; all those sort of things are going to play into that. What will his response be to that? The public response--it's George Bush's problem and we inherited it? That's a hard sell. It's a bad sell, and I don't think that's what they are going to do. I think they are going to run against the Republicans as extremists. They are going to run against the--if it's Michele Bachmann, you can see where the run there is. If it's Mitt Romney, you can see the flip-flopping; the anti-gay union and that sort of thing. The fact that: look at the Republican Party--they want to take away your Social Security benefits. The Ryan plan will. They can't run on the positives that the economy has turned around, so they are going to have to run against Republicans. Could work. Will be incredibly interesting year, I'm sure.
47:40Discussion of some issues you've done a lot of work on: idea of a watershed election, historic realignment in 2008--the election of Barack Obama, which was historic for many reasons, race being the most obvious. A lot of people imagined we were in a new era, post-partisanship; the Republican Party was really in shambles because of the dislike of the President on his way out. A Presidential candidate, John McCain, who had nothing really constructive to say about the central issue of that moment, which was the financial crisis. And one view--shocking how well he did given those two facts--but that didn't happen. 2008 was not a revolution, not a watershed. Talk about times when there have been such elections, why they are rare, and why people tend to overestimate their likelihood. The most recent one was 1932, where--not so recent, but the one you can clearly identify--what happens is at the level of the individual for the Republican Party had been dominant really since the Civil War, with the exception of Woodrow Wilson, who was only elected President because Teddy Roosevelt ran against Taft. And so Wilson was 30% of the vote and then he won reelection in 1916 narrowly. But basically from the Civil War on with the exception of Wilson and Grover Cleveland--who kind of doesn't count because he was more Republican in some ways--the Republicans had dominated. That's a good run, a 70-year run. So, what happened in 1932 was a majority of Americans switched their party affiliation from Republican to Democrat. When the Democrats get in on the key issues of the day--what's to be done about the Depression, will there be an active government? And the government then got into agricultural assistance, social welfare, retirement, planning the economy, Social Security, work projects, CCC. So the question was, before the election: welfare or no welfare? And then when the Democrats won and moreover kept winning, and controlled the Congress and the Presidency for 14 years, till 1946, and then won it back in 1948, the Republicans have to go from no welfare to less welfare. So, the Democrats are the party of more and the Republicans are the party of less. And that's held pretty steady. The closest to a realignment was Ronald Reagan, but he never got the House of Representatives. It wasn't until 1994 that the Congress had--and it wasn't until 2000 that the Republicans had control of the President, House, and Senate. That was a long run for the Democrats. Why hasn't that happened? One, part of the nature of politics is that Congressmen and Congresswomen learn to run apart from the party. They run on the basis of the personal vote. On several papers we've shown that the personal vote doesn't develop until the mid-1960s, probably the 1950s. The personal vote for the representative, as opposed to the party of the person. Prior to 1964, say, the first time we know we can measure this accurately, 60% swing to one party brings that party the President, the House, and the Senate. Post-1964 it doesn't do anything like that. So you can have huge victories for Richard Nixon in 1972, Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1984 because Congressmen run individually. No more coattails. That personal vote, particularly after the South switched away from the Democrats to the Republicans at the presidential level--a lot of Democratic Congressmen hung in, and you have a lot of voting with southern Democrats on Republicans. Ronald Reagan changed things--there was a sorting where prior to the 1960s if you were a liberal, there could be liberal Republicans. Rockefeller branch. Or there could be conservative Democrats. Scoop Jackson. Sorting out process. So now, all the liberals are in the Democratic camp and all the conservatives are in the Republican camp, and that makes things a little more partisan. Not as partisan as the press claims, but that's a different story. So, the bottom line on this is that contemporary elections have not met the criteria because Congressmen learn new tricks. In addition, the American public don't really like this so much, so that over post-WWII period, post-New Deal period, you've seen a steady rise of Independents, a steady rise. Now there's a question in Political Science about what that independence means--leaning Democrat, leaning Republican. However you figure it out, there's a rise in Independents. They want the government to work. They are not concerned about what the solution is, what the balance is. They want things to work. And they were responsible for Clinton's victory in 1992; they were responsible for the Republicans taking the House in 1994; Clinton, 1996. Every Presidential election and major Congressional shift has been determined by which way the Independents move. They moved in 2008--2004 they were with Bush. 2008 they moved against the Republicans and to Obama. 2010 they moved against Obama. So, they are the ones that matter. But they don't vote in primaries. That's the other thing. They split their ticket. They vote one way for President, another way for Congress. And they are increasingly, I believe, disaffected from the political process and recent debt crisis--turns more and more people off.
55:02We hear from time to time talk of a serious third-Party candidate. On the left we've had the Green Party; on the right we have the Tea Party--sort of a third party, kind of not. There's also been talk of a kind of centrist third party in this election--called something like American Happiness, Bloomberg and Joe Lieberman. That would be a party that's fiscally conservative, and socially tolerant--libertarianish but not too far. What do you think the odds of that are? Very small. You think about what political parties are. If you want to start a third party--it's easy to get a third-party candidate for President. John Anderson, Ross Perot, affected the election. Teddy Roosevelt in the past. You can get a popular third party candidate. And Ross Perot did it twice, double digits. George Wallace, Strom Thurmond. Pretty easy to run for the President. Building a party, where you start at the grass roots, house level, that is much harder to do. Couple of reasons--one is you've got to generate the candidates and a lot of money. Not only have to run a primary but as a third-party candidate. And the second thing is the American electoral system, which is first past the post--so suppose you get 20% in the district--it doesn't matter. You are never going to win over the other two. And you have to convince those donors they are not throwing money away, getting nothing for it. And the last thing is--it's easier to take over a party. So, if you are a Tea Partier, it's easier to take over the Republican Party in Nevada than it is to try and start your own party. Because all you have to do is get the right candidate and run him in a primary. And then you have the machinery of the party there. I see prospects for third-party candidates at the Presidential level, but building a third party given the American political system is just too hard to do, I think. You mentioned the personal vote--fascinating idea that Representatives, Senators too, I assume, but especially Representatives--members of Congress in the 1960s started to run as themselves rather than as their party's representative. One of my favorite books of all time, Robert Caro's biography of Lyndon Johnson--Lyndon Johnson's political life is very tied in to the party. Book is stunning portrait of ambition, power, America in the 20th century. But that was a very different hour. This era is very different, post-1960s era. What changed? Was it innovation? Politicians figure something out? Because you are an economist, you always have to have some exogenous variable. Yes, give me one. My view of the exogenous variables are twofold. One of them is polling. Go back to the example of Lyndon Johnson. He worked for the guy who ran the King Ranch. Congressman, he was his legislative assistant. In 1938, he retired--I think he died--and Johnson got a run for the Democratic Party as a Congressman. Stepped down as legislative assistant and ran for Congress. They were worried about his wife. Why? Because she didn't want him to run. The Congressman's wife. Oh, I thought you were worried about Lady Bird. Not Lady Bird. He said his father gave him the best advice. Just tell them you are going to run in the primary. She doesn't want to run in the primary against you. So, he ran in the primary; she said I'm not running; and he wins the seat and holds it. And he was a Roosevelt Democrat. Two things happened. What kind of information would he have about his district? Roosevelt had won his district. Think of Jim Farley calling the party leaders. But polling began in the 1940s and got the 1948 election wrong, but by 1956 my view was there was no Democratic Congressman, or Senator, who did not know that Dwight Eisenhower was going to kick Adlai Stevenson's fanny in the election. So, suddenly you can't run as a Democrat any more. What happened was people began dropping the Democrat. In Chicago's 1st district, Barratt O'Hara--used to have a sign, Barrat O'Hara, Democrat. In 1956 that suddenly became: Barratt O'Hara, Chicago, District 1. He ran a different campaign. Much polling gave them much more information and who was wavering. And the second thing was television, because television--I forget now whether it's a hot or cold medium, but the idea is that with advertising, you can portray a person. A commercial some of your listeners might know is that one of Jimmy Carter in 1976 walking across the peanut crop. In a 30-second shot you can portray the guy as kind, farmer, salt of the earth; and TV commercials. Some of the research shows that in districts where there are TV commercials, a district that's compact, where the TV coverage is useful--so in NYC. So, if you put a commercial on NYC television for someone running for Congress, it's not so great. Television covers 14 Congressional districts. So you are getting 1/14th of the listeners. But in Peoria, IL, where TV covers 90% of the district, you are able to measure some of these and it turns out that the more efficient the district, the higher the personal vote. You can sell yourself vividly, independent of your label as Democrat or Republican. The combination of those two exogenous variables I think broke this electoral system. Which by the way is now changing because of the larg number of Independents.
1:02:57I asked you a year ago about a possible opposition to Obama in a primary, and you said, wisely at the time I thought, that that was stupid question, because there is no way the Democratic Party is going to run an opponent for the first black President of the United States. Which I thought--good point. Not stupid today. I don't think I said stupid. I felt stupid afterwards. There's a lot of opposition to Obama on the left. The right never liked him much. As you said, in the early days, Republicans liked him some; quickly faded. The Democrats appear not to like him nearly as much, particularly the base. Paul Krugman and other prominent pundits decry his lack of whatever it is that day. What do you think? I think it's more likely today. I still don't think the probability is at 50%, because I think as the first African American president, hard. But Bernie Sanders and some other people, Krugman and others, some people in Congress have begun to say we should have some opposition in the primary. The idea is moving him to the left, which I do not think is a good place for him to be running for President. But the odds of his generating somebody other than Ralph Nader today are considerably higher. Now it's nontrivial, maybe .3%. It's growing, not going down. We had that conversation in August 2010, almost the end of a very disappointing summer of recovery, as it's been labeled; but I think most of us figured the recovery has been disappointing but it will start to pick up steam. A year has gone by, it hasn't picked up steam; in fact it looks like it's slowing; unemployment has been stubborn in coming down. If it gets worse between now and February I think he's in big trouble. He could be beaten. If the Republicans have anybody that's reasonable. The more likely he is to get a Democratic opponent, the more likely he is to be beaten. If you think about probably the most analogous situation is 1992, where George H. W. Bush after the Iraq war, even after he passed the tax increase, he still was pretty popular; it was only when the economy started to slide that he lost that popularity. Pat Buchanan, did well against him in New Hampshire; you knew he was in trouble. So if Obama even gets a reputable opponent, that's a bad sign for him. Much higher now. Good question.

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COMMENTS (21 to date)
Robert Kennedy writes:

Nice to get a reality check every now and then on electoral politics. Brady does a nice job of explaining the dynamics of elections and why candidates act the way they do and why we get the results that we get. Bravo for that.

I do get depressed when I hear statements like "...two main competitors in Iowa are Tim Pawlenty and Michele Bachmann..." with no reference whatsoever to Ron Paul. He is just as organized and has just as much fund raising as Bachmann & Pawlenty. And no reference to Gingrich or Santorum or Cain or Huntsman, either. Brady seems as guilty as every other commentator to only focusing on who he thinks is "viable". In July 1991, I don't think anyone thought Bill Clinton was viable.

Unfortunately, he is likely correct that the Republican Party is likely to nominate either Romney or Bachmann or Perry. Still depressing but probably correct.

Doc Merlin writes:

He is incorrect. Texas doesn't have a deficit. It had a projected deficit and the budget was cut to close the deficit.

Justin P writes:

@ Robert Kennedy

"I do get depressed when I hear statements like "...two main competitors in Iowa are Tim Pawlenty and Michele Bachmann..." with no reference whatsoever to Ron Paul."

I haven't listened to the podcast yet, so I don't know if he mentions it or not, but I think that just stems from the bias in the news media. Remember when they said the Ron Paul revolution would sizzle? Well I see a lot of that in the Tea Party, which hasn't really sizzled out yet right?

The news media is pushing Romney, because that's their fav choice, which is why I couldn't vote for Romney. They like him because his nomination would essentially wash away the issue over Obamacare. The debate would be Obamacare vs Romneycare, in which no one wins except Dems.

But really why are do we even listen to the chattering class anyway? The Gell-Mann Amnesia quote comes to mind.

"Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray's case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the "wet streets cause rain" stories. Paper's full of them.
In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know." — Michael Crichton

Justin P writes:

@Doc Merlin

Here' a link for the Texas Deficit.

http://www.nationalreview.com/exchequer/256614/no-paul-krugman-texas-not-broke#

Anotherphil writes:

Russ, I have to write that I've never been disappointed in Econtalk two weeks in a row before, but I am now.

Last week's guest-a doctrinaire statist mistaking her emotions for careful reason (especially the part about her disaste for direct charity).

This week, a political pollster that complains about Michelle Bachmann as extreme and inexperienced. I just checked her resume and quite frankly, its far deeper than the present occupant of the White House. (Both have law degrees, Bachmann also has an LLM and actually practiced as an attorney) and although she's not my favorite, nobody could be as extreme as Obama and his thinly-veiled authoritarian statist.

Please go back to the interesting and substantive guests you've had in the past.

Cowboy Prof writes:

Whoo hoo! Doug Rivers was my methodology and stats prof in grad school!

Nice podcast. You should do more political economy topics, perhaps the political economy of religion, why free markets matter in the religious economy, and what would ever prompt a government to deregulate the religious economy!

Lauren writes:

Hi, Cowboy Prof.

We do have a podcast on the economics of religion with Larry Iannaccone at http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2006/10/the_economics_o_7.html, but I agree that another one could be interesting. That was one of our earliest podcasts.

Dustin Klang writes:

Dr. Roberts,

Especially as one who is trying to teach economics to non-economists, I thought you had a great opportunity to address the common misunderstanding that war is beneficial or even necessary to the economy. As you have said previously "You can't eat bullets." Expressing this narrative through Hazlett's Broken Window or Hayek's idea that human ingenuity is the only resource seems to be one of the most important ideas that one such as yourself is in a unique position to offer.

Not only does Ron Paul express this narrative with frequency and purpose, but also he is the only person I know of who might have fit into the context of your conversation and coherently discusses economics; certainly the only one who has the temerity to mention Hayek's literature or refrain from pandering to nativistic fear-mongering with respect to international trade. Your listeners, myself included, would have benefited from that conversation.

W.E. Heasley writes:

Very interesting episode.

Enjoyed the discussion of the guns and butter theory. Figured Brady would go into the political anger factor theory as well [as unemployment approaches 10% political anger increases exponentially against the presidential incumbent].However, he did not bring up the phenomena.

Lee Jamison writes:

I keep trying to tell, well, the world, basically that the problem in getting proper feedback is in the way the model we present in a polar two-party system fails to provide a proper model for the electorate. WHY are there so many independents? Because the parties clearly represent what you called "the juice", not them.

Independents are NOT at the middle of a linear political continuum. They are people who recognize that the contest between the political parties inexorably pulls BOTH parties toward the "centralized control" end of a second dimension neither of the really corporately-oriented parties can see. That dimension is between "centralized control" and "individual freedom" and could, on a two-dimensional graph be charted at a right angle to the usual "government[corporate]" vs. "for-profit[corporate]" dimension that is the standard fare of received wisdom about American politics.

The thing is, I think you can chart all kinds of issues separately on such a chart and you'll find both parties well separated from the general public.

I've a note, accessible on Facebook that includes an illustration of this concept.
http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=286315722048

xian writes:

at the end, think i do know what brady did indeed not say...

kinda wonder what mesquita is thinking...good recall guest.

this was a good one.

Cowboy Prof writes:

Hi Lauren,

I do know about the Iannaccone podcast (he's a good friend of mine), but he does the economics of religion in that podcast. He doesn't examine the political economy of religion, which gets into why governments would want to regulate (state church or repression) or deregulate (religious liberty) religion. Now that's what I'm talking about!

mj writes:

Michael Bloomberg aint no libertarian. He is the one that outlawed cooking in restaurants with certain oils, tried to cut out salt, no smoking in bars parks etc... He is not a republican, conservative, or libertarian in any way. He is a democrat in sheep clothes. The only thing good about him is the way he continued the general policing policies of his predecessors.
Oh and he is the one who overturned the term limits -that the people themselves voted for. Regardless of what you believe about term limits, that is wrong. (He is also the one who would have none of Guiliani extending his term by a few months after 9/11-total hypocrite)
He is no better than all the other politicians who believe that they know how to run your life better than you can yourself!
I want a president who believes in no helping out business nor is anti-business. I want a president who recognizes that people themselves know what is best for them.

Betsy Albaugh writes:

Dear Russ,

Your podcasts and books have been my econ classroom, and I'm grateful for your interviews on wide-ranging topics.

Your discussion with Professor Brady has motivated me to write because of an assumption that seems ludicrous in view of your economics, particularly your careful work on moral hazard and the role of the federal government in the financial crisis of 08. You and Professor Brady both characterize the position of those who don't want to raise the debt ceiling or accede to more spending as extreme and right wing. You both carelessly default to a mythical middle as the reasonable place where legislators should be, as if the spending level hasn't dramatically increased in the last six years.


You and Professor Brady seem to ignore the compelling context of the debate, which is fiscal conservatism vs. unsustainable spending. Which position is extreme and endangers the economic and social well-being of the country?

Fiscal conservatives, aware of the danger of default, presented presented legislation to prioritize spending and make sure that default would not happen. The legislation was not brought to the House floor, and the administration threatened to withhold social security payments without a deal. Which players are extreme?


Most of the first term class in both houses of Congress, and the 630 seats that Republicans won in state legislatures, including governorhsips, represents not an extreme view but an awareness that the government is too big. Voters who delve to the next level of understanding know that the budget processes and the level of spending allow huge intervention into the economy, creating distortions of every decision by every player, and undermining the rule of law. The recall election failure in WI should move Professor Brady's assessment of the positions of new members of Congress out of the category of another ordinary instance of mandate overreach.

Austrian economics and the tea party position of ficasl conservatism, free markets and limited government are consonant. It would be a pleasure to hear you describe propenents of these values not as extreme, but as correct.

Sincerely yours,

Betsy Albaugh

Joey Donuts writes:

Professor Brady's analysis of the 2010 elections suffers from confirmation bias. He has an hypothesis that pro health care reform candidates lost because of their voting record on health care. He tested this hypothesis by "controlling" for a district's political leanings using its 2008 vote on Obama - McCain. He
did not look for data that would refute the hypothesis. Once the
data demonstrated that, in fact, an overwhelming number of those who voted for Obama Care lost. I'm almost certain that other commonalities exist among the candidates that could also explain their losses.
I have another hypothesis that could explain many of the outcomes in 2010 and also, if not refuted, drastically change conservative interpretations of the 2010 elections. In particular it would change the perception that the voters expressed a huge backlash against Obama Care and/or other Obama policies. My hypothesis rises from the 2008 senatorial election in Georgia. In that election, even though the state went for McCain, Saxby Chamblis did not receive 50% of the vote in the initial election. However, Chamblis overwhelmed his Democrat opponent in the ensuing run-off. This happened because most (80% to 90%) of the African-Americans and Hispanic voters that voted overwhelmingly for Obama and for the Democrat ticket didn't show in the run-off.
I suspect that many first term Democrat congressional representatives found themselves in similar circumstances to Chamblis in the 2010 elections. Some won in districtts that went for McCain but may have won with a plurality or a very small majority due to the block voting of Hispanics and Afro-Americans. Others won in districts carried by Obama, but may have won with smaller majorities, or even only pluralities due to block voting as well. Those block voters may not have shown up in 2010, but I suspect they'll be back in 2012. This means of course, that we may see a repeat of 2008. We may see this repeat in 2008 even if independents reject Obama. Many independents may simply not vote because they reject the Republican as much as they reject Obama.
I'm sure Brady and or other readers here may have the data to test this hypothesis. I would certainly like to see it discussed as a real possibility.

Russ Roberts writes:

Betsy Albaugh,

About a month before August 2, the alleged "deadline" when the US would be unable to meet its obligations, I gave a talk on the economy and in the Q and A, was asked about the debt ceiling. I said I was against increasing it, we had spent way too much already and it was time to act like grownups and start leaving closer if not within our means. My suggestion was that rather than raise the ceiling, we should cut spending.

I was told by a number of people that under the time constraints, it would be very difficult to cut spending. Opposing an increase at that point meant advocating some failure of the US to meet its obligations. Maybe not default, but maybe something similar in how it would be perceived by the world.

It seemed to me then, that the better approach would be to accept a short-term (3-4 month?) increase in the ceiling in return for real and dramatic spending cuts. We didn't get that of course. If we had instead refused to raise the debt ceiling, would things have turned out better? Maybe. Hard to say. The politics would be very different if the failure to raise it increased interest rates. Would that have made it easier to cut spending? I don't know. But I take your point and very much appreciate the way you expressed it.

Mort Dubois writes:

Russ: don't let the haters spoil your day. I thought that this was an excellent podcast. It's probably impossible to have truly unbiased reporting on political issues, but this seemed reasonably close to the ideal to me. I hope you have Mr. Brady back for future sessions, preferably more than once in the upcoming election cycle. Would particularly like to hear from him in the middle of the primaries.

Thanks again for this and all of your other outstanding podcasts.

Mort

Artful Monk writes:

Brady’s analysis is a little lazy. Using CNN exit poll data, those who identified as Dem, Rep & Ind in 2008 were 39, 32 & 29% respectively. However, in 2010 those ratios changed to 35, 35 & 29%, respectively. Hence, the assertion that independents increased is false.

Dem’s lost in 2010 because the voter turnout for Dems in those districts was significantly lower than in 2008. In absolute terms relative to 2008, in those districts that changed party, Republicans had ~ the same turnout. However, for Dems there was 40% less turnout relative to 2008. If ifs and buts were candies & nuts it would always be X'Mas but if half of those voters who didn’t show up in 2010 vs. 2008 cast a ballot and we applied the same 2010 exit polling data to those uncast ballots; then the Democrats retain the House.

Question becomes why did Dems not show up? My guess is those districts were Populist where they vote Republican for the President as that position can influence conservative social policies & vote Dem for the House as they are can influence more liberal economic policies such as healthcare & climate change. Since, 41 of the 67 congressman who lost voted against either bill, those Dem voters were angry & decided to show their anger by not voting. I imagine in 2012 with the President on the ballot, turnout will increase & Dems will offer up more Liberal candidates & take back the House.

Joey Donuts writes:

Artful Monk:

Your information partially supports my position. I don't know of a direct way to test your hypothesis that the no show voters had enough anger to prevent their voting. However, we might learn more about the no shows if we made a precinct by precinct comparison of the now shows and related that to population statistics from the census. We might find common household characteristics among the no shows.

That information wouldn't refute your anger hypothesis, but it might make you stretch to explain why those household would have anger about the candidates.

Artful Monk writes:

If the data were easily available one could peel the onion by precinct to get to the answer. If it was anger against those who voted against the healthcare & climate bill, one can argue that it was too late to affect the Dem primary to get a candidate who mirrored their views. Hence through creative destruction Dem voters sent a market signal to future candidates to get in line.

Using CNN exit polling data (I imagine there is convergence among most polls) the probability that a Dem vote in 2008 votes Dem to Rep in 2010 is ratio of 73 to 27%. Conversely, the probability that a Rep vote in 2008, votes Dem to Rep in 2010 is ratio of 22 to 78%. Also the President’s approval ratings mirror the exit polls so when applied to general population of nonvoters, voter turnout impacted the elections adversely for Dems.

Could it be because of anger against those who voted against the healthcare or Climate change bill, maybe? Or were Dems lazy in that they underestimated the market forces of their opponents i.e. Reps had strong demand for their candidates to get control. Looking at the special elections since the March budget battle cuts this year, Reps all lost ground (CA-36, NY-26, WS state legislatures). It appears they got the Dems attention & I imagine that there will be an increased demand for Dems in the next election to bring long run equilibrium to the system. In that sense, Brady is right in that there is a market mechanism for politics & politicians have a feedback loop for their policies.

Although, it makes one wonder with an efficient market for politicians (who influence fiscal policy & rule of law) & the increasing demand for US debt through Treasuries; is the free market conveying the message that central planners are the most efficient mechanism for allocating capital? I think I just had an out of body experience!

Jim Bryan writes:

You guys seem to be disappointed that Christie isn't running. As part of the republican base, I would be happier with a Perry or Palin. I understand the elect ability issues.... I don't want a me too candidate, I saw McCain as Obama-lite. I want a contrast and I want a candidate that can actually speak in complete sentences! Personally, I think the presidential races is part personality contest. As usual enjoyed the podcast!

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