Thursday, September 4, 2008

Divide and Lose?

The standard intuition in political science about candidate policy positions is based on the median voter model. The idea is simple - the extremists will always vote for you so to get more than 50% of the vote you have to woo the middle and adopt a more centrist position. If you include turnout in the calculations and extremism encourages turnout then you might move a little to the extreme and not locate exactly in the middle.

Hispanics are lost to the Republicans this year because of the immigration reform debacle and of course African-Americans are a totally lost cause. That leaves working-class white men and women and I guess the Palin choice was meant to get them. And if this is a "change" election, she certainly represent a change. Plus she's pro-life as is McCain so that might help turnout. So far, so good.

But then the execution of the convention has been entirely about giving red-meat to the base. All the stupid attacks on Obama, no mention of the economy and the hack-handed attempts to paint Palin as experienced are just turn-offs for the middle. Add to that the lies about her reform credentials and I think this was just a terrible convention for the voters at large. Even W. understood he had to pretend to be a "compassionate conservative" to get the swing voters. And McCain had a much better shot at them than Bush because he might genuinely appeal to the middle. But in his attempt to get the base excited to turn out, he may have blown the whole thing. Maybe this is all wishful thinking and race trumps everything? I don't know.

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