Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Real vs. Reality

My Plum Line post today is a fun piece (if I do say so myself) about the "party actor" track vs. the "reality show" track in GOP presidential politics. I think it holds up; let me know if you disagree.

One of the implications, or perhaps one of the things we've learned, is that practically any candidate can get a polling surge at this stage of the process, but those surges have very little to do with the actual competition for the nomination. Thus the current Herman Cain polling triumph, analyzed in depth and I think correctly by Mark Blumenthal.

...or, at least, it seems as if any candidate can get a polling surge. Rick Santorum hasn't had one yet, but I don't see any reason he couldn't. Almost anyone can.

Except one.

Ron Paul.

Apparently, he's immune from both real and reality success, beyond his consistent 10% or whatever it is.


  1. Well, not just Ron Paul is incapable of a polling surge, as Mitt Romney is to be included in that grouping as well. It's a function of having been running for president for many years. People know Romney and Paul, so they cannot surge by definition. At best, they might be second choices, but their problem is that they'll be second choice for only a few, and thus they have little upgrowth potential... and thus little surge potential. What you see is what you get... and a late sale... maybe.

  2. And actually, we know historically that these polling surges have PLENTY to do with the actual competition for the nomination. If the guy surges, and it takes, he gets the nomination.

    Cain is surging right now, and we just have to see whether it takes. If it does, he's got a good shot at the nomination. This guy definitely has a ton of ceiling/headroom to grow into.

  3. Ron Paul is saving his surge for election day ;-)

  4. I think it's that people don't know most of these guys and what they stand for. They do know Ron Paul and the things his son says just add to what they know. Right now the generic anybody can beat Obama but when it gets down to the issues these guys really stand for, then the polls will mean something.

  5. @Jonathan, it's great to write fun pieces. Yours works (the end is very fun), but you're holding back too much. I compared Ron Paul's policies to a huge renovation project.

    My layman's advice is let your imagination go even further, so not just a reality show, but Project Runway. They look great coming down the runway, then they turn, and you see the Michele Bachmann got the truth totally mangled in her zipper, etc. (I'm not a pro, so this freedom may actually torpedo your career. Maybe you should check with your lawyer, but that will probably completely drain the fun.)

    @Couves -- LOL. Are you sure you're not a Paulista?

  6. The first Anon post makes a good point: Paul and Romney can't go far because they're well known. But, Romney is, I think, able to capture the nomination. He's actually running up there in 2nd choice votes, too; I saw him at 12% in 2nd choices.
    The real question is: is that Romney's ceiling? Is 25 + 12 = 37% Romney's hard ceiling? I'm not sure. I don't think I've seen ANY polls that ask respondents to list the candidates they would NEVER consider voting for (in the primary, at least). I'd like to see those data. That would tell us if Romney hits a 40% ceiling or not. Right now, it sure looks like he has a 40% ceiling.

    As for Paul, his views are such anathema to much of the party, that yeah, his ceiling is about 15%. He's running for the GOP nomination and wants to bring all the troops home, and never wanted them to go in the first place, and then fire the troops. That's just not a popular position in the GOP (or even that popular among Dems or the US as a whole).

  7. FWIW, I googled it, and apparently Gallup asked the "consider voting for" question back in April. Romney got 26% of the GOP saying they would definitely not vote for him.
    And then Gallup asked that question again last month....only 10% say that now! (for comparison's sake, 19% say they wouldn't vote for Perry!)

    So, the question has been asked, and apparently, it doesn't seem to get answered very honestly, because I kinda doubt Romney has changed many Republicans' minds about him in the last 4 months....

  8. Moderatepoli: You could say that. Actually, I think Gary Johnson would make a great President. But whatever the outcome, let me be the first to say it:

    Ron Paul 2016!

  9. Governor Christie lumbered up to the registration desk for the Republican 2012 primary, where he informed the pleasant lady on the other side of his intention to seek the Republican nomination. She smiled and asked, chirpily, "Which path: traditional or reality show?"

    Christie thought for a moment, considering the huge time advantage Romney (and maybe even Perry) had for the traditional route, so he proudly declared "Reality show, please!"

    The woman fidgeted nervously for a second or two, then she excused herself, walked behind a curtain and emerged with none other than Ryan Seacrest.

    Seacrest had a thin smile. "So Governor Christie," he said, "I hear you'd like the reality show route to the nomination?"

    "Yes indeed!" Christie bellowed. "I'm from Jersey, like the Situation!"

    Seacrest's smile tightened visibly. "True, true, Governor, but don't forget that the camera makes love to the Situation. With you - well, the camera seriously considers going back to school to learn to be a tape recorder. I'm sorry, but the reality show route is not available to you".

    At that point there was some heated debate, a folding chair or two was broken, but Seacrest would not relent. Realizing the challenge ahead going the traditional route, Christie bowed out of the 2012 campaign, calling the Nutrisystem folks on the way home to prepare for 2016 (the reality show version).

  10. Matt @ 7:56, they (presumably) wouldn't have come to like Romney, warmed to him, so much as resigned themselves to the impossibility of all the others.

  11. Matt Jarvis, 37% is plenty in a race with more than two candidates. That's what McCain got in New Hampshire in 2008, winning him that primary. He went on to tally only 46.5% of primary votes overall in becoming the nominee.

    As you've noticed, the "definitely won't vote for" number you see in polls at this point is very soft. People choose from among the candidates they're given, so the questions are, (a) does Romney get a plurality when he's up against two or more candidates (so far, yes), and (b) where do voters go once their preferred candidates drop out? That's sort of like asking who their second choice is, but not exactly, because actual voters don't get to pick second choices from the whole field -- just from whomever's left, which (in this case) is most likely to be either Perry or Romney. That is, a current Gingrich backer in a late-primary state might pick Santorum as second choice and Bachmann as third, but Santorum and Bachmann won't actually be there to vote for when the time comes; so that voter is actually going to have to choose between the arguably more conservative candidate and the arguably more electable one. Polls now can't tell us what they're likely to do at that point.

    Assuming the primaries start with Romney still leading, the real question is whether Perry inherits most of the potential voters for minor candidates (Cain, Bachmann, Santorum, Gingrich, etc.) once those clowns have climbed back into the Volkswagen. If he does, he wins. But if Romney can split those voters with Perry, then he wins. My guess is that's what will happen.

  12. The funny thing about this distinction is what killed Perry isn't party actors laughing at him. It was his peformance in the debates for the peanut gallery.

  13. Jonathan, off topic; Congressman Frank Wolf questioned the connections of Grover Norquist, and the wisdom of letting him be the Republican arbiter on tax policy; and I hoped you might add some context:

    h/t to Pete Davis at Capital Gains and Games

  14. When you think about this thread in light of the recent Sinhababu discussion, it would seem like the "reality tv" element of the Republican primary is an indictment of tribal, identity-politics coming from the Right. If so, that seems like a fair criticism to me.

    This is a little interesting in light of the big political news of the day, the governorship won by West Virginia Democrat Earl Ray Tomblin. Earl Ray. Could an 'Earl Ray' win a statewide election in Massachusetts? Are there even any registered Democrats in Massachusetts who go by names like 'Earl Ray'? One could argue that the lack of Earl Rays in Massachusetts is a meaningless regional difference, such as perhaps a dialect, but my impression is that this is a bit more fraught than something like a dialect.

    I may have missed something in Sinhababu and Jonathan's discussion, as I am quite certain that both are a lot smarter than I, but between the reality show element of right-wing politics, and the regional identity politics implied by Appalachian democrats named "Earl Ray", I think you could pretty much make the case that tribalism is alive and well - maybe even dominant - in American politics.


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