Friday, October 5, 2012

Q Day 3: Clinton/Tsongas?

I'm not sure why, but Ron E. asks:
What do you think would have been the election results in 1992 if, say, Paul Tsongas had won the Democratic nomination? You can choose whether you think Ross Perot would still have run under that scenario or not.
OK, I do like this question.

To begin with, you can never get into a politician's head, but generally I'd say that as far as I know Perot was motivated by his ego and his hatred of George H.W. Bush, so nothing there. On the other hand, as Steve Kornacki would note Perot didn't really affect the outcome.

As far as Tsongas...I've probably mentioned this before, but I consider him one of the most dishonest candidates ever. That's not really relevant, but I always like to repeat it (I don't know that he knew for a fact that he was dying, but I don't think he was honest about the situation).

I don't know...I tend to believe that out-party candidates make little difference. I'd definitely say that Bob Kerrey would have probably done just as well as Bill Clinton did. Tsongas? I don't know; it's so unlikely that it's hard to imagine what a nomination-winning Tsongas would have looked like. I guess what I'd say is that I'm open to the idea that just from candidate campaigning quality I'm open to the idea that Clinton could have done a couple of points better than Tsongas. They would presumably have been about the same in terms of perception of their ideology -- which does matter, and could have made Tom Harkin a couple of points worse -- but for the rest of it you have to figure that they're about as big a spread as you could get on electioneering skill, no? So call that a couple of percentage points in November, but then remember that a Tsongas who could actually be nominated would be better at that stuff than real Tsongas was, and so never mind.

(Okay, Tsongas had ideological/issue reasons for not getting the Democratic nomination, too. It's a good reminder that the last loser standing isn't always the one who came second-closest to winning the nomination -- Tsongas and Jerry Brown in 1992, probably McCain in 2000, Santorum this year).

9 comments:

  1. Not really a Question Day-caliber question, but following up on your closing parenthetical: if Santorum wasn't second-closest to winning the nomination this year, who would you say was? Perry? (I guess no matter how you look at it, whoever ended up second-closest really didn't come very close anyway....)

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    1. Perry. Or you can make a case for Pawlenty.

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  2. You might be interested in my post a decade ago at http://groups.google.com/group/soc.history.what-if/msg/5d4e14ea978af913

    Today I think I was a little too pessimistic about Tsongas's chances, but I still think he would have had a hard time carrying the southern and border states Clinton did, and that he wold do best in areas like New England that Clinton carried anyway.

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    1. Even if he loses all the southern states Clinton won (Georgia, Arkansas, Tennessee, Louisiana), plus border state Kentucky (I don't think it makes sense to assume a Democrat in 92 would have lost West Virginia, which had just gone to Dukakis), that's still a convenient win for the Democrat.

      In addition to the South, you'd also have to flip Ohio, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Montana, Colorado, and Nevada to eke out a very narrow win.

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  3. I was trying to get a sense of how far you would go with fundamentals determinism of Presidential elections. I do think fundamentals matter a great deal. Even Clinton wouldn't have beaten Reagan in '84 for instance. I was surprised in '92 how easily primary voters were willing to look past the draft dodging, womanizing, and pot smoking bombs that exploded on Clinton before the NH primary. In some alternate reality, maybe voters don't give him his self-declared comeback and his campaign fizzles out. Tsongas or Kerrey wins the nomination. Would either have won all the Southern states Clinton ended up winning? It seems pretty unlikely to me especially for Tsongas. The election could have been significantly closer with a good possibility of Bush winning.

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    1. To a lot of younger voters, especially boomers, draft-dodging, some recreational sex, and pot-smoking aren't huge scandals. Maybe people are now somewhat more concerned about sexual issues now, partly because of Clinton misbehavior in the Oval Office and all the anguish that ensued. A bit of drug-taking is no big deal still, and draft-dodging is so common among a large cohort that we couldn't find enough non-draft-dodgers to elect.

      Not a major issue, but I did want to comment on it.

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  4. I did a couple of diaries on where Clinton overperformed relative to his national margin and Dukakis' numbers (not the best baseline but it's what I had) and I think that where Clinton really improved was in SoCal, South Florida, and places like that. The WV districts had below average Clinton-Dukakis swings (and there's also evidence that Perot took basically even from the two parties almost everywhere).

    Maybe those areas would have trended R even more under Tsongas or Kerrey, but let's not overrate personality and image.

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    1. If anyone's interested:

      http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/09/10/1129352/-Clinton-s-strengths-and-Democratic-trends-accounting-for-Perot-A-national-equation-and-map-for-1992

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  5. A couple of facts: 1. Tsongas did not expect his cancer to recur. 2. Tsongas ran reluctantly, announcing his candidacy only after asking others, like Kerrey to run. 3. After dropping out, Tsongas met with Perot in Hartford to discuss a Perot/Tsongas ticket. 4. Tsongas refused to be considered for a Clinton/Tsongas ticket.

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