Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Arlen Specter's possible nomination loss is huge news today -- see the NYT story and the WaPo story.  I think it's fair to say that it's attracted far more attention then Robert Bennett's possible nomination loss did before the fact.  Why?  Here are some possibilities:

  1. Party-switching makes Specter big news.
  2. Democratic nomination fights are inherently bigger news than GOP nomination fights.
  3. Majority-party nomination fights are inherently bigger news than minority-party nomination fights.
  4. Specter has had a more important Senate career than Bennett.
  5. Specter is unusually visible because of his role on the Judiciary Committee and SCOTUS nominations.
  6. Specter ran for president for twenty minutes once.
  7. PA is a more important state than UT.
  8. PA is closer than UT to NY and DC.
  9. Primaries are easier to understand and explain than caucuses.
  10. Primaries are easier for reporters to cover than caucuses.
  11. Specter's challenger is more famous than either of Bennett's challengers.
  12. PA will have a competitive general election, UT won't.
  13. Specter is a showhorse, Bennett is a workhorse.
  14. Reporters think that Jews are normal, but LDS are weird.
  15. In some way not covered above, the Specter challenge is actually more important than the Bennett challenge.

My money is on explanations 5, 8, 10, and 13.  What do you think?


  1. 16. By the time Bennett lost, it was a foregone conclusion. Until recently, Specter was expected to win. Reporters write stories about events that surprise them.
    17. Senior Senators have more national clout than Junior Senators.

  2. 1, 8, 10, 12, 13, 16, and 7 (understood as "important = purple"

  3. I am going with omnivore's #16 and citing how Scott Brown changed everything (but really didn't) as my evidence.

  4. I don't know, folks...#16 seems like a bit of a cheat, to me. Yes, approaching the state convention, it seemed fairly -- but not totally -- certain, but there could have been a ton of coverage just before the lower-level conventions (caucuses? I don't remember). Perhaps it's something about the way the contest developed, but I think you're all really talking about either #9 or #10, not #16.

  5. I'll go with a modified #9 -- caucuses are also harder to predict. Yes, there were suggestions that Bennett might go down, but that population is much harder to survey in advance, whereas we actually have a good idea what PA's primary electorate will look like. I also like the Jew/Mormon theory.

  6. I don't know. The absolutely zero attention that has been paid to Mollohan in WV suggests that 2, 3, 8, 9, 10, or 14 can't be very true. I suppose it's possible that nobody cares about Mollohan because he's a lowly representative, but special elections in NY-20 and -23 got a fair amount of attention.

    The WV-01 election didn't even get mentioned (to my knowledge) by Talking Points Memo before the fact, and they're usually so good about these things.

  7. Also, this casts doubt on Omnivore43's reason #16. I don't think anybody expected Mollohan to lose his primary.

  8. The difference between elections and a caucus is key in my opinion. Elections are very public processes that involve lots of public appeals by campaigns (ads, rallies, etc.) and the opportunity for useful polling (and thus, a nice news peg). The die was cast for Bennett at Utah's precinct conventions, which are usually a major snooze-fest and little covered. The "campaign" is more person-to-person, and while polling was done on the convention, most did not consider it that reliable (what with the in house bargaining done at the convention itself). I guess this is part of #9, but it's also #17 in my opinion.


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