Wednesday, August 21, 2013

On the Other Hand...

There's very little to say right now about the 2016 general election. I'm not going to say that there's no point at looking at changing demographics, or early financial mobilization, or whatever, but almost all of what you're going to read in 2013 and 2014 about the 2016 general election is going to be useless.

In particular, speculation about the electoral college is mostly a waste of time. So are the specific comparisons of how this or that candidate would do in the general election; even to the extent that candidates can matter, which is limited, it's very unlikely that we can say very much about how Chris Christie would do compared with Marco Rubio, or how Hillary Clinton would do compared with any of the alternatives. At least I'm not aware of any evidence that there's much of anything we can say at this point. It's also surely the case that most of the events of 2013 are going to be long forgotten by November 2016; not only the gaffes, but even substantial things such as votes in Congress and how laws are implemented. Well, not all of them will be forgotten, but few will have any effect on the 2016 general election vote. ACA implementation is a terribly important story, but will it change votes in 2016? Probably not. And probably not in any way that's easy to predict from where we sit now.

Again: that's not true of the nomination contests. Because, remember, the choice between Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Scott Walker is a very difficult choice for most people who will be making that choice; the choice between (say) Cruz and Clinton, or between Chris Christie and Amy Klobuchar, would be a very easy choice for almost everyone.

So, yeah, go ahead and focus on the nomination contests...but it really is too early to be talking about the 2016 general election.


  1. I disagree somewhat about electoral college speculation. Yes, it's too early to be gaming out maps or talking about party floors and ceilings. But it was around this point in the 2008 cycle that I recall hearing Democrats talking about making Colorado and Virginia competitive, based largely on what was going on in those states at those times. So I would say that analysis of demographic and other trends that could put heretofore safe states in play or take formerly swing states out of contention could be worth paying some attention to.

  2. Chris G: It is true that since 2000 the Electoral College has been remarkably stable and one could generally guess in 2001, 2005, or 2009 which states would be swing states in 2004, 2008, and 2012. Even the 2008 recession didn't change that too much; the only states Obama carried that year which would not have been considered possible swing states in 2005 were Indiana and maybe North Carolina.

    But you can never tell when a radical shift in patterns might occur. For example, in 1989 while people might have guessed that the Democrats might win Illinois, California, and Pennsylvania in 1992 if things went well (since Dukakis came close in all of them) I doubt that they would have guessed that the Democrats would carry Georgia, Kentucky, Nevada, New Hampshire, or New Jersey--all of which GHW Bush had carried by substantially more than his national percentage.

    1. Pre-1992 Electoral maps seem totally bizarro to me, especially 1976. Very hard to map onto any kind of ideological spectrum I'm aware of.


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