Silly Political Analysis of the Day
Matthew Dowd asks: What happens in an election when two candidates who are each unelectable run against each other in the fall?
Matthew Dowd asks: Romney and Obama: What If Two Unelectable Candidates Square Off in 2012?
What happens in an election when two candidates who are each unelectable run against each other in the fall? We are about to test that proposition.
He bases this proposition on the following numbers:
Romney is now down to his lowest favorability rating ever among the key voting group of independents. In the latest ABC News polling, 51 percent of independents rate Romney unfavorably and only 23 percent favorably – a whopping net negative rating of 28 percentage points. A candidate in this territory can’t win in a normal general election.
President Obama also faces bleak prospects. His approval rating (which history shows is a pretty good indicator of the vote he would draw on Election Day) is 42% among independent voters. That is a number that wouldn’t win a president re-election in any regular time. Add to that low consumer confidence numbers, high unemployment, and the large percentage of people who say the country’s headed in the wrong direction, and you wouldn’t put much money on the incumbent.
Ok, I understand the numbers in question and and why they are problematic for their respective candidates. However, there is a difference between “problematic” and “unelectable.” First, no major party nominee is truly “unelectable” and certainly, by definition, an incumbent president has already been elected once, making the “unelectable” claim nonsensical by definition. Really, the issue is competiveness, which is always a mix of what strengths and weaknesses a given candidate brings to the race and the quality of the opponent,
Now, I understand the basic notion that Dowd is getting at here: both candidates would enter the election with important weaknesses (not exactly a forceful insight). However, surely all this means is that we should expect a competitive campaign if Romney is nominated, yes? Or, as a general proposition does this not simply point out that when two candidates appear to be relatively evenly matched (whether it be weak v. weak or strong v. strong) that this should contribute to the likelihood of a close race. On balance, fairly uninteresting stuff.
Dowd concludes with:
In a race between two theoretically unelectable candidates, anything is possible. Could a third party candidate emerge? Yes. Could Romney unify the Republicans? Very possible. Could Obama get a lift from an improving economy? Sure.
We won’t know any of those answers for quite a while, but it is sure going to be fun to watch this contest unfold.
Well, as far as conclusions go, this is basically “we have to see how things unfold.”
Really, Dowd’s whole premise is flawed: if two candidates who might be deemed “unelectable” if they faced a strong opponent both become rather clearly electable when they face one another. Beyond that, I find the notion that any major party candidate (let alone, as noted above, an incumbent president) is “unelectable” to be silly on its face. Examples of truly “unelectable” candidates would include: Ralph Nader, David Duke, Mike Gravel, Pat Paulsen, and Gary Johnson (and for varying reasons).
I will say that I think that the GOP’s best chance is to nominate Romney because Gingrich would be an even weaker candidate. I also think that Obama does have the edge in a weak v. weak contest because he is the sitting president. Both, however, are electable candidates.