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“I discovered that being a President is like riding a tiger. A man has to keep on riding or be swallowed.” Harry S. Truman

Book Review: Unreasonable Men

Unreasonable Men by Michael Wolraich

Michael Wolraich's Unreasonable Men is an immensely readable account of the Republican Party's split leading up to the 1912 presidential election.

Top Quotes from the 2012 Presidential Election

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama on stage at the foreign policy presidential debate. October 22, 2012.

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama on stage at the foreign policy presidential debate. October 22, 2012. Photo by Irina Lagunina, courtesy of Voice of America, PD.

It’s the last day of the year. To celebrate, we decided to recap what we think are the top fifteen quotes from the 2012 presidential election. Wishing all our readers the best for a peaceful and prosperous 2013.

Top Candidate Quotes:

1. Mitt Romney, speaking to donors during a private fundraising dinner:

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.

2. Barack Obama, ‘You didn’t build that’ comment that was used effectively by Republicans (unedited):

There are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that.

3. Mitt Romney’s comment on women during a presidential debate that set the Internet ablaze with memes galore. Referring to his time as Massachusetts governor:

I had the chance to pull together a cabinet, and all the applicants seemed to be men. I went to a number of women’s groups and said, ‘Can you help us find folks?’ and they brought us whole binders full of women.

4. Mitt Romney on what he would cut in spending during the first presidential debate:

What things would I cut from spending? Well, first of all, I will eliminate all programs by this test, if they don't pass it: Is the program so critical it's worth borrowing money from China to pay for it? And if not, I'll get rid of it. Obamacare's on my list. ... I'm sorry, Jim, I'm going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I'm going to stop other things. I like PBS, I love Big Bird. Actually like you, too. But I'm not going to -- I'm not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for. That's number one.

5. Barack Obama to Mitt Romney in the second presidential debate:

I don’t look at my pension. It’s not as big as yours so it doesn’t take as long.

The Biggest Myths of the 2012 Election

As part of the Miller Center’s Recasting Presidential History conference in October, the History News Network interviewed participants on presidential history. Following the conference, Dick Walsh, editor of the History News Network, conducted a post-election analysis interview with Ira Chernus, Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado. The full video chat is available on the Miller Center’s website (click here to watch), but in this post, we survey key insights on the election offered by Prof. Chernus.

In the video chat, Chernus discussed the key myths told during the campaign. To clarify, what Chernus means when he says myths are “the stories that are told to create a sense of identity to make sense out of the American experience. They are a mixture of fiction and truth.” In 2012, the dominant myth that resonated was a story that hasn’t been seen on the national scene in quite awhile – the story of the gap between the super rich and the rest of us. The story first began to surface with the Occupy Movement in 2011. It’s been a long time since wealth and income inequality has been a story in the mass media. Obama began to speak about the difficulties of the middle class and the privileges of the rich about a year before the election. It is, of course, a story with deep historical roots, and has been used in the past by Franklin D. Roosevelt, as well as earlier progressive and populist movements. According to Chernus, the Obama campaign made very effective use of this myth to create a story about Romney as a vulture venture capitalist. Of course in politics you want to define your opponent before your opponent has a chance to define you. Obama defined himself as a champion of the middle class fighting against a predatory capitalist who would do to the whole nation what he had done to the workers of the companies bought out by Bain Capital.

The Romney campaign made some effort to rebut this myth, but for the most part their strategy was not to engage. When you rebut, you go on the defensive and reinforce what your opponent says about you. Instead, the Romney campaign’s effort was to define Obama as incompetent, and someone who had destroyed the economy and who didn’t know how to get us out of the recession. The Romney team went back to Reagan’s “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?”  That is also a traditional story in American politics. In the spring and summer, most pundits thought it would be the story of the election. The intervening months since then have shown that was too simplistic an analysis. The idea that political fortunes are determined by the economy is a long-standing story, but Chernus hopes it will be harder to make that case in the future because it is too simple – there are too many other variables interacting in elections.

The South’s New Electoral Fault Line?

Barack Obama addressing a crowd at the Virginia Beach Convention Center in 2008.

Barack Obama addressing a crowd at the Virginia Beach Convention Center in 2008. Photo by SyalAntilles. CC-SA.

In a new article, Douglas A. Blackmon, contributing editor at The Washington Post and chair and host of the Miller Center Forum, analyzes the role of the South in the 2012 election. According to Blackmon, President Obama’s strong finish in the South presents a surprising story and underscores another challenge to the GOP, which has relied on Southern whites as their base of national support. In the 2012 election, Obama outperformed every Democratic nominee since Carter in Southern coastal states and significantly narrowed past gaps between Democratic and Republican candidates. Furthermore, the 2012 election revealed a deepening voting divide between blacks and whites. For example, Blackmon cites exit polls in Mississippi where nearly nine of ten white voters cast their ballot for Mitt Romney and 96 percent of black voters cast their ballots for Obama.  Differences in turnout rates amongst black and whites in Southern states also contributed to Obama’s strong finish. While Southern whites voted overwhelmingly for Romney, far fewer went to the polls in at least six Southern states on Election Day compared to 2008. Meanwhile, black voters came out in droves, contradicting expectations of Republican pollsters. The results reveal that the Republican Party will need to address the concerns of African Americans, in addition to Hispanics and other minorities if it wishes to be competitive in future elections.

Read the full article by Douglas A. Blackmon here.

Virginia’s Role as a Demographic Bellweather in the Presidential Election

Barack Obama addressing a crowd at the Virginia Beach Convention Center in 2008.

Barack Obama addressing a crowd at the Virginia Beach Convention Center in 2008. Photo by SyalAntilles. CC-SA.

Is Virginia becoming a “blue state”? Although Virginians voted solidly Republican in every presidential election from 1968 through 2004, voters in the state backed Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. As 2012 exit polling has demonstrated, the demographics of Obama’s coalition played an important role in his reelection. According to University of Virginia experts,  demographic shifts in Virginia also played a role in delivering the state to the Democrats in the last two elections.

Miller Center Faculty Member and J. Wilson Newman Professor of Governance and chair of the Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics David Leblang had this to say:

The 2012 and 2008 elections have been really interesting in terms of the power of demography over ideology.

As a former resident of Colorado, I witnessed that state transition from being a red state in 2000 to purple and then blue in 2008 and 2012. Virginia is going through the same shift. In both cases, the shift is driven by what look like small blue pockets on national county-by-county election maps. Those blue pockets look small geographically, but they are densely populated areas, like Denver and the Front Range cities of Colorado, and the Northern Virginia exurban counties of Loudoun and Prince William.

What do the people look like in those blue pockets? In general, they are younger, more highly skilled, less white and less male than rest of the state. So that is the challenge for the Republican Party – how to appeal to those groups.

People become increasingly conservative as they get older, while younger people tend to be more liberal for a whole number of reasons. So how do Republicans package an emphasis on fiscal responsibility in a way that appeals to younger voters who are not yet wealthy enough to benefit from the type of tax breaks that Romney emphasized in this campaign? They have work to do, just like the Democrats did after the 2000 and 2004 elections.

A Grueling Duel to the End - Now Let the Votes Be Counted

Early voting center at Bauer Drive Community Recreation Center in Rockville, Maryland. October 28, 2012. Photo by Ben Schumin

Early voting center at Bauer Drive Community Recreation Center in Rockville, Maryland. October 28, 2012. Photo by Ben Schumin. CC-BY-SA-3.0.

President Barack Obama and former Gov. Mitt Romney—along with their myriad surrogates, advisors and official and unofficial campaign wingmen—worked deep in the final night of the contentious 2012 campaign spinning predictions for the outcome of today’s election, preparing for the blame game that will follow bitter disappointment certain for millions who vote for the losing candidate, and making a frantic final scramble for votes.

For months, this race was described as a grueling duel between candidates who each were viewed less than enthusiastically by even their own base of supporters—a grinding battle of attrition by two flawed and not-so-inspiring men. Yet in the last days and hours of the campaign, something very different appeared to be happening. As Romney, Obama and their allies raced through a whirlwind of appearances across the key battleground states, the campaign transformed as they were by raucous crowds of often staggering size.

Romney closed his day in New Hampshire before more than 12,000 ecstatic supporters. Earlier, the Republican made aswift visit to Bucks County, Pennsylvania, part of a last ditch effort to put in play the 20 electoral votes held by a state long assumed to be solidly in the Democratic column. He was greeted by a crowd of 30,000, according to local reporters.

Obama finished the night in Iowa, in an emotional gathering before 20,000 during which, in the style of his late-campaign partner, former President Bill Clinton, he reportedly shed a single tear.  Earlier, the president spoke to 20,000 people in Madison, Wisconsin. That was on the heels of a Virginia rally late Saturday with a crowd of more than 24,000 people. (Notably, the other most recent ex-president, Republican George W. Bush, remained to the last hour as he has been throughout this election year—completely invisible.)

On both sides of the race, advocates for the candidates made dramatic claims that the huge gatherings of supporters and other signs demonstrated that the electorate was breaking their direction—that victory was certain.  Michael Barone, an editorial writer for the conservative Washington Examiner, pronounced that Romney was on his way to a stunning 315 electoral vote victory. That tally included a sweep of not just both Florida and Virginia (where polls have shown the candidate with razor thin leads), but also in most states where surveys put him meaningfully behind—Ohio, Colorado, Iowa, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Election’s Eve: Our Roundup of Some of the Key Issues

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama on stage at the foreign policy presidential debate. October 22, 2012.

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama on stage at the foreign policy presidential debate. October 22, 2012. Photo by Irina Lagunina, courtesy of Voice of America, PD.

Election’s Eve is finally upon us. Even after the longest presidential campaign in history, the two candidates and their running mates are scheduled to hold 14 events across eight states in the final hours. The current (as of 2 pm) Real Clear Politics average of twelve polls shows President Obama at 48.5 percent, with Mitt Romney closely following at 48.1 percent. Some have maintained this election is too close to call. Nate Silver puts the odds at 86 percent chance that President Obama will win the Electoral College. This morning, Larry Sabato and the Crystal Ball predicted that President Obama would likely win a second term. Here at Riding the Tiger, we aren’t the prediction business, but we have been following the election closely throughout year and weighing in with historical analysis and commentary. In this post, we highlight some of the more salient issues in the election, as well as some issues the candidates didn’t address but we wish they had.

The Agony of Victory: Behind the Scenes on Election Night

President Lyndon B. Johnson at the 1964 presidential election night with reporters.

President Lyndon B. Johnson at the 1964 presidential election night with reporters. The president shows the Victory-Sign following his landslide election victory against republican candidate Barry Goldwater. November 3, 1964. Photo by Cecil Stoughton, PD.

President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney have campaigned formally for the better part of a year. When this election is over, the total amount spent by their campaigns or on their behalf will approach $2 billion. They have traveled with few reprieves, been coached for debates, and endured attacks from television advertising (which has been 87% negative overall). And, once it is finished, Obama or Romney will have to move past it—and presumably, govern.

With Election Day just one week away, we wondered how previous candidates have reacted and felt to the culmination of the campaign season. We dug into our archives here at the Miller Center and found phone conversations that provide a glimpse of Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon on the eve of victory. Given the years LBJ and Nixon would endure following their success on election night, we are reminded that being up on the mountain and riding the tiger are each their own agony. Impending victory did not bring instant relief for Johnson and Nixon. Instead, election night conversations centered on the nerve of the opponent, the absence of complete victory, and one “sore hip.” This profoundly humanizing fact sheds light on the impending winner of November 6th, 2012.

Responder-in-Chief: Presidential Leadership and Disaster Politics

President Lyndon B. Johnson addresses members of the press while deplaning in New Orleans.

President Lyndon B. Johnson addresses members of the press while deplaning in New Orleans to survey damage done by Hurricane Betsy. September 10, 1965. Photo by Yoichi R. Okamoto. Courtesy LBJ Library, PD.

Hurricane Sandy is threatening millions on the East Coast and dominating the headlines and airwaves. With just eight days until the election, Sandy is also impacting the presidential campaign. Both presidential campaigns have canceled planned stops and are urging people in affected states to take precautions. Some may find the change in tone, even if forced by disaster, a relief. Rather than bashing each other non-stop, the candidates are more focused on demonstrating leadership in the face of a disaster, showing concern and empathizing with those in harm’s way. Hurricane Sandy is no doubt a test of leadership for both President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. However, as the head of government, the President will be particularly challenged with the responsibility for how the government responds. However, the President has not always held the role of “Responder-in-Chief.”

The greater transformation of the public’s expectation for presidential response to disasters is rooted more broadly in the development of the permanent campaign. Amidst the height of the presidential campaign in 1972, Richard Nixon was criticized for his response to Hurricane Agnes that affected the Atlantic states, especially Pennsylvania, New York and Northern Virginia. Pennsylvania Democratic Governor Milton Shapp, Democratic Presidential Candidate George McGovern and others seized on the opportunity to sharply criticize Nixon for what they called the government’s incompetent response. Nixon moved quickly to mitigate the damage, but was only able to do so when he took the reins and choreographed the government’s response from the White House. If not for the campaign season and the politicization of the government’s response, we may not have seen a broader expansion of the President’s role of “Responder-in-Chief.”

The (Imperfect) Value of the Debates

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama on stage at the first presidential debate. October 4, 2012.

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama on stage at the first presidential debate. October 4, 2012. Photo courtesy of Voice of America, PD.

On Sunday, October 14, a special edition of ABC’s This Week, produced with the Miller Center, focused on the question, "Do presidential debates change elections?" Today’s guest post provides a scholarly response to the question.        

The September 26, 1960, edition of the Washington Post did not even mention that night’s scheduled debate between presidential candidates John F. Kennedy, the Democratic senator from Massachusetts, and Vice President Richard Nixon, the Republican nominee.  The three broadcast networks’ evening news programs barely mentioned the event.

            Surprise: the audience for the first Kennedy-Nixon debate—the first debate in history between two candidates for president—was the largest for a political event in human history up to that time.  More than 60 million saw it on television and millions more heard it on the radio.  About 100 million saw or heard at least one of the four debates.

            And then . . . nothing.  No debates when President Lyndon B. Johnson ran against Arizona senator Barry Goldwater in 1964.  None when Nixon faced Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey and an independent candidate, Gov. George Wallace of Alabama, in 1968.  Or when Nixon ran for reelection against Sen. George McGovern of South Dakota in 1972.

            Only in 1976 did the stars align once again and debates occur.  The main reason: for the first time since 1960, both candidates—President Gerald Ford, who was trailing in the polls, and Gov. Jimmy Carter, who like all challengers wanted a stage on which he could face the incumbent as an equal—saw an advantage in debating.  Nineteen seventy-six also brought an innovation: the debate between Ford’s running mate, Sen. Robert Dole of Kansas, and Carter’s vice presidential nominee, Minnesota senator Walter Mondale.  Not a bad idea, considering that fourteen vice presidents—nearly one third of them—have gone on to become president.

The Perils of Life Above the Fray

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama on stage at the first presidential debate. October 4, 2012.

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama on stage at the first presidential debate. October 4, 2012. Photo courtesy of Voice of America, PD.

Today’s post by Tony Lucadamo inaugurates a new partnership between Riding the Tiger and the Virginia Policy Review.

In watching CNN’s documentary, “Obama Revealed: The Man, The President,” one word continually recurred throughout: cool. On the program, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel talks about how cool the President is under pressure. Secretary of State Clinton discusses how cool her former adversary was in the run-up to Bin Laden’s assassination.

Yet, over the course of the program the word takes on a new connotation. Is the President perhaps, too cool? Has he grown overly aloof in his first term in office? Is he too professorial for his own good? Perhaps there is no longer a place for great mediators in the rough and tumble of today’s political environment.

Certainly, that was not the case four years ago. Lofty rhetoric shot then-Senator Obama from obscurity into prominence. Once in the running, his coolness helped unseat the vaunted Clinton machine. Candidate Obama spoke of hope and change while aides readied daggers behind their collective cloaks. Conversely, Hillary Clinton waited too long to go negative. When she did, it mostly came from her husband. It thus sounded disjointed and did not connect with the electorate.

That was part of Obama’s genius in the 2008 election. In an age of adversarial politics, candidate Obama kept his reputation squeaky clean. It confounded the opposition. If they attacked him they appeared petty. When they sat still, Obama’s soaring rhetoric lifted him higher and higher in the polls.

Will the Presidential Debates Matter?

Debate with President Gerald Ford (Foreign and Defense Issues) (October 6, 1976) Jimmy Carter

The first of three presidential debates is set for one week from today at the University of Denver (a fourth debate is scheduled between the vice presidential candidates). As we reported in last week’s Friday Roundup, the first debate will focus largely on the economy, with three of the six fifteen-minute segments dedicated to the economy, while the other three will focus on "health care," "the role of government," and "governing.” Will these debates really matter for the outcome in November? Probably not. But, at least a third of American households will tune in to root on their candidate.

As it happens, I’ve been reading a terrific new book just released this month – The Timeline of Presidential Elections by Robert S. Erikson and Christopher Wlezien –  that delves into the elements of the presidential campaign timeline that matter for changing preferences in the aggregate vote. Using aggregate polling data, the authors document that voter intentions do change over the course of presidential campaigns. However, voter preferences are more volatile in some election years than others. Not surprisingly, party conventions play a major role in shuffling the electorate's vote choices and it is around convention time that voter preferences are the most volatile. Conventions thus do a good job of getting voter’s attention sufficiently enough to change minds. But preferences harden nearly every year following the party conventions, with fewer voters changing their minds in the fall general campaign season.

Following the conventions, the next big campaign event is usually the presidential debates. Unlike conventions, however, numerous political scientists have shown that the presidential debates do not matter and do not change voter preferences. Detailed studies of individual debates show that, at most, polls swing only one to three points in some of the more salient debates where one of the candidates out-performs the other, such as the 1980 debate between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan (two points for Reagan, who was already in the lead); the 1988 debate between George H.W. Bush and Michael Dukakis (one point to Bush, who was already in the lead); the 1992 debate between Bush and Bill Clinton (probably cost Bush two points); and Al Gore’s endless signing in the debate with George W. Bush (about two to three points to Bush). Of these, the only debate that could have been consequential to the election outcome was the Gore v. Bush debate.

Top 7 Picks of Nuclear Campaign Ads: What’s your favorite?

President John F. Kennedy Addresses the Nation on the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, July 26, 1963.

Forty-nine years ago today, President John F. Kennedy addressed the nation to announce that the United States and the Soviet Union had concluded negotiations on a limited nuclear test ban treaty. President Kennedy told the nation that the treaty was a “shaft of light cut into the darkness” of tense relations between the two countries. He called the treaty “a step towards reduced world tension and broader areas of agreement,” “a step towards freeing the world from the fears and dangers of radioactive fallout,” and “a step toward preventing the spread of nuclear weapons to nations not now possessing them.” Kennedy had taken a strong position on the treaty in the 1960 presidential election and envisioned it as a step toward disarmament.

Particularly during the Cold War, nuclear weapons played a prominent role among issues in presidential campaigns. In light of the anniversary, we've picked seven campaign ads that highlight the role of presidential leadership on nuclear weapons issues in past campaigns. Take a look and tell us what your favorite ad is or point out a great one we missed!

  1. "Football/Peace," Eisenhower, 1956. This ad was presented to “thinking voters, regardless of party affiliation." Eisenhower tells the public:

We witness today in the power of nuclear weapons a new and deadly dimension to the ancient horror of war. Humanity has now achieved, for the first time in its history, the power to end its history. This truth must guide our every deed. It makes world disarmament a necessity of world life. For I repeat again this simple declaration: the only way to win World War III is to prevent it.

  1. "Peace Little Girl (Daisy)," Johnson, 1964. This ad is perhaps one of the most famous campaign ads, juxtaposing a scene of a little girl happily picking petals off of a flower (actually a black-eyed Susan), and an ominous countdown to a nuclear explosion. The implication of the ad was that Senator Barry Goldwater would be reckless in foreign affairs.
  2. "Bomb (Nuclear Treaty)," Humphrey, 1968. This ad juxtaposes an image of a nuclear weapon detonation with the candidates positions on the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The ad notes that Richard Nixon is “in no hurry to pass it,” while Hubert Humphrey supports it now, “as do the eighty countries who have already signed it.” The ad concludes: “Let's stop the spread of the bomb, now. Humphrey: There is no alternative.”  In another ad from the 1968 election, a narrator asks a man what has Nixon done? “Nixon, Nixon... Well, the bomb, the nuclear bomb! No, that was Humphrey's idea to stop testing the bomb.”
  3. "Flipflop," Carter, 1980. Carter reminds the nation of his “deep commitment to controlling the proliferation of nuclear weapons,” while Reagan flip-flopped his position.
  4. In "Arms Control 5," the Mondale campaign in this 1984 election ad refers back to President Kennedy’s leadership on the partial test ban. Mondale tells the public:

I don't believe this administration understands how most Americans feel about arms control. We know that if those bombs go off, that's probably the end, it's over. We're the first generation to have the capacity to destroy all life. And that's why this is not just another problem--it's THE problem. I've been involved in every arms control fight over twenty years. I know what I'm doing. I've dealt with the Soviets. I've worked with our friends. I know how to get arms control. We must have that kind of leadership in the White House.

  1. "Crisis B," Bush, 1992. By the 1990s, campaign ads reflected a shift in the debate over nuclear weapons. The focus shifted from the need for arms control between the powers that had weapons to preventing terrorists from acquiring nuclear weapons.
  2. "2013," McCain, 2008. If elected president, by 2013, John McCain will have “REDUCED” the nuclear terror threat.

Beware Fundraising Graphs

Obama Vs Romney. Photo Courtsesy Malwack, CC BY-SA.

Obama Vs Romney. Photo Courtsesy Malwack, CC BY-SA.

On Monday, Aaron Blake at The Fix presented what they called “the second most important chart of the 2012 election.” The chart graphed fundraising by the campaigns of President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney from January to June of this year. Blake asserted that the chart “paints another potentially grim picture for President Obama, who was outraised by $35 million in June.” The chart also didn’t include any money raised by the super PACs, where Romney has the clear advantage. While there is no doubt that Romney has the clear fundraising advantage in this election, the implicit argument of Blake’s chart – that Obama will be disadvantaged electorally because of lower fundraising levels – is questionable. For example, in a paper that tried to isolate the effect of spending in campaigns, Economist Steve Levitt found:

When a candidate doubled their spending, holding everything else constant, they only got an extra one percent of the popular vote. It’s the same if you cut your spending in half, you only lose one percent of the popular vote. So we’re talking about really large swings in campaign spending with almost trivial changes in the vote.

Fundraising might (and that’s a big MIGHT) matter for the candidates’ ability to air ads in key states, but the effect of ads on the outcome is still questionable. As John Sides noted yesterday:

Campaign ads can have an effect, even in presidential races.  However, three caveats are important here, which speak to how one should follow the ads.  First, the effect of ads seems to emerge when one side is outspending the other by a significant margin.  How much of a margin is hard to say; let’s take 2-1 as a rough estimate, which corresponds to the apparently consequential imbalance in Bush and Gore ads in battleground states right before the 2000 election.  I’m not sure either Romney or Obama will muster that kind of advantage, even with the independent spending taken into account.  TBD.

Second, the effect of ads seems to dissipate quickly, even within a week (see point #3).  So you may not need to think about the effects of ads for another 3+ months.   In fact, let’s shout that: FOR ANOTHER 3+ MONTHS.  This notion that you have to advertise early to “define” the candidate or the opposition is folklore.  Maybe there is some truth to that, but the truly rigorous studies have not identified such an effect, but have identified rapid decay.

Third, whether any effect of ads actually affects the outcome is a real question.  It may be that the net effect of ads only slightly widens the winner’s margin of victory, without actually making the difference between winning and losing.

As I have argued previously on RTT, one of the keys to a successful campaign is the candidates’ ability to assemble and mobilize a winning coalition of interest groups and voters. The goal of fundraising should be to support these efforts, and candidate success will depend more upon organizing than fundraising alone. I would assert that the Obama campaign has so far been unable to repeat its successful online and on-the-ground grassroots organization of the 2008 campaign, at least in part because of the embrace by President Obama and his campaign of a more partisan approach since the 2010 election. And this may matter more than being out-fundraised by Romney. Second, political science studies have shown that while campaigns help voters learn about the economy or the party positions, campaigns matter only under certain conditions. For example, Kevin Arceneaux (gated article) has argued that some voters learn more from campaigns than others. Arceneauz shows that campaigns matter more for voters with low political sophistication and who receive information from the parties. Furthermore, voters draw more on their long-standing political identities, including party identification, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and religion. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, as repeated political science studies have demonstrated, how voters feel about the state of the economy is likely to be the greatest predictor of who wins the White House come November because it underlies voter evaluations of the candidates.