Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Karl Rove can't change Republican voters

By Frank Moraes 

Nate Silver wrote a very interesting article that goes right along with something I've been thinking: "New Rove Group Could Backfire on G.O.P." He goes into a lot of detail, but basically his argument is that lack of money is not the reason that establishment candidates lost primaries. This ought to go without saying; by definition the establishment candidates are going to have more money. Still, it is surprising just how big the difference is. Of the 23 races he looked at, the median establishment candidate funding was $3 million compared to the median "outsider" candidate funding of a bit less than $400,000 -- a 7.5 fold advantage for the establishment candidates.

There is one overwhelming reason that this funding is a bad idea: the optics. The sad truth of the Tea Party people is that they think of themselves as anti-establishment even while all of their policy preferences are elitist. "We've got to stop those establishment politicians from being so mean to those billionaires!" So as a result, the more an "establishment" candidate is pushed via the media, the more the base will rebel.

He notes that there is a weak correlation between campaign contributions and winning. But as Ezra Klein has written a lot about (so much so that I can't find a link!) the causation is probably reversed. When people see that a candidate is likely to win, they contribute more. So that isn't probably that big a deal, if it is an issue at all. What's more important is that marginal cash expenditures are less and less valuable. Thus: the first $100,000 a candidate spends is far more valuable than the fortieth.

What this all means is that the Republicans are likely to go on nominating poor candidates. This will happen as long as the Republican base is kept radicalized by Fox News and hate radio. And truly, I don't see how this will change any time soon. Liberals are open to change by definition. What's more, liberals are open to facts. Conservatives? I think it is hopeless as long as the Republican Party continues to not be routed.

(Cross-posted at Frankly Curious.)

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