Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The status quo election

They used to say that presidential elections were "about the economy, stupid."  If this last one was, why didn't Obama suffer an historic defeat?  Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan cites two focus groups to explain the anomaly:
Many things would have propelled Mr. Obama to victory, but one would be a simple bias toward stability, toward what already is. People are anxious, not as hopeful as they were. Two memories. One was a late-summer focus group of mothers who shop at Wal-Mart WMT +0.24% . One asked, paraphrasing, "If we pick Romney, does that mean we have to start over again?" Meaning, we've had all this drama since 2008, will that mean we're back at the beginning of the crash and have to dig out all over again? The other is a young working mother in Brooklyn, a member of an evangelical church, who told me 10 days ago her friends had just started going for Mr. Obama. Why? "People are afraid of change right now." [Emph. added]
In other words, the election was in fact about the economy and the voters thought that Obama was the safer choice.  In the midst of the worst economic recovery since the Great Depression, this indicates a massive failure on the part of the Romney campaign to get its message out.  This might be because, at every step along the way, the Romney campaign seemed to speak in tepid focus-group-tested phrases.  They didn't inspire voters.  In the end, 1.3 million fewer people voted for Romney than for McCain.  If Republicans are going to win next time, the candidate will need to be able to articulate a reason to vote for him that is both simpler and clearer.

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