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July 12, 2012

Jay Cost: You Know, 94% of the Decision-Making In This Election Is Already Finished

I'm making up the "94%," but that's his thrust, if not his number.

I'm thinking about the saying, regarding war: "Amateurs talk about tactics, professionals talk about logistics."

While this to-and-fro provides blog fodder and lots of opportunities for TV Talking Heads to say things like "This is a good move" and "This move, not so much," how much do campaigns matter?

They matter some, of course. But how much?

Not all that much, Cost thinks.

Basically, the vote choice begins with the broadest consideration of American politics – i.e. which party you affiliate with – and then on to how you think the country is doing. Together, those two factors likely determine whether you think the incumbent president has done a good job.

All of that happens before the campaign has even begun. This serves as the backdrop for how you respond to the campaign...

The decisive variable here is your evaluation of the president. That will determine how persuasive one side or the other has to be to get your vote. And notice that the above picture includes the net campaign effects. In other words, what is the end result when the two sides deploy their hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising?

Campaigns are important, but that does not mean they are decisive. The reason is that the two sides usually neutralize the other – both sides tend to be equally well-funded, their campaign strategists, media mavens, and other specialists tend to be equally skillful, and so on. Thus, their net effect tends to be pretty minimal.

He says he's not looking at head-to-head numbers. He says he's just looking at the president's job approval rating, because presidents tend to get just that share of the vote. (Like, duh, if you don't approve of the president's job performance, odds are you're voting for his rival.)

And Obama continues to get around 47% approval, which is just above the basement, guaranteed your-base-will-deliver-this-much-to-you level a Democrat can have.

Obama's a dick, is what I'm trying to say.

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posted by Ace at 11:10 AM

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