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February 15, 2011


Brendan and Nate Silver agree that candidate quality will only have a limited impact. Brendan focuses on the importance of economic conditions. Silver says, "the identity of the opposition candidate only matters within a fairly narrow interval (when the president’s approval rating is between roughly 40 percent and 50 percent)."

The figures used by Brendan and Nate Silver are objective, available and reliable. However, mathematical formulas do not constitute candidate strength/weakness IMHO, nor are they fully adequate to measure strengty/weakness. Unfortunately, better measures are difficult, because they involved subjective judgments.

Take Bob Dole. Regardless of his popularity/unpopularity numbers, most of us Republicans believed going in that he was a weak candidate, which he turned out to be. OTOH Dwight Eisenhower was so obviously a strong candidate in 1952 that both parties wanted to run him as their candidate. He turned out to be just as unbeateable as the experts thought he would be.

It's true that we've sometimes been surprised. Bill Clinton got the nomination after supposedly stronger candidates chose not to challenge George H. W. Bush. Obviously Clinton turned out to be a very strong candidate.

Reagan's strength surprised some national observers in 1980. IMHO they shouldn't have been surprised. If they had paid more attention to his record as CA gubinatorial candidate and Governor, they would have realized that he'd be a strong candidate for President.

I don't think the Republicans have a strong candidate right now. Furthermore, they have two particularly weak ones with a good chance to win the nomionation: Palin and Huckabee. IMHO the Republicans might well lose the 2012 race because of candidate quality.

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