Saturday, July 07, 2012

Generic Candidates

(Editorial cartoon by Jim Morin / Miami Herald (July 6, 2012) and featured at McClatchy DC. Click on image to enlarge and then please return.)

No, it's not another post on the Higgs Boson particle, just another post on the presidential campaigns. Like I said on July 2,, we've hit the dog days a little earlier than I would have anticipated. In that post I suggested that the whole thing had become boring and predictable because "both candidates have failed to persuade the electorate of their qualifications because neither has a vision of what it will take to cure what ails us." Things haven't changed in the last five days.

David Lauter suggested that both candidates are playing it close to the vest because they each have become generic candidates in an article he wrote for the Los Angeles Times, which further suggests that neither side's supporters are terribly happy with the way things are playing out.

In his critique of Mitt Romney's campaign, William Kristol, the editor of the conservative Weekly Standard, noted that over the last five elections, Republicans presidential candidates have averaged 44.5% of the popular vote.

A quick check of the statistics shows that over the same period, Democratic presidential candidates have averaged 48.4%. (The remaining 7.1% went to third-party candidates, most notably Ross Perot in 1992 and Ralph Nader in 2000).

Now take a look at Gallup's tracking poll -- Obama 48%, Romney 44%. In other words, as of this week, the two candidates are each drawing pretty much exactly the vote that the average candidate of his party has drawn over the last two decades. They are, in other words, acting as generics -- representing the massed partisan armies on either side of America's political divide.

At least the GOP regulars are trying to do something about it. Republican held states have rammed through laws requiring official state identification cards for voters. This is a clear attempt at vote suppression of groups which traditionally vote Democratic. The Justice Department has filed suit against these laws in a couple of states, and liberal groups have done likewise in the rest, but the election is beginning to loom. That lead Obama is obviously counting on to bring him another four years could easily evaporate.

Further, the latest job report is a dismal one. The country as a whole is still at an unemployment rate of 8.2%. In some states, like California and Michigan, the rate is even higher. The economy is failing to improve for most people and that means the economy is once again the focus of the campaign. Yet Obama has yet to speak in any kind of specific terms what he plans to do to fix things. Romney isn't any better (cutting business taxes and regulations isn't really a plan).

Both men actually are simply generic candidates. If you stop to think about it, I suppose it makes sense. After all, both candidates and their respective parties appear to be in the hip pockets of the same people.

I'm beginning to wonder if I'm getting too old for all of this.



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