What the sophisticates thought in September 2008

by Andrew Gelman on February 13, 2012 · 5 comments

in Political science

James Fallows writes, “Try to think back to when sophisticated people thought that Sarah Palin was the key to Republican victory.”

All I can say is, Fallows wasn’t hanging out with the right sort of sophisticates!

Overall, Fallows’s article seems fine to me; I was just struck by that offhand remark about Palin. I have no doubt that Fallows knew sophisticated people who thought that Palin was the key to Republican victory, but there’s no way that these were political scientists. The sophisticated political scientists knew better. Don’t get me wrong—-there’s lots of stuff we are naive about, but this sort of thing, we have a pretty good understanding of.

{ 5 comments }

xpostfactoid February 13, 2012 at 11:00 pm

The funny thing is that Fallows himself predicted that it would be all but impossible for Palin to transform herself into a credible candidate on such short notice. He said this on 8/29/08 (sorry no link):

Let’s assume that Sarah Palin is exactly as smart and disciplined as Barack Obama. But instead of the year and a half of nonstop campaigning he has behind him, and Joe Biden’s even longer toughening-up process, she comes into the most intense period of the highest stakes campaign with absolutely zero warmup or preparation. If she has ever addressed an international issue, there’s no evidence of it in internet-land.

The smartest person in the world could not prepare quickly enough to know the pitfalls, and to sound confident while doing so, on all the issues she will be forced to address. This is long before she gets to a debate with Biden; it’s what the press is going to start out looking for.

So the prediction is: unavoidable gaffes. The challenge for the McCain-Palin campaign is to find some way to defuse them ahead of time, since Socrates, Machiavelli, and Clausewitz reincarnated would themselves make errors in her situation. And the challenge for Democrats is to lead people to think, What if she were in charge?, without being bullies about it

Gonz0law February 14, 2012 at 3:37 am

I’m having trouble thinking of any sophisticate who thought Palin was the key to victory. Wasn’t there even a GOP-leaning pundit caught on mic saying “that’s it, they’ve lost the race” when McCain announced her?

Sean Matthews February 14, 2012 at 10:26 am

More interesting would be to know what political scientists think at the moment about

Romney Santorum

and

[republican nominee] Obama

Any comments?

Andrew Gelman February 14, 2012 at 10:43 am

Sean:

For Romney vs. Santorum, see here. In short, primaries are hard to predict. Larry Bartels can tell you more.

For Republican vs. Obama, see here. In short, the economy is important.

Sean Matthews February 14, 2012 at 10:27 am

There should be connecting arrows in the last post, but I discover, too late, that this website does not support them.

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