New E-Chapter of The Gamble Available (It’s Free!)

by John Sides on January 24, 2013 · 8 comments

in Campaigns and elections,The Gamble 2012

As regular readers know, Lynn Vavreck and I are writing a book about the 2012 presidential campaign called The Gamble.  (I would like to note, by way of preface, that we got to the gambling metaphor well before Mark Halperin and John Heileman decided on Double Down: Game Change 2012.  We they picking from this list, perchance?)

In cooperation with Princeton University Press, Lynn and I have been serializing chapters—the first two of which are here and here.  We’ve been gratified for the attention those chapters have received—such as from James Surowiecki at The New Yorker and Scott McLemee at Inside Higher Ed.  Lynn and I have had some great conversations about the book at Heath Brown’s podcast, The Takeaway, the Kudzu Vine, Britannica, and VoxEU.  Andy’s gracious comments are here.

We’re pleased to announce that the third chapter is now available.  The homepage for the chapter is here.  A pdf is here.  The Amazon listing is here.  (There is already a negative view from a Ron Paul supporter!)

This new chapter, entitled “All In,” picks up the story on the eve of the Iowa caucus and takes it through Romney’s de facto nomination in April.  The chapter is thus the story of Romney’s success.  Of course, at this point, the Republican primary seems like ancient history.  But I think there is value in realizing why it was that the party coalesced around Romney.

One of my favorite graphs in this chapter looks at the size of various groups within the GOP —as measured in YouGov polls—and the percentage of those groups that supported Romney or Santorum.

What this graph shows is that contrary to some characterizations of the Republican Party—such as Frank Rich’s “The Molotov Party”—those who identified with the Tea Party, or said they were “very conservative,” or said that abortion should always be illegal, or said they were “born again” were minorities among even Republican likely voters.  More moderate groups—such as those who did not identify as born again, or believed abortion  should be legal always or sometimes—were much larger.

Moreover, it was among these larger groups that Romney was the favored candidate.  Santorum’s appeal was much more niche.  That is one reason why Romney became the nominee: this “Massachusetts moderate” appealed to a wider swath of the party than his competition.

In mid-September, after the 47% video came out, I was pretty cautious about labeling Romney a terrible candidate.  I’m equally cautious now, even after his loss has inspired a long list of detractors calling him a “meandering managerial moderate” and no doubt worse.  Given that the election turned out quite close to what the fundamentals suggested all along, I think it’s premature to pile on Romney, and understanding the Republican primary helps identify the strengths he brought to the ticket.

We’ll have more to say about Romney’s candidacy and much else in forthcoming chapters.  Stay tuned.


Felix January 24, 2013 at 11:26 am

Maybe it’s me but I can’t find “The Hand You’re Dealt” on Amazon?

Peter January 24, 2013 at 11:58 am

If, as the consensus appears to be, the Obama campaign was exceptionally well-run in 2012, doesn’t that suggest Romney’s campaign must have done quite well for him to end up with more or less the predicted vote share?

Jessica January 24, 2013 at 1:24 pm

The Hand You’re Dealt:

(**I work at Princeton University Press, publishers of The Gamble, don’t hate me for providing the link)

Matt Jarvis January 24, 2013 at 3:23 pm

I really do love that negative review on amazon……

Stefan Haag January 24, 2013 at 3:44 pm

I really appreciate your publishers and your decision to allow this chapters to be accessed without charge. I only wish that more publishers would follow suit.

Andrew Gelman January 24, 2013 at 4:35 pm


Instead of two scatterplots, I’d recommend a horizontal split bar chart where on the left axis the groups are listed in some logical order (e.g., in decreasing order of average conservativeness) and then you show Romney’s and Santorum’s share within each group. That would allow you to display more groups, if you want, and most importantly it would avoid the need to go back and forth between the two scatterplots to make comparisons.

rana January 25, 2013 at 10:59 am

I think I agree with Andrew. I like the plots in that they have a lot of interesting information. But they take far too much work to extract that information. I could imagine a row of bars whose heights are equal to their share of the Republican electorate and that each bar has three colored areas–Romney, Santorum, Other. That would rescale the “populatirty” metric (the colored bar) into contributions of overall vote. So I don’t know if that would be a negative

Nadia Hassan January 24, 2013 at 6:10 pm

One question about the results being close to the ‘fundamentals.’ Averages of models in 1996 and 2004 tended to predicted a higher share of the vote for the incumbent than they actually received.

For instance, the median forecast in 2004 was 53.8, about two and a half points about what Bush got.

In 1996, the forecasts for Clinton tended to be higher than what he got.

In the model in the link above, it seems as though the winning candidate has underperformed in every race since 1992.

Though Romney was pretty steady in the dynamic fundamentals and polls models, like Drew Linzer, 538, Erikson and Wlezien making it kind of tricky to make a sweeping indictment of his candidate. I think there’s room for a more nuanced case that Romney could have won even though the odds were tilted in Obama’s favor and he didn’t do the kinds of things that would have helped.

In any case, I wonder whether Vavreck would agree.

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