Lynn Vavreck and I are pleased to announce that the first two e-chapters of our book on the 2012 presidential election are now available. You can find those chapters here and here. They are available for free. The book’s website is here.
The book is called The Gamble: Choice and Chance in the 2012 Presidential Election. Why “The Gamble”? Because elections involve various bets of a sort. This year, the Democrats are betting that Barack Obama can win, despite a weak economic recovery. Republicans are betting that Mitt Romney can accomplish something unusual: defeating an incumbent president. And voters, the majority of whom are dissatisfied with the direction of the country, must bet on which candidate can turn the country around.
Why “Choice and Chance”? Because elections involve both. The choices are those of the candidates, parties, independent groups, the media, and ultimately voters. These are reflected in the ads, in the news coverage, and at the ballot box. “Chance” captures the factors that are outside of anyone’s control but may actually affect the outcome more. The economy is the most important such factor.
The first e-chapter, “The Hand You’re Dealt,” focuses on the broader political and economic context leading into 2012. We describe how, despite the setback of the 2010 election and the middling economic recovery, Obama was arguably more popular than we would expect. One reason? Partisan polarization. Obama is particularly popular among Democrats — in fact, he is more popular among Democrats than any other Democratic president except John F. Kennedy. He is as popular among Democrats as Reagan was among Republicans in his first term.
The second e-chapter, “Random, or Romney?”, focuses on the Republican primary up until the Iowa caucus. We demonstrate, contrary to some commentary, that the surges of candidates like Perry, Cain, and Gingrich during the fall of 2011, were not “random” at all. They reflected shifts in news coverage, which in turn reflected the incentives of journalists to find new and interesting things — and people — to write about. We also demonstrate, contrary to a prevailing impression, that these surges did not reflect a desire among GOP voters for “anybody but Romney.” By December 2011, Romney was well-positioned to win. Here’s a little-known factoid: as of December 2011, which group of likely Republican voters had more favorable views of Romney? Conservatives or moderates? Conservatives.