The Monkey Cage

We are professors of political science.

Wait, Is the Party Elite for Gingrich Now?

Mark Blumenthal brings an important piece of information to the debate over whether this most recent Gingrich surge means that the party leaders don’t much influence presidential nominations:

Gingrich succeeded in South Carolina, however, not by creating a new paradigm, but rather by succeeding on some the very mechanisms identified as critical by The Party Decides:

The State of the Union Won't Be a Game Changer

In case anyone gets a case of SOTU fever, I’ll link again to Brendan Nyhan’s post and my post from before last year’s SOTU on what effects the speech might have.  In short: few.

Romney's Saving Grace: Boyish Charm Sells

As I have before, I want to flag YouGov’s Model Politics blog for readers.  There is and will be a lot of fresh content there, written by political scientists with fresh survey data from YouGov. Here are two recent posts of note

Conventional Wisdom About China's Economy is Wrong

Daniel Drezner has an interesting post arguing that tales of U.S. decline and China’s ascent are wildly exaggerated. The post contains lots of interesting analysis but this quote from Michael Beckley’s new article (see here for Andrew Sullivan’s analysis) in International Security had me scratching my head:

The widespread misperception that China is catching up to the United States stems from a number of analytical flaws, the most common of which is the tendency to draw conclusions about the U.S.-China power balance from data that compare China only to its former self. For example, many studies note that the growth rates of China’s per capita income, value added in high technology industries, and military spending exceed those of the United States and then conclude that China is catching up. This focus on growth rates, however, obscures China’s decline relative to the United States in all of these categories. China’s growth rates are high because its starting point was low. China is rising, but it is not catching up.

Academic v. Troll


Cranky Reader: Sides, you’re not just a moron, but a coward.
Me: Say what?
CR: You’ve been hyping the “inevitability of Romney” since, oh, 2008.  Now the South Carolina primary has made you look like an idiot.  And 24 hours later you still haven’t blogged about it.  Coward.
Me: Oh, I see.
CR: Admit you were wrong.  Admit that this political science theory you’ve been slobbering over is wrong.  You know, from The Party Decides?  The one that says that party leaders strongly influence nominations and that the endorsements of these leaders is a key indicator of who’ll get the nomination?  Romney has garnered lots of endorsements.  Gingrich hasn’t.  In fact, lots of party leaders hate him.  So you were wrong.
Me: Why should I admit that I was wrong or that theory is wrong?  The primary isn’t over yet.
CR: Yeah, but that Gallup graph you posted last week?  Now look at it.  In fact, Gallup’s homepage says Romney’s nationwide margin over Gingrich is even closer today: 5 points.
Me: True enough.
CR: So admit you were wrong.
Me: Look at it this way.  If I had told you months ago that Mitt Romney would lose Iowa and South Carolina but win the New Hampshire primary, what would you have said?
CR: Well, at that time I would have said that was a pretty obvious prediction.  But did you make that prediction?  Where’s the link?
Me: I didn’t make that prediction.  I’m just pointing out that, in some sense, there is maybe a bit less drama here than meets the eye.  Lots of eventual nominees lose some primaries or caucuses.
CR: Fair point, but don’t be so blase.  Nate Silver pointed out something highly unusual: Gingrich came from really far back to beat Romney.
Me: That is unusual. No argument there.
CR: Here’s a theory: Republican voters just can’t stand Romney.
Me: That’s not right.  I’ve been arguing that votes against Romney do not equate “deep dissatisfaction for Romney.”  Romney is generally viewed favorably, even by supporters of his opponents!   But of course that doesn’t make him everyone’s first choice, nor does it mean that they like everything about him.  Definitely read Noam Scheiber’s new piece at The New Republic.  He was the one who originally said “deep dissatisfaction.”  In this piece he says “deep ambivalence.”  He’s ostensibly disagreeing with me, but I don’t actually disagree that a substantial number of Republican voters are ambivalent about Romney.  But deep ambivalence is different than deep dissatisfaction.
CR: Please don’t distract from your idiocy by initiating some tedious debate with another blogger.
Me: Fine.  Here’s the deal.  Some voters support Romney.  Some never will.  But the rest have both pro and con views about Romney, which means they haven’t committed to supporting him or opposing him.  And that’s true for most of the other candidates too.
CR: Go on.
Me: When people’s attitudes aren’t yet crystallized, they are more susceptible to the effects of new information.  And let’s face it, the salient information about Romney between the NH and SC primaries wasn’t helpful to him: there was more about Bain, and the “not much” he earned in speaking fees, and his 15% tax rate, and so on.  Meanwhile, Gingrich scored some points by lecturing the moderator in a couple debates and was able to generate a fresh round of positive coverage.
CR: So what you’re saying is that the balance of information—favorable or unfavorable—is what’s driving this?  What about the notion that voters are just refusing to go along with what the media is telling them?  Like, they won’t just vote for whoever the media wants to anoint.
Me: I wasn’t aware that the media was trying to anoint Romney when they were writing a jillion stories about Bain Capital.  But more important, I just don’t think voters make decisions by saying, “I’m not going to let The Media push me around!”  I think that voters who could be tempted to vote for someone other than Romney—and a more conservative state like South Carolina would naturally have a large number of these voters—ended up seeing a lot of negative news about him at the same time as they saw positive news about Gingrich.  Jon Bernstein put it this way:
And with all of those unenthusiastic voters out there, it’s not all that surprising that we can see a lot of undecided voters swing one way or another in reaction to campaign events.

South Carolina Doesn't Hate Romney

Noam Scheiber:

The Romney can’t break 25 percent narrative may be overdone, but no other way to explain Newts resilience than deep dissatisfaction w/Romney.

Perry Supporters Don't Endorse Gingrich

Now that Rick Perry has dropped out of the presidential race, where are his Perry supporters likely to go?  Nate Silver has one take on this here.  Here is another snapshot from Lynn Vavreck and me, using a Jan. 14-17 YouGov poll.

For the plurality of Perry voters (43%), their second choice  is Mitt Romney.  Gingrich comes in a close second (29%).  This pattern is evident among all voters except those who prefer Ron Paul.  Romney’s status as a second choice for so many voters is evidence of his inevitability, as we wrote about last week here.

Diplomacy in the You Tube Age

Meet the US’s new Ambassador to Russia (and political science’s own!) Michael McFaul:

The response of the Russian authorities? Not nearly as welcoming…

Euro Crisis Part XVII: Boardgame Edition

In this exciting new version, the value of the properties go down once you buy them and the bank has no money….

The Syrian Conflict is Already a Civil War

The headline of Anthony Shadid’s article in Sunday’s New York Times reads “Fear of Civil War Mounts in Syria as Crisis Deepens.” The Arab League’s Secretary General, Nabil el-Araby, is quoted as saying “I fear a civil war, and the events that we see and hear about now could lead to a civil war.” Others concur, while stopping short of saying that Syria is currently in a state of civil war.

George W. Bush 2012?

OK, not really. But NYT colleague Brooks does write:

In sum, great presidents are often aristocrats and experienced political insiders. They experience great setbacks. They feel the presence of God’s hand on their every move.