Saturday, July 9, 2011

Elephant Watcher Q&A, Part II

It's time for another round of Q&A with Elephant Watcher, to address some of the more commonly asked questions sent in by readers from around the world. For previous Q&A, see the following: Part I.

Q: Why isn't Gary Johnson (the former governor of New Mexico) included in the roster of candidates? He's in the race and has attended a primary debate.

In Part I, we addressed a similar set of questions about candidates like Allen West and Michele Bachmann (who was not yet in the race). The field of candidates is wide. Just as with the primary debates, the line has to be drawn somewhere. Candidates like Johnson or U.S. Congressman from Michigan Thaddeus McCotter do have more credentials than the "joke" perennial candidates who have never held office. If a candidate or potential candidate can have some impact on the race, Elephant Watcher is inclined to include him. Johnson attended the first debate, but it does not appear likely that he will be included in any future debates. Johnson is also rendered moot by the candidacy of fellow libertarian Ron Paul, who also has a 0% chance of winning the nomination but who has much higher poll numbers and will attend most of the debates.

The media pays no attention to Johnson because they do not believe his candidacy is viable. It may be unfair that Johnson will fade into obscurity, especially when the media's lack of attention to him makes that sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy. But Johnson did have ample opportunity to make his case at the May 5th primary debate, and he failed. By contrast, Herman Cain succeeded.

Q: How can Tim Pawlenty have a better chance of winning the nomination than someone like Mitt Romney or Michele Bachmann? His poll numbers are consistently bad.

While we are still in Phase Two of the primary, poll numbers are less useful in predicting the outcome of the race. Candidates with little charisma or name recognition are unable to gain in the polls because few people--even in early primary states--are paying any attention to the race. Even Mike Huckabee, with his considerable rhetorical skills, was polling at about 0% at this time in the last presidential primary.

Instead, it is more useful to look at candidates' attributes and where they fit into the field of candidates. For detailed information of this kind about each of the candidates, see the Profiles page. A candidate like Bachmann or Romney will benefit from high name recognition in the early polls, but name recognition means less as time goes by. Early primary voters will inspect each candidate to find one who is perceived as very conservative and very electable. Voters currently have serious questions about Romney's conservatism, and they do not believe Bachmann can win the presidency. Those candidates will need to fix those problems to boost their chances of winning the nomination.

Meanwhile, Pawlenty's biggest perceived weakness is that he is a boring speaker. Judging by the most recent winners of the Republican presidential nomination (John McCain, George W. Bush, Bob Dole, and George H.W. Bush), this is not as big an obstacle.