Monday, October 17, 2005

Gore??

Ryan Lizza, via Ezra Klein:

"The Hollywood liberals over at Huffington Post as well as the university-town activists at Daily Kos and Moveon.org love Gore."

Okay, that's nice as far as the primaries go. But this is absolutely not the group of people you need to appeal to in the general election. Do I have any reason to think that he'll appeal to Hispanics? Suburbanites? The white working class? Chris Bowers points to old polls according to which his his unfavorability ratings were in the mid-40s. Clearly, there are/were a large number of people who don't/didn't think much of him.


If he runs for president he would be the only candidate in either party who instantly passes the post-9/11 threshold on national security issues.

I don't see why this is the case. Sure, he may have more foreign policy experience than whoever the GOP runs, but is there any reason to believe that ordinary people would think, "Ooh, Gore! There's a guy who can protect our country!"

Now, the guy has given some awesome speeches that I really like. If the rest of America were able to appreciate Al Gore's awesomeness, we wouldn't actually have any of the problems we do now. But Americans won't take to Gore, as far as I can see, and we do actually have all these problems.

7 comments:

Laura said...

Yeah, Neil, you're right.

Speaking as someone who was a Gore sychophant long before it was cool, I have to say I find the blogosphere's -- Eric Alterman, Ezra, Hoffmania, Avedon Carol etc etc -- obsession with Gore running in 2008 really weird. There's literally nobody who inspires more hatred and contempt on the right -- Hillary Clinton doesn't come close. Gore would bring out the wingnut vote for any Republican, even Guiliani, and have the Republican echo chamber booming all year. The mainstream media story line on him is pretty much set in stone as well and to the extent it shifts at all, it shifts between dumb-ass negative stereotypes: that he's cynical, opportunistic, politically foolish, "too far left", irrelevent etc etc. Between those two forces, I don't like the odds of breaking through.

The amount of coordinated, disciplined image rehabilitation it would take to reverse those stereotypes isn't something I think the liberal establishment (or Gore himself for that matter) is capable of.

I really, really, profoundly wish it were otherwise. But I haven't read anything that suggests it is.

Justin_Tiehen said...

I disagree with you almost point by point here.

First thing, I feel like the idea of picking a candidate on the basis of a calculation as to how he or she will do with other voters has been pretty much discredited by 2004. Pretty clearly, the reason Kerry won the nomination was not because of genuine enthusiasm for him, but because of a calulation by Democratic voters regarding what other voters (specifically, general election voters) would think of him. And pretty clearly, this isn't a strategy to copy. Democratic voters should just vote for who they are excited about; I suspect that Democratic primary voters are at least enough like general election voters that whoever wins on the basis of this voting procedure will have a broad enough appeal that winning a general election will be very possible.

Next, I found Gore's unfavorability ratings surprising, and I admit they do give at least some reason to worry whether he could win. But don't forget about these unique advantages he has...

1. All the criticisms of Gore from 2000 are old and stale. This isn't to say they are un-true (although that may be), it's to say that they won't get much traction in 2008. Think of the 2004 difference between Kerry and the Swiftboaters and Bush and his military record. No one really gave a shit about the Bush stuff because it was old news. To have successful criticisms of Gore in 2008, you're going to need *new* criticisms. You can just tell jokes about how Gore invented the internet; thay may make Rush Limbaugh giggle, but for most people it's not going to be as funny the second time around.

So, there will need to be new criticisms. How about this: Gore is a liberal kook. No one would have said that in 2000, but they might in 2008. I actually think Gore is pretty well positioned as far as this goes though. Unlike Dean, people already know Gore, and what they know of him doesn't fit easily with the kook line. So I suspect while it was possible to paint Dean as a kook, it won't be as easy to do so with Gore, even if he really has become a kook since 2000. In short, I'd be amazed if the kook charge stuck in the same way that the flip-flopper charge stuck on Kerry.

2. Who knows what will happen between now and 2008, but right now it looks like it will suit Democrats very well to run against Bush. If Democrats could secure the Republican nomination for Bush in 2008, they should; if they could secure it for Cheney or Rice, they should; short of this, they should hope to see the nominee be as close to Bush as possible. What happens if someone with some distance from Bush gets the nomination though? Well, if Gore gets the Democratic nomination, I'm not sure it will matter. So much of the story will be cast in terms of, "well, what would have happened if Gore had won in 2000?" I don't think you can deny that this would be a large part of the storyline, even if you believe the world would have been much worse had Gore won in 2000.

In short, a Gore nomination guarantees that the 2008 election will be, at least to some extent, about Bush in much the same way that the 2000 election was about Clinton. Pick any other nominee, even Kerry, and this isn't nearly as true.

3. I think that Ryan Lizza overstates Gore's national security credentials, at least as far as the country will think of them, but I suspect the best Democrats can do on this front is a tie or maybe even a close loss, and Gore would give you that. Look, even if Clark gets the nomination, does anyone doubt that the Republicans will pull out like 5 generals who served under Clark and will say he was a pussy and wanted to arm his men with spitballs? Maybe I'm too pessimistic, but I think Democrats should just try to avoid a rout on "being tough" w/r/t national security. Whatever virtues that, say, Edwards may have, he can't guarantee that there won't be a rout on this issue. Gore would.

4. I suspect that Gore's low numbers in that poll correspond to people's memories of him during the campaign -- largely boring. But, if he were running, you could play up the way he stepped off the scene in 2000, and the way he carried himself since then. Maybe I'm wrong, but I have a feeling that Gore is much better posed to erase whatever negative image of him people presently have than, say, Kerry or Clinton are.

dadahead said...

Yup. I don't worry so much about Gore being demonized by the GOP; they'll do that to anybody, and I actually think there's an advantage to already having been slimed - namely, you won't get caught off guard. We knew they would slime Kerry, but I don't think anyone anticipated the Swift Boat nonsense. At least with Gore (or Kerry, now) we'd know what to expect.

But, I don't think Gore has a broad enough appeal to make him a rational choice for the nominee - unless you were convinced that he would be vastly preferable as president to any other realistic candidate (e.g., Edwards). Gore's given some good speeches, but I'm not at all convinced a choice between, say, Edwards and Gore would be much more than a coin flip (as president, that is, not as nominee).

dadahead said...

Whoa, I wrote my post before Justin's showed up; sorry for any overlap.

Re: the "discredited" strategy of trying to "pick a winner," I would just like to note that just because Kerry lost doesn't mean we can automatically throw out the strategy. That is, the problem isn't necessarily with the strategy - i.e., the "electability" strategy - it could simply be that the Dem primary voters made the wrong choice regarding who was most electable. I thought at the time that Kerry did not seem all that "electable" (at least not as much as, say, Edwards) and that if that's why Dems picked him, they were making a mistake.

The problem is that so many Dems have such a simple-minded idea of what "electability" is. They really thought that Kerry's status as a vet would make him more or less invulnerable to attack by the GOP on "national security."

What's worse is that this kind of thinking still has a hold on so many people. Notice the Daily Kos "straw polls" where Wesley Clark wins by a mile every time. This is NOT because they have analyzed the situation, compared the strengths and weaknesses of the various candidates, and come to the conclusion that Clark would be the strongest nominee. It's because of that "General" in front of his name. And that "General" will mean about as much as "Vietnam Veteran" did for Kerry.

Neil Sinhababu said...

As one might expect, I'm in near-total agreement with tlaura and dadahead. (Laura, do you really think that they hate Gore more than Hillary? Big claim.)

Some quick responses to Justin's 4 points:

1-What they got Gore on in 2000 was mostly the "he'll say anything to get elected" bit. Now it's more towards the "he's liberal and crazy" thing. What in Gore's past fits ill with the kook line, Justin?

2-Unless Cheney or Condi runs, 2008 can't be about Bush. My guess is that we get George Allen, who's basically a new Bush-style empty suit. This heal-the-rift-in-space-and-time-by-electing-Gore stuff has a limited appeal. Most Americans have moved on, if they were ever there.

3-I don't see why Gore does any better than any other major candidate on the national security issue. What in the media stereotype of Gore suggests that he does, anyway? Hillary has been acting all wanna see me punch out a yak and Clark's a general (though dadahead's point is well taken). I'll admit that this is Edwards' weakest point, but I don't think Gore tops him here.

4-What has Gore done to raise those numbers?

I'm now thinking that an Ezra post on how electability still matters may be in my future.

Justin_Tiehen said...

I've already written a ton, but let me clarify the electability thought from my original post since it has been taken up.

Of course Democrats should want an electable candidate. But here are 2 different strategies primary voters could use to try to get one.

#1: Don't consider at all whether you yourself are excited by the candidate. Instead, try to make a calculation as to whether the candidate will appeal to Latinos, Nascar dads, soccer moms, etc. That is, vote for the candidate whom you calculate will do the best job attracting these sorts of voters which a Democrat will need to get if he/she is to win the general election.

#2: Don't make any such calculation. Vote purely on the basis of which candidate you think will make the best president. Then, rely on the assumption that Democratic primary voters are at least enough like general elction voters that whichever candidate can persuade the most primary voters that he/she would make a good president will probably also be in a position to persuade general election voters of this too.

I feel that something like #1 was used to pick Kerry. This is the strategy I'm saying was discredited.

My reasons for preferring #2 to #1 are not idealistic but psychological (my point isn't that you should "follow your heart"). I myself am not a Latino, or a Nascar dad, or a soccer mom. I have almost zero intuitive feel for which candidate-traits will appeal to them. And so, were I to try to use #1, my calulation would inevitably be horribly uninformed.

Suppose you were selling a product, and wanted to run it by a focus group before you put it on the market. Would you ask your focus group, "Do you like our product?" or would you say, "Don't tell me whether *you* like it. Tell me whether you think Latinos, soccer moms, Nascar dads, etc. will like it."

Let me wrapup by saying that, as someone completely bored by Gore in 2000 (I genuinely thought the Gore/Bush decision didn't matter much), I can feel the Gore excitement for 2008. I'm relatively unenthused by Clark and Edwards, bored with Clinton, and ultra-bored with Kerry. But, for reasons I can't fully put my finger on (they aren't totally captured by my prior post), Gore excites me. Now, how good of a barometer am I for how other people will feel once they start paying attention again? I'm not sure, but this change in reaction is at least somewhat widespread among the people who have been paying attention (of course, you might worry this group is skewed left). This fairly widespread sentiment shouldn't be dismissed purely on the basis of a prediction as to what non-you voters would think of Gore in '08.

dadahead said...

I myself am not a Latino, or a Nascar dad, or a soccer mom. I have almost zero intuitive feel for which candidate-traits will appeal to them.

But doesn't this suggest that the candidate who is appealing (sp?) to you at a gut level is unlikely the same one who would be appealing to those demos?

I don't find GWB appealing in the least bit, but apparently a number of people do. I don't know how to get inside the heads of those people, but for the same reason I don't trust that my reaction to a candidate X will be at all the same as theirs, since in my own experience they are not only divergent but actually OPPOSITE (e.g., I hate Bush and they seem to like him).

But now it seems like we are fucked either way. I don't really know what basis Dems should choose their candidate on.