Thursday, April 26, 2012

Rove admits he is wrong...and I am right

In a wonderful piece at the Wall Street Journal today, Karl Rove allows that he has been wrong about something for many, many years. That something? The significance of the VP candidate, when it comes to winning a General Election. It's an issue I've been personally harping on for years. I wrote a piece on the subject earlier this year, in fact, with regard to all of the speculation over who Romney might select as his running mate.

In that piece, I quoted a couple of columnists who were arguing in favor of the myth that I--and now Rove--had debunked. The myth: a VP candidate can deliver a key state or a key bloc of voters. The reality: the VP selection is important, both for the exposure provided to the selection and because the person has--or can have--a significant role in governing.

Rove says:
But such political decisions run into one hard reality: Running mates haven't decided an election in more than a half-century. For example, research by Bernard Grofman and Reuben Kline, political scientists at the University of California, Irvine, suggests that the net impact of the vice-presidential picks in 2008 was roughly one-half of one point and is generally less than one percentage point. Presidential elections are rarely that close. 
What about running mates helping to carry their home states? Political scientists Christopher Devine of Ohio State and Kyle Kopko of Elizabeth College argue the home-state advantage is often modest and almost never dispositive
I said:
Part of the reason why it's a myth is the Electoral College system. The Election is not decided by popular vote, but by State results. So for the myth to be true, VP choices would have to tip the scales in at least one State during the Election and that would have to matter in the final tally. A look at recent history demonstrates that things just don't work that way. 
Consider George W. Bush, who won two elections with Dick Cheney.What critical group did Cheney deliver? Wyoming? As if Wyoming was ever in doubt. And he ran against Gore and Lieberman in 2000. Did the Lieberman choice deliver any votes for Gore, any States that he might otherwise failed to win? No, of course not. In 2004, Bush--with Cheney, once again--faced John Kerry and John Edwards. Did Edwards deliver the South (for that was what many pundits claimed his selection would do)? No. He didn't even deliver North Carolina, his home State.
Rove finishes with a great story on the Cheney selection by George Bush:
This was brought home to me in 2000, when then-Gov. George W. Bush was strongly leaning toward picking Dick Cheney as his VP. He knew I was opposed and invited me to make the case against his idea. I came to our meeting armed with eight political objections. Mr. Bush heard me out but with a twist: I explained my objections with Mr. Cheney sitting, mute and expressionless, next to the governor. 
The next day, Mr. Bush called to say I was right. There would be real political problems if he chose Mr. Cheney. So solve them, he said. Politics was my responsibility. His job was different: to select his best partner in the White House and a person the country would have confidence in if something terrible happened to him. The country was better served by Mr. Bush's decision than by my advice. 
There's a lesson there for Mr. Romney. Choose the best person for the job. Leave the politics to the staff.
A brilliant and spot-on conclusion. It's too bad that we have so few leaders willing to leave the politics to others, isn't it?

But Rove fails to address the "why" behind the perpetuation of the VP myth. As I noted in my piece, it's easy to explain: conversations over who should be picked and why are great space-fillers, with lots of easy to manufacture controversies and accompanying pseudo-analysis. That's all stuff that Romney needs to learn to ignore, to follow Bush's example.

Cheers, all.

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