The Unsettled Races Continue

Five elections and five winners show that strong factions are operating in both parties.


Here is my Creators Syndicate column on the political landscape after Iowa and New Hampshire. I try to suggest in the first two sentences that things are very unsettled. "Five elections. Five winners." In both parties, we seem to have pretty firm factions operating. Usually there's a clear-cut difference between primaries and general elections. In seriously contested general elections, about 80 percent of the voters will vote the same way they did last time—about half of them Republican, half of them Democratic, with the proportions varying by constituency. With primaries, in contrast, voters are often all over the lot. They are not weighted down by party identification. They are ready to move anywhere.

Yet sometimes they don't. There is a very high correlation in voting behavior between the Clinton/Obama race in 2008 and the Gore/Bradley race in 2000 in New Hampshire. Clinton/Gore tended to attract older, downscale, less educated voters. Obama/Bradley tended to attract younger, upscale, more-educated voters. It's as if there were two well-established factions in the Democratic Party, with considerable loyalty by voters.

The Republican electorate, in contrast, seems split, at least by this field of candidates, into multiple factions, none of which resembles the issue stands/personal characteristics profile that served George W. Bush so well in the 2000 race for the nomination.