Monday, January 05, 2004

Re: Politics in the Era of the MTV Attention Span

One small point: in general, the events occurring between the conventions and the election are what matter--with one caveat. Historically, the health of the economy as a factor in a presidential race is most important about eight months out--or about March. There is a good column on this by Charlie Cook late last year which I will try to find and post. Essentially, because "the state of the economy" is such an amorphous thing, what counts is the conventional perception of the health of the economy. This consensus takes a while to take hold and then a while to change. For example, in 1992, the economy had been recovering for a few months before the election. Nobody cared. Bush I was already tarred as the recession guy. I think if the economic news has become so upbeat by March or April that the conventional wisdom is that things are good and the recession is history, Bush II gets undeserved credit even if things get gloomy again in the fall.

As for Saddam, I agree that the December 2003 capture will have no impact in November 2004 other than preventing the Dem nominee from saying: look, Saddam got away. Now, if his trial occurs next fall and reveals evidence of WMDs, al-Qaeda connections, or especially horrible genocidal acts, that's a different story.

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