Three Stage Presidential Race

I was chatting with Gregor asking what he thought of Bush's chance of re-election, he forwarded me an article [premium content] from The Economist which included an interesting theory of how voters minds work - A Drama in Three Stages.

Most presidential campaigns are three-act dramas. Act I is a referendum on the incumbent. Voters look at the president and ask "Does he deserve four more years?" If the answer is a clear yes--as in 1984 or 1996--it barely matters who the challenger is; he may as well go home. This stage lasts until the party conventions. Assuming voters have not definitively decided on re-election--and, manifestly, they have not this time--Act II starts with the conventions and runs until about September. Voters then turn their attention to the challenger: is he ready for prime time? If he is, Act III, the real horse race, begins in September with the presidential debates. Then, and only then, do the head-to-head comparisons matter.
The article is also highlighted by Taegan Goddard's Political Wire and The Talent Show, the latter of which notes,
With Act I winding down, I'd say Bush is already on the ropes. He's had a string of failures that have driven his poll numbers down. Worse than that, however, is that he's still trying to strengthen his base with crap like his "gay people are gross" amendment to the constitution at a time when both candidates would normally be racing to the middle.
Foolishly perhaps I'm thinking that campaign wise we aint seen nothing yet and Bush may well use up his full entitlement of 8 years at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Posted by Paul in USA Politics at June 29, 2004 09:52 PM | 1 Comments