Rocket Man has also hit it out of the park in his blog below. The party out of power always faces a tough decision about whether to present the voters with “an echo or a choice,” as Barry Goldwater once put it. In terms of presidential politics, a centrist candidate may be more electable in theory. However, in practice presidential races are usually determined almost entirely by the popularity of the incumbent. Thus, if you are a liberal or a conservative, it probably makes sense to run a strong liberal or conservative against the incumbent or his would-be successor on the theory that if the president is unpopular you can elect the person you want and if the president is popular you can’t elect anyone. In 1980, for example, the first George Bush might have run better against Carter than Reagan did, but Reagan was certainly electable, easily as it turned out. However, there are elections when the incumbent is “borderline popular.” In that case, there is a risk associated with running a strong liberal or conservative. In 2000, anyone more conservative than Bush would probably have lost, and indeed Bush nearly lost, whereas the more liberal McCain might well have won fairly comfortably. When it comes to congressional races, going strong liberal or strong conservative on a national basis when the president is popular carries a huge risk. Losing the presidency is losing the presidency whether or not the election is close. But landslide losses in the presidential race usually have devastating implications for the make-up of Congress. Landslide victims of the past 40 years — Mondale, McGovern, and Goldwater himself — all provided a choice rather than an echo.
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“Arise and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time.” Winston Churchill
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