I recently received an odd, frantic email from some wannabe politico in search of a conservative blogger who would write a column about Obamacare and jobs to save Tom Corbett’s re-election campaign from itself. As if such a Column to End All Columns could be written.
I don’t want to be too hard on this fellow, as I too sometimes suffer from wannabe-ism. Far less so than in the past, as I become more jaded and more likely to just give up and flee the state. I have little hope for an electorate that thought “binders full of women” was a substantive and revealing gotcha against Romney. I’m still not even exactly sure what that binders thing was all about.
Moreover, supposedly “purple” Pennsylvania appears poised to elect a governor who is essentially anti-gun, is of a classic tax-and-spend archetype, and who plays a little too fast and loose with the education funding argument for my taste. (The Big Lie on education spending works because it’s not designed to be a rational argument. The “evidence” for the spending cuts is that local property taxes went up. Of course there are quite a lot of other reasons why property taxes are up, most of which will be exacerbated by a Wolf administration, but that doesn’t matter. People feel squeezed, and Tom Wolf feels your pain.)
But this fellow feels that if someone would just write about Obamacare and jobs, circumventing the sclerotic campaign and providing illumination on those issues, the electorate would be swayed. I rather doubt this to be the case. Much as I (very frequently) feel that the professional political class misses key points, or refuses to receive constructive criticism, or is in over their heads, it is literally not possible for them to be so bad as to miss something this simple.
Firstly, key issue polling is the one thing at which professional campaigns excel. If key issue analysis isn’t polling 101, it is certainly polling 102. If you’re going to criticize people for talking about the wrong issues, or talking about them in the wrong way, this is the way you do it.
Secondly, it helps if the candidate and the electorate are on the same side of those key issues. On Obamacare, (1) it is a parameter, not a variable, and (2) to the extent that taking expanded federal funding was an issue, I have little doubt the majority wanted to take the additional federal funding. On jobs, despite significant progress, Pennsylvania is hamstrung by (1) the national environment, (2) unfavorable demographic trends, and (3) gridlock in Harrisburg preventing liberalization of markets, the last of which some would argue the governor’s office bears some responsibility.
So tell me again how we win on “Obamacare and jobs”?
Unless one is in favor of same sex marriage or subsidized abortion on demand, of course it is the case that the Republican policy is better on virtually all issues. This should be apparent to anybody with even a tenuous grasp on economic concepts. But voters don’t, by in large, understand economics. Nor do they even vote particularly rationally. Republicans –local, state, and federal– are unable to make a rational economic argument because we have for many years failed to lay the predicate for such an argument.