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Posted by on Aug 24, 2011 in Politics | 4 comments

Nate Silver: There’s Room for More G.O.P. Candidates

Nate Silver wrote a pretty interesting article yesterday over at his Five Thirty Eight blog at the New York Times. Like other political pundits, Silver contends that there is still “room” for additional candidates to enter the Republican primary race; yet Silver goes a bit further than other pundits in explaining exactly what he means by “room”. To this end, he has created a graphical representation of the 2012 Republican Field upon which current and potential presidential candidates are plotted according to four criteria:

The first dimension represents candidates’ overall ideological positioning from left to right, relative to other Republicans. (In this context, “left” means moderate or center-right, while “right” means quite conservative.)

The second dimension, which runs from the top to bottom of the chart, is what I call the insider/outsider or the establishment/insurgent axis. It has do to, in essence, with whether the candidate is running a grass-roots campaign that argues against entrenched interests or is trying to use those interests (like access to money and favorable media coverage and endorsements from influential party officials) to their advantage.

The third dimension is reflected by the colors in the chart, which represent the region of each candidate — red for candidates from the South, blue for candidates from the Northeast, green for candidates from the Midwest and yellow for candidates from the West. Remember when there was a conspicuous absence of southern candidates for the Republican nomination? Not any more. There’s now quite a bit of red on the chart, with Mr. Perry, Ron Paul, Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich collectively holding about 35 percent of the vote in the polls.

Finally, the fourth dimension is reflected in the size of each candidate’s circle, which corresponds to the share of the vote that the candidate has averaged in recent polls. Mitt Romney, for instance, has about 20 percent of the Republican vote, so his circle occupies about 20 percent of the overall space in the chart.

Since Silver’s analysis relies heavily upon his graphical representation of the 2012 Republican Field (which I have not sought permission to reproduce here), I recommend that TMV readers visit the above weblink for his full analysis. In the meantime, I shall summarize here which candidates may potentially enter the race, where they fit on Silver’s chart, and which current candidate stands to lose the most from the entry of said potential candidate:

U.S. Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin
Position on chart: establishment conservative
Would most adversely affect: Gingrich and Perry

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie
Position on chart: midway-between-establishment-and-insurgent moderate
Would most adversely affect: Romney & Huntsman, followed by Paul

Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin
Position on chart: insurgent conservative
Would most adversely affect: Cain and Bachmann, followed by Perry

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani
Position on chart: establishment moderate
Would most adversely affect: Romney and Huntsman

Former New York Governor George Pataki
Position on chart: establishment moderate
Would most adversely affect: Romney

I like his overall analysis, though I think it suffers from the inevitable shortcomings of his graphical representation. One of the biggest shortcomings of his chart is that it reduces political ideology to a single dimension, thereby failing to distinguish between fiscal conservatism and social conservatism. As a result, Ron Paul comes across as being moderate despite having extremely conservative views on fiscal policy. I also don’t think Paul Ryan is as “establishment” as Silver’s chart makes him out to be or that Sarah Palin is as “insurgent” as the chart makes her out to be (she did, after all, secure the Republican VP candidate slot in 2008).

In my final analysis:

Current frontrunner, Mitt Romney, would benefit significantly from the entrance of Sarah Palin into the race, as Palin would sap support from both Bachmann and Perry. Romney would also benefit from the entrance of Paul Ryan, would be expected to take votes away from Perry.

Rick Perry, who is in currently second place in most polls, would benefit significantly from the entrance of Rudy Giuliani into the race, as Giuliani would sap support from Romney. He would also benefit from the entrance of George Pataki, who would also siphon support (though much less than Giuliani) from Romney.

Michele Bachmann would also benefit from the entrance of both Giuliani and Pataki into the race for the reasons as are cited for Perry.

Interestingly, Ron Paul would benefit from the entrance of any one of these Republicans into the race with the exception of Chris Christie, who would be expected to siphon off a small amount of moderate or independent voters from the Texas Congressman. However, I actually believe the amount of support lost would be negligible given that I don’t believe that Ron Paul is as “moderate” as would be suggested by Silver’s chart (as I addressed above).

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