Friday, February 08, 2008

The Psychology of Politics

UPDATE #2: Here are some data that support my argument below.

UPDATE: Here is a post that lays out a similar argument to the one I described below.

As my last couple posts indicate (here and here), I am currently obsessed with the 2008 Presidential election. One of the elements that particularly fascinates me is the "mind games" that are played among the participants.

Recently, I have been particularly intrigued by comments made by influential Republicans that basically say they want to go head-to-head with Hillary in the general election and they don't want to go up against Obama. For example, on NPR this morning, President Bush's chief political strategist Matthew Dowd said,
The other thing that I think John McCain has going for him is if Hillary Clinton wins the nomination I know there’s a lot of conservatives out there that said they wouldn’t vote or would vote for her but I think she’s the most unifying force for John McCain out there right now, not himself.
He went on to say later in the interview,
I think if you gave the strategists and people around John McCain some truth serum and asked them to say who they want to run against, in a minute they’d say Senator Hillary Clinton. They think that she’s polarizing; she’d motivate and unite the base of the Republican Party. She’s not a generational difference and a change of a figure, she’s a bit of throwback to the past, like to a degree he is. Against Senator Obama it’s a much more difficult task. It would be a generational campaign, the new versus the older. Somebody that had a distinct stand on Iraq versus his stand on Iraq. I think Senator Obama is a much more difficult race and there is not any vitriol from the conservative and the Republican base against Senator Obama. They don’t sort of dislike him to there core like they do Hillary Clinton. I think they would much prefer, the McCain folks, race against Hillary Clinton than Barack Obama because it’s hard to compose a strategy against a new guy like Barack.
Recent polls indicate that these statements are true and McCain has a better chance against Hillary than Obama, but I am not sure what the motivating factor is here.

Earlier this morning, the cynical side of me thought they are playing a game of "reverse psychology" and they actually want to compete against Obama; maybe they have something up their sleeve about him?

But I think I just came up with the answer, in my humble opinion. They do want to compete against Hillary. By making these statements, and since McCain will most certainly be the Republican nominee, they hope to get Republican-leaning Independents to vote in the Democratic primary and vote for Hillary.

It is well known that the Hillary campaign is putting a lot of their eggs in the Ohio and Texas primaries. Coincidentally, in both Ohio and Texas, a person does not have to declare a party affiliation until they show up to their polling place and request a particular ballot. Hmm.

1 comment:

ChrisCeppi said...

I think you are right Perry. I saw Frank Luntz on Bill Maher and he was spinning that Hillary is beatable and they know how to beat her - while Obama scares him, especially considering the generational contrast to McCain. With Luntz you have to assume he knows he is positioning specifically to the Maher audience - which includes primarily independents and liberals. So there are a couple of options: (1) he is lying outright in a reverse psychology play, (2) he is giving his honest opinion, or (3) he is signaling McCain supporters in the audience to throw their primary vote to Hillary as the most beatable Dem left. Knowing Luntz' past - I'd say (1) and (2) are less than likely, but (3) seems plausible.

Let's give them an Obama v. McCain race.

-Chris