Monday, January 9, 2012

The Best/Worst of 2011 #1 is...

If there's been a theme running throughout the Best/Worst of 2011, it's been that each selection tends to be a mixture of entertaining, and horrible. So, if anyone wanted to guess the top spot, the #1 Best/Worst thing of 2011, they would be smart to look for something that is the most entertaining, and simultaneously, the most horrific. And when you come down to it, there's only one entity that could possibly fulfill those requirements:
From left to right: Not Gonna Win, Not Gonna Win, Not Gonna Win, Not Gonna Win, Not Gonna Win, Not Gonna Win,and Not Gonna Win. Not pictured: Not Gonna Win, Not Gonna Win.
Of course, it's these bozos: the Candidates for the 2012 Republican nomination for President of the United States. As a group, they're uninformed, disingenuous, and vile. Individually, they're hilarious. Somehow, once the dust of the nomination process settles, one of them will earn 45% of the national vote by virtue of being the official pick. Good grief.

Now, let's start with the general thesis statement of the Republican Party of 2011-2012: they absolutely, positively must win the election in 2012. Or more precisely, Barack Obama must lose. This is the top priority of the GOP, more than fixing the economy, more than corralling the deficit, more than creating the jobs so many congressmen promised to deliver when they were elected in the 2010 mid-terms. Is this a crazy bit of political paranoia? Well... no.
Now, let's set aside whether or not you think this is a sound strategy in the short term (or even in the long term). If this is the Republican mission, it would stand to reason that the party would be trying to figure out who has the best chance of defeating President Obama this November.

This is not what the Republicans have been doing.

First, let's look at some data-- specifically at head-to-head polls pitting Obama vs. each Republican candidate. (I'm reasonably sure the data are recent, but the lack of dates on the main page is annoying) The results are interesting: when putting Obama up against a "generic" Republican, only one poll shows a result outside of the margin of error. So, President Obama is vulnerable. In the head-to-head matchups, however, only one candidate comes close to the President: Mitt Romney. So, it would stand to reason that Romney has a lot of Republican support, right?

Chart cribbed from here.
Yup, he's only recently started polling above 30%. The field breaks down as such:
You might ask yourself: how is a prospective Republican primary voter to choose between so many... um... attractive candidates? How silly a question! You can just watch one of the fifty BILLION debates the candidates have attended.
"Quick! Let's get in some pandering before the debate begins!"
Okay, I'm exaggerating. In reality, there have been around twenty debates featuring a relevant swath of candidates since May of last year. That excludes the handful of "Lincoln-Douglas" style debates that have taken place featuring only two candidates per. With all the debating going on, surely the percentage of undecided voters has nose-dived, right?

Not so much. Okay, grain of salt; it was difficult for me to find polling data that included undecided voters, and went back far enough to make it a meaningful look. However! Last June, a poll of GOP voters in South Carolina returned a 9% undecided rate. The same poll on January 7... returned a 9% undecided rate. Decisive! (But seriously, if anyone finds better data, I'd love to look at it, because I am a nerd.)

Meanwhile, the top of the list keeps shifting around, with every candidate having their day in the sun (well, except for Huntsman and Johnson, but still). I think if you took them in order of peak, it would go something like: Bachmann, Perry, Cain, Gingrich, and now, Santorum, with Paul poised to catch the next big wave (thanks in part to Kelly Clarkson). Yes, the Republicans can't quite up and commit to the one person who has a chance at fulfilling that #1 Republican goal, so they keep desperately turning over rocks in the hopes that the Perfect Candidate will emerge. Of course, if all those things creeping around under rocks could stand the sunlight to begin with, they wouldn't be under rocks. So, what I'm trying to say is, good luck with that, Republicans!
There's still time...
The theater of it all is excellent, though, and that makes it Best. The people themselves? Ugh. Worst. And that's how you become the Best/Worst of 2011.

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