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Were the Clintons Particularly Bad for the Democrats?

At The Corner, Mark Steyn writes that the Clintons were bad for the Democratic Party:

The Clintons' leadership of the Democratic Party was great for the Clintons, terrible for the Democratic Party: They lost the House, they lost the Senate, they lost state legislatures and governors' mansions, and in the end Clinton couldn't even bequeath the White House to his Vice-President in a time of peace and prosperity.

In a 2006 Yale Law Journal article Steve Calabresi and I presented data showing that losing power, even state governorships, as a presidential term progresses is common, not an exception. Essentially, we believe that a President and his party are a lightning rod for everything that goes wrong.

Our article can be downloaded at the bottom of this SSRN page. Particularly relevant are Figures 1 and 2 on page 2617 showing governorships by party since 1936.

UPDATE: I was amused by one of the comments below. Justin says that he knew this in high school. His comment brings to mind my observation of the three possible responses to workshop papers at the Univ. of Chicago Law & Economics Workshop in the early 1990s: (1) it's wrong; (2) it's trivial; or (3) it's already been done (usually coupled with the claim that the critic had already done it himself).

If Justin really knew in high school that the President's party lost governorships, he should have written it up for the political science literature, because we didn't find any political scientist who had shown this except in limited situations or any that pointed out that the backlash against the President in the states was stronger than the Presidential coattail effect. Perhaps we missed something (the field is huge), but some prominent scholars we consulted didn't mention anything directly on point. Indeed, one suggested that we do a version of our findings for a poli-sci journal.

We wrote in our Yale LJ article:

As James Campbell nicely documents, there is a backlash against the President's party in the midterm elections for seats in state legislatures. Campbell shows that in state legislative races in presidential election years, the winning President's party benefits from his coattails, but in midterm elections the President's party suffers losses in state legislative races that approximately cancel out the gains from his coattails.

Further, in an article published thirty-five years ago, Stephen Turett analyzed incumbent governors' races in 1900-1969, noticing that incumbent governors were more likely to be reelected in midterm elections if the President was of the opposing party. Turett limited his analysis of this midterm effect to incumbent governors running for re-election and interpreted it as merely offsetting the coattail effect in presidential election years.

When one adds all gubernatorial races to the analysis, as we do in Figures 1 and 2, the backlash against the President's party in state races during a President's term is actually stronger overall than the coattail effect in the presidential election year. To be more specific, we find that four years after a party wins a presidential election, it holds on average three fewer statehouses than it had before it won the presidential election. Perversely, winning the presidency seems to lead very shortly to losing power in the states.

Since 1932 there have been eight changes of party control of the White House (1933, 1953, 1961, 1969, 1977, 1981, 1993, and 2001). In every instance but one, the party that seized the White House held more governorships in the year before it took office than in the subsequent year it lost the presidential election. The only exception is that in 1980, Republicans held four fewer governorships than they held in 1992, immediately before the Republicans were voted out of the White House. Similarly, of the eleven Presidents since 1933, every one except two, Kennedy and Reagan, left office with fewer governorships than his party had before he took office, and Kennedy served less than three years.

In addition, if people generally understood that the blacklash / lightning rod effect is stronger than the coattail effect, I doubt that so many states would have moved their elections away from the Presidential election years in an apparently unsuccessful attempt to reduce the effect of Presidential elections on state elections for governorships.

r78:

and in the end Clinton couldn't even bequeath the White House to his Vice-President in a time of peace and prosperity.

Clinton - and the majority of voters - chose Gore over the Chimp.
1.4.2008 2:14am
Scote (mail):
Well, there is certainly no question that Bush II is currently bad for the Republican party, far worse than any case one might try to make over the Clintons.
1.4.2008 4:37am
HankP (mail) (www):
Yes, because a popular two term President is an absolute disaster for any party.
1.4.2008 4:48am
Perseus (mail):
Clinton - and the majority of voters - chose Gore over the Chimp.

The majority of voters did no such thing. Gore received 51.004 million votes out of a total of 105.417 million votes cast. 48.38% constitutes a plurality, not a majority. And President Bush did receive a majority of all votes cast in his second election, a feat that Clinton never managed to accomplish in either of his two election wins.
1.4.2008 4:53am
A. Zarkov (mail):
Clinton failed to get a majority in his two elections because of Ross Perot. He got elected twice, a feat no Democrat managed to pull off since FDR. When he and Congress produced governmental gridlock, he succeeded in blaming Congress. He reined in spending and actually produced the appearance of a balanced budget. I say that because the Social Security Trust fund buy special issue Treasury bonds with the surplus. Nevertheless, that's better than any Republican has managed to do in a long time. He put competent people into some cabinet positions such as Treasury Secretary. Some of his other appointments were real duds, like State and Energy.

In contrast Bush has the inverse Midas touch—everything he puts his hands on turns to shit. He has ruined his party and conservatism. He has behaved more like a Mexican president than an American president. While Clinton opened the door to a massive invasion of illegal immigration, Bush tore the door off its hinges. Most of his appointments have been incompetent with the exception of Roberts and Alito. But he tried to screw that one up too at first. Notice every Republican running for the nomination hardly refers to Bush. I fear he will have enabled the evil Democrats to return to power for a long time. They will finish the job of destroying the country that Bush started. Is it any wonder that the voters seem to want populist candidates? They are sick of getting screwed by both parties who seem utterly compromised by foreign and corporate interests.
1.4.2008 7:38am
Crimso:
"Clinton - and the majority of voters - chose Gore over the Chimp."

People who don't understand the relatively simple process by which Presidents are elected should probably refrain from making such foolish statements.
1.4.2008 8:15am
Anonymouseducator (mail) (www):
People who don't understand the relatively simple process by which Presidents are elected should probably refrain from making such foolish statements.


Even people who understand the simple process should probably refrain from making foolish statements.
1.4.2008 8:22am
Temp Guest (mail):
Move on!
1.4.2008 8:34am
Crimso:
"Even people who understand the simple process should probably refrain from making foolish statements."

Let's first educate the r78's of the world, after that those who understand the process can be reeducated.
1.4.2008 8:41am
ChrisIowa (mail):

and in the end Clinton couldn't even bequeath the White House to his Vice-President in a time of peace and prosperity.


The tech bubble burst in March of 2000, and the stock markets were falling llike a rock, as was everyone's 401(k). The second and third quarters of 2000 growth was an anemic 1% the fourth was negative. The first quarter of 2001 was about 1%. The St Louis Fed calls this a recession, though definitions vary.

I don't think this counts as prosperity.
1.4.2008 9:19am
wuzzagrunt (mail):
Clinton failed to get a majority in his two elections because of Ross Perot.


Did you hit your head when you fell of your unicorn, or something. Clinton was a two term President because of Ross Perot. Considering his lackluster Republican opponents (I'm being generous, here), he should have won 49 states at least. Even I threw up in my mouth, a little, when I cast my vote for GHW Bush. And Bob Dole? Come on!

BTW, I like Bob Dole, but he doesn't even make my "Top 20 Republicans I'd Like to See as President" list. Not in any year.
1.4.2008 9:23am
Justin (mail):
I knew that in HS. How come I'm not published in the YLJ?

Still, the data doesn't explain the magnitude of 1994. Carter and Kennedy didn't do that type of damage to the Democrats.
1.4.2008 9:30am
taney71:
Clinton failed to get a majority in his two elections because of Ross Perot.

I always thought Perot took away as many or even more voters for Bush in 92 than for Clinton. Am I wrong on this assumption?
1.4.2008 9:31am
Gramarye:
I'm not sure how far back into history you can really take this trend without having to say at some point that you're basically talking about a different country. Was two-term Eisenhower bad for the Republicans? I don't know whether the metrics in your article would suggest that he was--I didn't read the article or even click on the link--but but I'm also not entirely sure that those metrics measure anything significant in modern terms.

Was two-term Reagan bad for the Republicans? We had a Democratic Congress all through the 1980's, and I can't say I know which elections involved the GOP gaining seats and which losing them. However, Reagan did successfully move the center of the American electorate to the right and build a conservative movement that found its fruition (at least in the political arena) six years after Reagan left office, in the Republican takeover of 1994. That might have been possible without the Reagan presidency, but I consider it unlikely. Obviously this isn't something for which one can establish proof positive. However, by the article's metrics, as I understand them, the 1994 elections would have been viewed exclusively as a loss for President Clinton; historical forces predating 1992 would be ignored. I'm not sure that captures more than it distorts.

Clinton may have been the goaltender who let the puck past him, and so maybe you could say it's his fault because he had the "last clear chance" to avoid the damage (much as I hate dragging legal terms out of their appointed roles), but that doesn't mean there were only two people in on the play. That's the illusion you get watching only the highlights on SportCenter.
1.4.2008 9:37am
A.C.:
Speaking as someone who was so excited about Clinton in '92 that I actually took time off to drive old ladies to the polls, I've never felt so betrayed by ANYTHING as by the Clinton presidency. My politics have moved considerably as a result, and not in a way that favors Democrats.

I'm not sure how much of this is personal, to be honest. A lot of policy proposals that look okay in theory get pretty squirrely when someone actually takes steps towards implementing them, so maybe I just shouldn't have been so taken in by his campaign in the first place.

I do think there was one extremely beneficial policy move in the Clinton presidency, namely the decision to help Mexico with its economic mess in 1994. And I like a lot of things that happened in the broader society in the 1990s, even though I don't think Clinton had much to do with them.

But really I just hate the guy. I hated his appointees, I hated his machine, and I hated pretty much everything that happened in Washington while he was president. I hated the way women on the streets jumped up and down when his motorcade drove by, like he was a rock star or something. And of course I hated the sleeze.

Then there are my particular issue grudges, especially "reinventing government" (with its overemphasis on contracting out) and the general failure to put resources (most particularly political capital) towards dealing with terrorism. These two failures set up most of what I dislike about the Bush administration, but I blame them solidly on Clinton. Democrats who do otherwise don't strike me as very serious people.

I also thought Clinton (Mr.) chose policies to buy votes. Building infrastructure to deal with terrorism is complex and difficult and has no real vote-buying component (unless it involved sending money to local governments), so it did not get sufficient high-level attention. But if you leave aside complex new things, which a lot of politicians botch, garbage of the pandering, do-it-for-the-children type got all the emphasis -- even against all the core government programs that we don't really notice until they stop working. It was revolting, and the second Clinton looks like more of the same.
1.4.2008 10:25am
Houston Lawyer:
I wonder if some of the posters were even alive in 1994. A 50 seat swing in favor of the opposition is a huge repudiation of the governing party. While it is true that Clinton used Gingrich &Co. as a foil to increase his personal popularity, the Democrats didn't regain control of the House until 2006.

So the point of the post is good for Clinton, bad for the Democratic party.
1.4.2008 10:26am
alias:
I knew that in HS. How come I'm not published in the YLJ?

Perhaps because you didn't have enough excel charts and weren't yet familiar with phrases like "disaggregating the paradox of robustness." Another possibility is that you didn't write an article in HS and send it to the YLJ.
1.4.2008 10:42am
Dave N (mail):
I'm not sure how far back into history you can really take this trend without having to say at some point that you're basically talking about a different country. Was two-term Eisenhower bad for the Republicans? I don't know whether the metrics in your article would suggest that he was--I didn't read the article or even click on the link--but but I'm also not entirely sure that those metrics measure anything significant in modern terms.

Was two-term Reagan bad for the Republicans? We had a Democratic Congress all through the 1980's, and I can't say I know which elections involved the GOP gaining seats and which losing them.
I am not sure how far to go back either, though the historical trend-lines but it is very interesting.

In 19581958, the Democrats won 16 seats from the Republicans, including defeating 10 Republican incumbents. That election was a political tsunami, equivilent to the 1994 Republican victory--and much bigger than the Democratic victory in 2006.

Ironically, the Senate Republicans were ripe for the picking--many having been elected in a Republican landslide midterm (1946--12 seat gain) and re-elected when Ike swept to victory in 1952 (2 seat GOP gain in the Senate).
1.4.2008 10:42am
Xanthippas (mail) (www):

People who don't understand the relatively simple process by which Presidents are elected should probably refrain from making such foolish statements.


This "relatively simple process" does not usually involve the Supreme Court.
1.4.2008 10:46am
Curt Fischer:

A. Zarkov: Most of [Bush's] appointments have been incompetent with the exception of Roberts and Alito.


I generally agree with your sentiments, but am glad that your diction allows that there are a few other quality Bush appointees. In particular, I think Sam Bodman is the best Secretary of Energy the department has ever seen.
1.4.2008 10:52am
alias:
The interminable Bush v. Gore debate. I have yet to meet a single person who thinks that the person s/he voted for was not procedurally entitled to the presidency.

Get over it. Perhaps the next empirical article on elections should question whether the Democrats' bitterness/shock over the 2000 election was what made them put up such a miserable slate of candidates in 2004.
1.4.2008 10:58am
stan:
I think that Gore may have won the presidential election if he had used Clinton in the campaign rather than shunning him based on what were perhaps noble but politically foolish principles.
1.4.2008 11:11am
Baseballhead (mail):
Perhaps the next empirical article on elections should question whether the Democrats' bitterness/shock over the 2000 election was what made them put up such a miserable slate of candidates in 2004.
Of course it was. The incumbent candidate clearly had no idea what he was doing, and the Democrats went seeking for "electability" (combat vet, inarticulate Washington retread) instead of a normal, competent human being.
1.4.2008 11:17am
Tony Tutins (mail):

This "relatively simple process" does not usually involve the Supreme Court.

The nation was held hostage by the incompetence of two Florida election departments. How hard would it have been to inspect the plastic punch card blocks in Dade County? Or to create a ballot less confusing than the butterfly one?

Clinton couldn't even bequeath the White House to his Vice-President in a time of peace and prosperity.

Gore was a charmless blob whose gun control advocacy (even breaking a tie vote in the Senate to punish the sane and the law-abiding for the sins of the psychopathic teenagers at Columbine) drove Democratic hunters and shooters into the arms of W. Remember when the NRA VP from Iowa bragged that they would have an office in the White House, if W. were elected? Remember all the Sportsmen for Bush bumperstickers bound into the NRA magazines?
1.4.2008 11:22am
Kazinski:
When it comes time for history to judge Clinton, he'll go down in the books as pretty much an non-entity. He did have some achievments, most notably NAFTA and Welfare reform, but both were supported more by Republicans than his own party so its hard to say they were personal achievments that he mainly championed. If you look at the legislation that he did get enacted that he did enthusiasticly champion then the only two things I can come up with are his tax increases, and Family Medical Leave. Those aren't the sort of monuments that leave a lasting history. '94 was a pretty big rebuff to Clinton, but you could argue the Democratic Congress brought it on itself with the assualt weapons ban rather than it suffering for Clintons health care debacle.

Love him or hate him it is hard to argue that Bush has not been an effective president in getting his agenda enacted. Big tax cuts, his way; the war on terror, his way; sustaining the Iraq war and turning it around, his way even after suffering a defeat at the polls and losing both houses of congress to the opposition. Sure he's had problems, a much messier war in Iraq than expected, Katrina, failure in reforming social security. But even his Social Security failure was a win in some ways, it used to be called the third rail of American politics, he touched it and lived, even during his campaigns. In terms of effectively controling the agenda and getting his programs enacted largely unchanged, Bush has been a much more effective president than Bill Clinton, and the historians will have to acknowledge that even if they think everything he did was wrong.
1.4.2008 11:29am
PJT:
"The interminable Bush v. Gore debate. I have yet to meet a single person who thinks that the person s/he voted for was not procedurally entitled to the presidency."

Professor Somin qualifies
1.4.2008 11:37am
AK (mail):
Justin is right: the president's party tends to lose seats in midterms, but 1994 (like 2006) was spectacular.

Fascinating how quickly this discussion turned into "oh yeah? Bush was way worse for his party than Clinton was for his!!!11!!!i^4!!" Perhaps so, but much of the blame for the GOP's woes over the past few years must be put on Congress. Clinton managed to screw his party all by his lonesome. If you look at the Clinton presidency, the image you'll constantly see is of the Democratic party taking the fall, while only Clinton remains standing there with a shit-eating grin.
1.4.2008 11:45am
ach (mail):
I voted for Harry Browne in 2000; I'm fairly sure that however you spin the numbers, he probably wasn't entitled to win...
1.4.2008 11:49am
AK (mail):
Of course, this argument assumes that we have a concrete definition of "hurting one's party," which in turn raises the question of whether we're talking short- or long-term damage.

And then there's the question of whether it's even relevant to discuss the fortunes of the party, when what really matters is the fortunes of the underlying political movement or the constituent groups within the party.

I'll use the GOP as an example. In the short term, it was great for the GOP to dole out government largess. Earmarks, expanding Medicare, No Child Left Behind, and other government boondoggles bribed the electorate into re-electing GOP Congresses. But that kind of bribery came at the expense of conservatism. Similarly, NAFTA and welfare reform did restore economic and fiscal sanity to the Democratic party, but hurt unions and progressivism generally.
1.4.2008 12:07pm
Jorge (mail):
Obviously, there's a correlation between the Clinton administration and the beating the Democrats took in 2000, 2002 and 2004, and the post suggests that the former caused the latter. I see them both as the symptoms of a longer-term decline in the fortunes of the Democratic party that began with LBJ's destruction of its governing coalition in the 60s. The Republicans' attempt to capitalize on the Democrats' implosion stalled with Watergate, but was re-energized by Reagan. The Democrats' congressional majorities didn't get wiped out sooner because (1) the power of incumbency in Congress makes the House less responsive to shifts in voter sentiment than the consitutional framers anticipated, and (2) voters distrusted Reagan and Bush I enough to cause them to split their votes. In 1994, the second of these reasons finally turned against the Dems, and the inevitable shift happened, arguably 15 years later than it should have.

Clinton, Eisenhower and Wilson all have one thing in common: they all served two terms in the middle of a period of ascendancy by the other party. To get elected, each of them had to stand apart from the core of his own party's voters in some way. None of them was successful in retaining the White House for his own party at the end of his term, or leaving a party infrastructure capable of regaining the ascendancy. I would argue that these features have little to do with anything these Presidents did or didn't do, and were more the result of the historical context in which they served.

This isn't to say that Clinton couldn't have left his party in better shape, but to say that he wrecked his party's prospects ignores the historical trends that preceded him.
1.4.2008 12:11pm
bittern (mail):
That's an infinite wisdom-to-dreck ratio from Baseballhead, who thus may be tops in that statistic on the VC.

Of course it was. The incumbent candidate clearly had no idea what he was doing, and the Democrats went seeking for "electability" (combat vet, inarticulate Washington retread) instead of a normal, competent human being.
1.4.2008 12:15pm
PLR:
Even people who understand the simple process should probably refrain from making foolish statements.

In that spirit, I'll suggest that citations to "The Corner" are best used (like here) as a catalyst for debate, rather than for the truth of the matters asserted.

Hate to hijack a topic that started with what Mark Steyn thinks of Bill Clinton, but how's the Democratic Party doing lately, anyway? Not in terms of accomplishments of course, just in terms of the raw power that so enthralls Steyn.
1.4.2008 12:31pm
Temp Guest (mail):
Jorge: Thanks for the interesting insight on Wilson, Eisenhower, and Clinton. I'd never realized the commonalities in the three presidencies. It's a good point.
1.4.2008 12:33pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Curt Fischer"

In particular, I think Sam Bodman is the best Secretary of Energy the department has ever seen.

I no longer worked for a DOE contractor by the time Bodman took over. But let's look at something that's happened on this watch. The two national labs went from the University of California as the contractor to LLCs formed by UC and Bechtel Corporation. So far both the transitions have been a disaster for both laboratories. Costs have gone up something like 20% when the transition was to make both operations more efficient. The two new directors now make $2 million per year, an almost ten fold increase in salary. Bechtel sent a cadre of managers to both laboratories (with $600,000 salaries) further increasing costs. The result: impending layoffs and plummeting morale. The DOE under Bodman has effectively destroyed the laboratories.

If you to go back to the AEC and ERDA days, you get Glen T. Seaborg, James Schlesinger and Dixie Lee Ray running the show. Quite a contrast from the likes of Hazel O'Leary (Clinton appointee), and James B. Edwards (aka "The Dentist").
1.4.2008 12:56pm
Baseballhead (mail):
That's an infinite wisdom-to-dreck ratio from Baseballhead, who thus may be tops in that statistic on the VC.
By the way, the view up here at the top is fantastic.
1.4.2008 12:56pm
arbitraryaardvark (mail) (www):
Arkansas historically is the most Democratic state next to Hawaii. Pre-Clinton, I think it only ever had one GOP gov. In Clinton's second run for governor in 1982, he lost to a Republican. After Clinton was impeached and disbarred and his henchperson Jim-Guy Tucker went to jail, Arkansas has had a Republican governor - some guy named Huckabee. Tends to support Steyn's thesis.
1.4.2008 12:59pm
AK (mail):
A. Zarkov:

That was the most boring, wonky piece of writing ever to appear on the Volokh Conspiracy or any other website. Kudos!
1.4.2008 1:03pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
wuzzagrunt:

"Clinton was a two term President because of Ross Perot."

You assume that Perot took more votes from Bush than Clinton. I don't know about that. Perot ran more a less a populist campaign, so I think it's hard to say who he helped more. But don't you think either Bush or Clinton would have had a hard time getting more than 50% of the popular vote in a three-way race with a strong contender?
1.4.2008 1:09pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
AK:

That was the most boring, wonky piece of writing ever to appear on the Volokh Conspiracy or any other website. Kudos!


I guess you prefer entertainment to information. Try FOX News or MSNBC. I can't compete with Anna Nicole Smith.
1.4.2008 1:14pm
Der Hahn (mail):
arbitraryaardvark

I don't think you can generalize from a single state. At the same time AR was trending Republican, Iowa was shifting from a strong Republican state to one where Democrats have been govenors for the last decade, Democrats are a majority in the state Legislature, and a majority of our Congressional delegation is Democrat.
1.4.2008 1:25pm
alias:
Harry Browne doesn't count, but then my point is still literally true, as I haven't met anyone who will admit to voting for him.
1.4.2008 2:01pm
Mark Field (mail):

Clinton, Eisenhower and Wilson all have one thing in common: they all served two terms in the middle of a period of ascendancy by the other party.


This is an excellent point.

For another historical analogy, I'll nominate Huckabee as the William Jennings Bryan of the Republican party.
1.4.2008 3:28pm
Curt Fischer:

A. Zarkov: I no longer worked for a DOE contractor by the time Bodman took over. But let's look at something that's happened on this watch. The two national labs went from the University of California as the contractor to LLCs formed by UC and Bechtel Corporation. So far both the transitions have been a disaster for both laboratories. Costs have gone up something like 20% when the transition was to make both operations more efficient. The two new directors now make $2 million per year, an almost ten fold increase in salary. Bechtel sent a cadre of managers to both laboratories (with $600,000 salaries) further increasing costs. The result: impending layoffs and plummeting morale. The DOE under Bodman has effectively destroyed the laboratories.


Very interesting data and thank you for the response. I agree it doesn't bode well for the Lawrence labs. Before I buy into the merger-as-complete-disaster theory, though, I would want to see some evidence that the research output or research quality of the lab has deteriorated.

Overall, I credit Bodman with setting a consistent and realistic tone for Bush's energy policy (remember when all the admin was touting was hydrogen?) I also think the loan guarantees for construction of cellulosic ethanol plants are relatively good policy, practically speaking, at least compared to direct subsidies.

I also like that the new energy bill and its mandates for cellulosic ethanol will increase the likelihood that the much-maligned blenders' subsidies for corn ethanol will not be renewed, or at least will be reduced, in 2010. I'm not sure whether we can credit Bodman with that achievement, though.

I like much less the nuclear anti-proliferation acronyms the DoE has cooked up recently, such as GNEP. I do know that Bodman is a supporter of nuclear power, in general, though, which is good. Mostly, I just like Bodman because he knows what energy is, where it comes from, and mostly knows how its markets work. This makes him a much more effective advocate of various policies and programs than most Secretaries.

(Disclosure, I'm a researcher in the biofuels area, so naturally I am most aware of biofuels policy and have a techie bias for people with technical backgrounds. Additionally, many years before my birth, Bodman apparently studied and taught at the place where I now research.)
1.4.2008 3:39pm
hattio1:

Sure he's had problems, a much messier war in Iraq than expected,

Since we're attacking and demolishing myths, can we let this one rest? It's true that Bush did not expect a messy war. But anyone who knew anything expected a messy war. And no, Rumsfeld doesn't count as knowing anything.
1.4.2008 5:12pm
byomtov (mail):
there is a backlash against the President's party in the midterm elections for seats in state legislatures. Campbell shows that in state legislative races in presidential election years, the winning President's party benefits from his coattails, but in midterm elections the President's party suffers losses in state legislative races that approximately cancel out the gains from his coattails.

(2). Trivial. This sounds like nothing but regression to the mean.
1.4.2008 5:16pm
James Lindgren (mail):
byomtov,

You are commenting on Campbell's finding, but we show that the backlash is much stronger than the coattail effect.

Jim Lindgren
1.4.2008 5:21pm
byomtov (mail):
Jim,

Yes. I did intend to refer specifically to the Campbell finding you cite. Do you disagree with my comment? Unless I misunderstood, Campbell finds that after the election in Presidential Year+2 the state legislatures look much like they did in PY-2. Sounds like regression to me.

I haven't read your entire paper, so have no comment on the overall findings.
1.4.2008 5:28pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Curt Fisher:

Good points. I certainly hope Bodman will inject some sanity and competence into the DOE. My comments are of course strictly limited to recent events affecting the two nuclear weapons laboratories—Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories. My contacts at the Livermore Lab tell me that morale is low, and many good scientists are looking for jobs. This is no secret as a local newspaper, The Valley Times, reports similar stories. I don't see how they can attract good talent in the future because they offer little over other Bay Area employers. For one thing, the defined benefits pension is gone for new employees. The working conditions have also suffered under the new organization.

I do think some of the Bush appointees were ok, such as Bolton. But I have to say that Bush's primary department secretaries for: State, Treasury, War (now called Defense), and the Attorney General leave much to be desired.
1.4.2008 5:47pm
Dave N (mail):
War (now called Defense)
And as it has been called since the Defense Reorganization Act of 1947. As a historical note, I would also add that the Department of Defense was created by merging two cabinet departments, the Department of War and the Department of the Navy--and not merely renaming one.

I am not sure what the point was in calling DOD by a name it has not used in 60 years--and which would be past the memory of most of this site's commentators.
1.4.2008 6:11pm
James Lindgren (mail):
byomtov,

Yep.

Jim Lindgren
1.4.2008 7:09pm
wuzzagrunt (mail):
A. Zarkov wrote:

wuzzagrunt:

"Clinton was a two term President because of Ross Perot."

You assume that Perot took more votes from Bush than Clinton. I don't know about that. Perot ran more a less a populist campaign, so I think it's hard to say who he helped more. But don't you think either Bush or Clinton would have had a hard time getting more than 50% of the popular vote in a three-way race with a strong contender?


Though I'll admit to not having read any of the political fiction books the Clintons have published, AFAIK even they have not tried to spin it that way. And they've told some real howlers in the years since.
1.4.2008 8:34pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Zarkoff: "I say that because the Social Security Trust fund buy special issue Treasury bonds with the surplus. Nevertheless, that's better than any Republican has managed to do in a long time."

This is no accomplishment. Creating non-negotiable bonds and stuffing them in a file cabinet in West Virginia is not an accomplishment. It's an attempt to mislead people and avoid making difficult decisions. Far better to do nothing.

I have adopted the same system to pay for the kids college. Each month I put 25% of my income in a mason jar for the kids education. Then I borrow the money for living expenses and put a special IOU in the jar. There is now enough in the mason jar to easily pay for a fine college education. I proudly point to that jar full of IOU's and consider it one of the major accomplishments of my life.

The idiot who lives next door has been investing in a mutual fund each month. My jar has a far greater value than his meager mutual fund. When the time comes, those IOU's will send my kids to Harvard while his go to the local junior college.
1.4.2008 9:39pm
John T. (mail):
I think that this effect had been noted in the UK before, where the party in power steadily loses local councillors (whose jobs have nothing to do with Parliament) the longer it stays in power. I don't know about papers in the US, though, and certainly the concept of voting for a party rather than an individual may be stronger in a parliamentary system.
1.4.2008 10:25pm
byomtov (mail):
byomtov,

Yep.

Jim Lindgren


Jim,

OK. You're entitled. But don't expect to convince me that you've made a strong empirical case.

It's hardly better than that football nonsense you tried to pass off a few days ago.
1.4.2008 10:57pm
James Lindgren (mail):
byomtov,

Did you look at figure 1? The up and down movements in state governorships are quite stunning.
1.5.2008 1:44am
byomtov (mail):
Jim,

I did look at Figure 1. I agree it is suggestive, but I think "quite stunning" is an overstatement.

What I actually meant was not that you had no case, but that it needs a lot more analysis and explanation to be convincing. Why start with 1932, for one thing? For another, why define coattail as one election and backlash as several? When the Presidency changes hands, couldn't the election in PY-2 be the start of the coattail?

Obviously, you also have a small number of data points, with some special circumstances thrown in. You could almost say everything is an outlier. How much of the Democratic loss of statehouses in the 60's came in the South? The elections following 1968 brought the Dems back to where they were in the mid-60's. Watergate brought further gains, lost under Carter. This does not look to me like a massive anti-Carter reaction as much as just normal reversion.

So I'd like to see a lot more work on some of these issues.
1.5.2008 9:19am