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"Running to the middle" may be harder this time
Posted by: McQ on Thursday, May 31, 2007

AP's Ron Fournier makes an interesting point about the '08 election:
Republican and Democratic presidential candidates are abandoning the middle ground for positions on Iraq and immigration that cater to their parties' fringes _ the latest example of polarization trumping moderation in Washington.

Democrats are lurching to the left on Iraq. Republicans are moving right on immigration. Neither shift is a surprise; the two-party system encourages presidential candidates to appeal to each side's most fervent voters during the nomination fights.

But two things make this cycle special:

- The early start to the 2008 campaign means that White House hopefuls will be listening longer than usual to their parties' ''base'' voters before having to worry about what the rest of the electorate thinks.

- National political leaders are more polarized than they've been in decades.

''It surely doesn't bode well for reconciliation or trying to forge a consensus on these two very important topics,'' said David L. Epstein, an expert on political polarization at Columbia University. ''The worry is that things are just going to become more polarized as times goes on and it's going to be harder and harder for whoever wins to govern.''
Actually the early start and the issues at hand are why national political leaders are "more polarized than they've been in decades". But there is also the fact that the activist base now has a new and powerful voice combined with being the only group that is really paying attention at this time and most likely will form a large part of the primary voting population.

And as these base folks tend to be more on the extremes of the two parties, the appeal of politicians tends to be more extreme as well. For example, most of the GOP presidential candidates are running to the right of Bush on immigration.

At some point, if conventional wisdom is to be believed, the winners of the primary process are going to have to then try to run to the middle. Obviously activists on each side are then going to change their focus to the candidates of the other party and remind everyone what these folks said during their primary campaigns.

The question is, given the new paradigm, can those who win the primary ever really get anywhere near the center again?

And if not, is that necessarily a bad thing?
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Previous Comments to this Post 

I’ve been hearing a long time about this "run to the middle" stuff. But it looks over-emphasized to me.

Yes, Al Gore "ran to the middle" in 2000, but given how far left he really is, it was clearly necessary. Same for John Kerry. Note that both of them lost.

I don’t really think either Reagan or Clinton ran to the middle during their campaign. Reagan campaigned as a libertarian/conservative from start to finish. Clinton triangulated from start to finish.

I suppose Bush the Elder did a bit of running to the middle, mostly because he didn’t really believe in the Reaganesque philosophy he was supposed to be representing. But his real running to the middle was after he was elected, when he got suckered by the Democratic leaders in Congress about raising taxes.

The only recent winning candidate that I think explicitly embraced "run to the middle" was Bush the Younger, who brought out collectivist programs such as the prescription drug plan during the general election. And it wasn’t much of a run for him, because he didn’t set out any strong conservative positions in the primaries. ("Compassionate conservatism - grrrr...")

Running to the middle is certainly not without drawbacks. The necessary flip-flopping involved in running to the middle can cause problems with trust.

As said in the other post, I think the issue of trust is going to overwhelm most policy positions in the 2008 presidential election. Running to the middle is not the way to build trust.
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
The worry is that ... it’s going to be harder and harder for whoever wins to govern
Written By: Shasta
URL: http://
The reason for the excitement surrounding senator Fred Thompson and his possible run for the white house, is about the possibility that we might have an actual conservative to run.

Conversely, the republican base has turned up its nose at the centerist wannabes which are currently frontrunners by default in our nomination race.

So, the answer to your question, (is that a bad thing ) is decidedly no.
Written By: Bithead
Nice and thought filled site you’ve got here!...
Written By: Jennifer

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