New York Times op-ed columnist Frank Bruni writes several hundred words on the competing biographies of Romney and Obama—arguing that Obama’s is the more compelling—and then says this:

In the end, that may not make a whit of difference. If swing voters were driven chiefly by candidates’ biographies, political analysts trying to predict election outcomes wouldn’t dwell so much on external measures like unemployment figures and right-track, wrong-track numbers. And if eloquence alone won the day, then these two candidates’ advocates wouldn’t believe, as more than a few of them do, that after all the speechifying and fund-raising and advertising, the results will boil down to positive or negative economic developments outside either man’s — or either campaign’s — control.

But if there are no clear developments one way or the other? If there’s an ongoing recovery, but a meager, tentative one at that? Then the spoils will most likely go to the candidate who makes the better case for himself. And that’s a battle over more than Bain Capital, the Keystone XL pipeline and the individual mandate. That’s a war for hearts as well.

In a world where other commentators state unequivocally that biographies and personality are The One True Key to Victory, I will give Bruni props for an appropriately moderated view—and especially for noting that elections often hinge on events outside the candidates’ control.

[Cross-posted at The Monkey Cage]

John Sides

John Sides is an associate professor of political science at George Washington University.