Pol Fatigue

At Ten Miles Square, In response to a suggestion from Kevin Drum that voters might just get tired of Hillary Clinton, Seth Masket says: Nah. There’s no real evidence of fatigue with politicians having any independent effect on their electoral viability, and a lot of time what you are hearing is that people quickly tire of pols they don’t like in the first place, or promoting someone as a fresh face who is really just in line with the promoter’s agenda.

You do occasionally find politicians who try to make an advantage of their own novelty, which usually means youth or non-complicity in recent disasters. In the 1965 New York mayoral election, John Lindsey’s unofficial campaign slogan (borrowed from Murray Kempton) was “he is so fresh and everyone else is so tired.” In the South when I was growing up, candidates for the Senate emphasized their youth not in terms of having fresh perspectives or new ideas, but as enabling them to stay there forever and accumulate seniority (“Sam Nunn is tough, Sam Nunn is young/Put Sam Nunn in Washington”) went my former boss’ jingle in his first Senate campaign in 1972).

Now being a political scientist, Seth Masket is by nature inclined to downgrade the importance of “non-fundamental” factors in presidential contests; he’d much rather know the unemployment rate than perceptions of a candidate’s relationship with his or her shelf life in predicting an outcome. But he may be right, for a somewhat different reason: the MSM will give us a “new Hillary” if she does well in 2016 and quickly describe her as “washed-up” if she stumbles in the invisible primary or in Iowa or New Hampshire. What primary voters–and even more so, journalists–really get tired of is anyone who loses. Winners, on the other hand, are a sunrise seen through evergreen trees. Count on it.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.