Wednesday, February 10, 2016

When Politics Punditry Imitates Sports Punditry

In recent years, I began to notice that in sports with best of seven games playoff series, the folks who cover the sport (hockey, baseball, football)* tend to react to the most recent game as if it will determine the outcome.  Each time a different team wins, the pundits tend to suggest that the attributes of the most recent game tell everything we need to know about the series and that the previous games matter very little.  And then at the end of the series, one could look back at who wins and the patterns are usually not determined by what happened most recently but those that recur over the series.
* The same is kind of true in soccer's World Cup as each game in the preliminary rounds has the same short memory panic dynamic.

So, here we are, Iowa does not matter, NH has changed the entire course of the election.  Until the next primary, which will erase most of the patterns/dynamics imputed to the NH outcome, and on and on.

Part of this is probably driven by the need to fill 24 hours of content each day.  Part of this is that it is more exciting if every new competition is the most important ... until the next one.  But just perhaps, in politics, like in sports, the previous outcomes might matter some and the games to be played might matter as well.  Sure, in this competition, the early competitions are not irrelevant as the weaker candidates find their money drying up and exit the race.  The bets placed by the campaign financiers do matter, and as they swing, they impact the staying power of those who remain.

But so few delegates have been selected by the least representative states.  We can read much into the campaigns as the Clinton appeal has been, um, limited, and the appeal of hate/Trump is more than reasonable people can stand.  But there are far more games to be played, and the outcome is probably not going to be determined by the most recent primary.

Momentum probably does matter a bit more in politics than in sports, but is overrated in both.  Instead, it really is, at this stage, about the campaigns and the candidates, who have strengths and weaknesses.  And we know mostly what they are.  Rubio's weaknesses became more apparent, but authenticity and trust versus electability is not a new theme in the Democratic race.  So, there is some learning and some updating, but please can we have a wee bit of perspective after each primary?

Ok, I am asking for too much.  Sorry.

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