Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Sarah Milhous tills the midterms

As observers struggle to divine Sarah Palin's effect on various races for Congress and governor, it's worth looking back at the all-time master of collecting mid-term election chits, Richard Nixon. Here's Rick Perlstein on Nixon's campaigning strategy, 1966:
Geographically, the itinerary felt random. Politically, it was anything but. He received over a thousand speaking invitations a month. The ones he chose were triangulated with scientific precision. The New York Times's John Herbers reviewed the crazy-quilt itinerary and concluded Nixon was campaigning "in districts where races are close." The failure of discernment was profound. It was the opposite: he was campaigning in traditionally Republican districts where a Democratic congressman had won in 1964 on Lyndon Johnson's coattails, but was likely to be swept out in the conservative backlash...

Come November, Richard Nixon could remind the New York Times that what these districts had in common was that Richard Nixon had campaigned there. He could reap credit for making water flow downhill ( Nixonland, p. 142).

The jury's out on the Palin effect, but Marc Ambinder's surely right on the Palin process:
Truth is, Palin has endorsed some winning candidates and some losing candidates, but she's done so carefully, strategically, and more cannily that she's been given credit for.
A difference: Nixon in 1966 positioned himself to the left of perceived Republican crazies Goldwater and Reagan.

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