While many political analysts look for the game-changers of the 2012 presidential election, one professor at George Washington University said it was just more of the same.
John Sides, an associate professor of political science at GWU, deconstructed the notion of major events drastically affecting the last election. According to Sides, many of the famous game-changers of the 2012 election had no effect on the popularity of either candidate.
Political game-changers are pivotal moments that could have a drastic effect on the outcome of an election.
“How things are today in a campaign may not be how they will be tomorrow,” he said. “There’s an enormous potential for volatility, and so anything that happens in a particular day on the campaign trail could be the thing that produces this amazing and important change in a campaign.”
According to Sides, three supposed game-changers for the 2012 election were political gaffes, Barrack Obama’s early advertising and Obama’s formidable political campaign.
But Sides said that political gaffes failed to sway voters because the types of people who heard about them were most likely to have pre-formed political opinions.
“The people most likely to pay attention are the least likely to change their minds,” he said.
Sides also argued that Obama’s early advertising in May also fell flat as a significant game-changer because the effects of advertising don’t stick with viewers for more than a day.
Obama’s formidable campaign is also a fallacy, according to Sides, and the main defense for the strength of a campaign boils down to circular logic.
“Well how do you know his campaign was awesome? And the answer is because he won. So why did he win? Because of his awesome campaign,” Sides said. “And the circularity continues. There’s never been a losing candidate that has ever run an awesome campaign.”
Sides said he wanted to dispel the notion that campaigning is pointless. He compared the opposing campaigns to a tug-of war, with equal efforts resulting in no shift for either side.
“It’s not that the campaign did not matter, it’s that both sides were campaigning vigorously enough and successfully enough that often times their effects cancelled each other out,” Sides said.
Sides said political advantages are never apparent beforehand, but people can deduce their cause afterwards.
“You can’t say in August, ‘I think October is going to be really good for Herman Cain.’ No one can make that prediction,” Sides said. “But after the fact, you can certainly look and say, ‘The reason Herman Cain surged was … because he won the Florida straw poll.’”
Giovanni Scaringi, a graduate student studying political science, said the fast pace rate of news resulted in the belief of constant game-changers.
“I agree with his overall premise that there seem to be less actual ‘game changers’ than what many people both inside and outside the world of politics thought,” Scaringi wrote in an email. “This is often predicated by the 24-7 News cycle that has dramatically changed the ways in which many people receive information, more importantly, how they internalize that information.”