8 - Conclusions  pp. 174-186


By Richard Johnston, Michael G. Hagen and Kathleen Hall Jamieson

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The degree of contingency and the scope for rhetoric in elections seem greater than allowed by most mainstream political science research. This is true even though most propositions in the mainstream about the impact of “fundamentals,” of forces outside the grip of campaigns, are also true. Sophisticated analyses of fundamental forces concede that real campaign dynamics exist, that movement in vote intention is not just “error” ultimately banished as individuals find their way to predetermined positions. But the standing political science claim is that, by Election Day, these dynamics deliver – indeed, are necessary to deliver – a highly predictable result. The dynamics do not alter the course of history. For 2000 at least, we see the opposite: The power of fundamentals did not block the operation of highly contingent forces of strategic play and counter play. These contingent forces were more than just the midwives of a history whose causal source lay elsewhere. They also made the history.

Our claim has three parts. The first is about “fundamentals,” about how Al Gore's access to some fundamental considerations was blocked even as George W. Bush moved to take away Gore's advantage in others. The second is that the divergence between the popular vote and the Electoral vote was no accident; it reflected a divergence between the campaigns. Third, strategic deployment of resources is critical at the margin, and an even balance in resources and skill cannot be taken for granted.

The outcome should never have been so close.


Reference Title: References

Reference Type: reference-list

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