The Presidential Pulse of Congressional Elections: Second Edition

Author: James E. Campbell
Published: 1997
Website: Amazon Page

In light of the recent debates and hullabaloo over the republican presidential primaries and the 2010 midterm elections, I decided to pick up The Presidential Pulse of Congressional Elections. And although the book was, as expected, pretty dry, it was extremely thorough in its approach to analyzing the affect that a president has on his party’s chances in the next midterm and presidential elections. Without going into too much summary, Campbell proposes a revised theory of “surge and decline”: an idea which made perfect sense to me after following the 2010 midterm elections. It revolves around the notion that the two types of elections (presidential and midterm) each have their own socioeconomically and politically unique voting groups whose median viewpoint about issues changes in predictable ways from the presidential election to the following midterm election. What I found most fascinating was the idea that people’s probability of regretting their vote for president could be modeled quite accurately and that the model implied that if a president won by a large amount, the added buffer of voters whose votes he received who do not normally vote for his party would be more prone to regret; and consequentially be more likely to vote against his party in the midterm election.

This book, unlike the others I have read in the past month, did not have a plot, characters, or a friendly narrator to guide me through the tension of unproved propositions and narrowly stated conclusions. Or to put it another way, it is an academic book which I probably should not have read in one day. But because I approached it as I would a novel, I will hesitantly admit that although dry, The Presidential Pulse of Congressional Elections was extremely interesting, quite persuasive, and well worth reading in advance of what is bound to be an interesting year of politicking.


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