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The Experience Issue

Thursday, July 08, 2004
The Republicans have probably already figured out that bashing John Edwards as a trial lawyer isn't going to work. I mean seriously- this guy is something out of a John Grisham novel. No, the right has another arrow in its quiver in Edwards' inexperience. Poor Republicans. That attack isn't going to work either. There are of course the easy comeback lines available to Kerry & Co. "Edwards has more real experience than George Bush did when he was elected." "The only experience these guys have is in wrecking the country." Etc., etc., etc. And there is the simple fact that Edwards is just a running mate. Kerry is positively stuffed with experience.

But none of this really makes any difference. Why? Because experience just doesn't matter. How many times has the inexperienced candidate beaten the experienced one? Here's a list:

Jefferson over Adams (1800)
Jackson over Adams (1824)
Harrison over Van Buren (1840)
Polk over Clay (1844)
Taylor over Cass (1848)
Lincoln over Douglas (1860)
Cleveland over Blaine (1884)
Harrison over Cleveland (1888)
Wilson over Taft (1912)
Hoover over Smith (1928)
Roosevelt over Hoover (1932)
Eisenhower over Stevenson (1952)
Kennedy over Nixon (1960)
Carter over Ford (1976)
Reagan over Carter (1980)
Clinton over Bush (1992)
Bush over Gore (2000)

And as you can see, national crises don't seem to matter (1860, 1932). And in fact, those two election produced two of our 3 greatest Presidents.

There are two basic facts at work here. First, voters don't care that much about the experience of candidates. Elections with incumbents are refrenda on incumbents, and all the challenger has to do is cross the threshold of acceptability. And if there is no incumbent, voters just pick the more attractive candidate, no matter their resume. And second, the voters seem to be on to something. There is no real relationship between being an effective President and having a lot of experience. You just never can tell.

So if the experience issue is the best the Republicans can do, then Edwards need to start packing his bags for the move to Blair House.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 3:30 PM
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