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The Myth of the 2004 Election

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Matt’s two recent posts on the myth of the 2004 elections make two crucial related points:  1)the effect of presidential campaigns in general is marginal, and 2)there’s no actual evidence that John Kerry was a bad candidate or ran a bad campaign.  (Or, conversely, the 2004 elections are yet another event that fail to confirm the idea that Karl Rove is some kind of political supergenius.)    The point is also relevant to claims that Goodridge and same-sex marriage cost the Democrats the 2004 elections.   The most salient fact of the 2004 elections is that George W. Bush underperformed the baseline expectations of a wartime incumbent in a decent economy.    If there’s any puzzle that needs to be explained by reference to campaign tactics, it’s how Kerry did so well.    And, yes, if the economy doesn’t improve significantly no amount of clever tactics are going to save Obama against a marginally credible Republican nominee.

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