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MacManus analyzes 2012 election in new book chapter

Posted Jan 16, 2013 by William March

Updated Jan 16, 2013 at 04:59 PM

In a chapter of a new book compiled by Larry Sabato, University of South Florida political scientist Susan MacManus analyzes the 2012 election and makes several predictions about what to look for in 2016. Among them:

In both 2008 and 2012, Florida Republicans got exactly what they wanted by flouting national Republican Party rules and scheduling the state presidential primaries early. The Florida primaries were fiercely contested, closely watched and pivotal in both years, despite penalties imposed by the national party for the early dates. That makes it seem unlikely the national parties will be able to enforce any rules designed to control primary scheduling.

Debates were crucial in both the 2012 GOP primary and the general election, but there was also unprecedented questioning of debate moderators and procedures, including exclusion of third-party candidates. That means 2016 may see intense controversy over plans for the debates.

The well-documented effectiveness of Obama’s high-tech voter turnout program raises the questions: Will the Democrats be able to do the same thing again? “Is the Obama coalition primarily loyal to him … or to the Democratic Party?”

Between the campaigns and heavily funded independent committees, the airwaves were hugely oversaturated with political ads. 2016 will see debate over whether it’s better to spend ad money early when the airwaves are less congested, as Obama did, or use online ads and get-out-the-vote databases and organizing instead.

Both parties ended up losing the states where their conventions were held, and television coverage of conventions continued to decline. But the parties still love conventions, so they’re probably not going away. Even though they decide nothing, they’re a chance to show off rising party stars and send unfiltered messages to voters.

The Obama campaign did a better job planning state-by-state strategy because their internal polling and voter contact information was more accurate than that of published polls, which overstated Romney’s support. Although MacManus doesn’t explore it, the obvious question is whether this means polls are becoming less accurate, or less reliable than campaign technology.

The book, “Barack Obama and the New America,” is a compilation of the thoughts of prominent political scientists on the 2012 race by Sabato of the University of Virginia, one of the nation’s most often-quoted political scientists. It’s expected to be released this month.