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Ironies of the 2000 election

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Two quotes from Larry Bartels and John Zaller's paper (pdf) trying to assess whether the results of the 2000 election deviated from what models based on economic performance would've predicted. Irony the first: A tax cut might've won the election for Al Gore, and it instead won the election for George W. Bush:

Why the unusually large discrepancy between (robust) output growth and (mediocre) income growth in 2000? That is a question perhaps best left to economists. We note, however, that the federal budget surplus for fiscal year 2000 was $217 billion – more than $750 for each man, woman, and child in America. If half that wealth had been added to disposable income (say, in the form of a middle-class tax cut) it would have increased election year income growth by about 1.6 percent, which would have made Clinton’s second-term economic performance notably strong in terms of income growth as well as output growth. Clinton may have displayed more fiscal discipline than political sense in spurning Republican proposals for a tax cut.

Irony the second: Bush was very lucky where his father was very unlucky:

Our best guess is that the slowdown was a major factor in Gore’s defeat. Had real income continued to grow through Election Day at even the moderate annual rate observed through the first half of the year (about two percent), our estimates suggest that Gore would have won an additional half percent of the popular vote. Thus, the long economic boom that arrived just a little too late to re-elect George Bush in 1992 seems to have ended just in time to elect his son in 2000.

Photo credit: Susan Biddle/The Washington Post.

By Ezra Klein  |  July 6, 2010; 3:06 PM ET
Categories:  Political Science  
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Comments

Also, if Al Gore had convinced his home state to vote for him, he would have won.

Or if the makeup of the supreme court had been different, he would have won. Or if we went by popular rather than electoral vote, Gore would have won.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | July 6, 2010 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Except Gore won.

Posted by: Maezeppa | July 6, 2010 4:08 PM | Report abuse

"Also, if Al Gore had convinced his home state to vote for him, he would have won.

Or if the makeup of the supreme court had been different, he would have won. Or if we went by popular rather than electoral vote, Gore would have won."


And if the media had made more analysis of of Gore's answers in the debates, rather than his body language and audible sighing (and the supposed personality changes from one debate to the next), he possibly would have won.

But the key thing here is what Kevin_Willis pointed out, Gore did win the popular vote, so the rarity of the electoral college defeat has more to do with red state/blue state demographics in the year 2000 (and smart Republican campaigning for an electoral college win), as it does traditional "models based on economic performance."

It was a quirky election.

Posted by: Patrick_M | July 6, 2010 4:09 PM | Report abuse

"Except Gore won."

Well. There is that.

Posted by: slag | July 6, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

In re Kevin_Willis comment: this is urban myth. Gore had two competing strategies to weigh. He could either go for A) the win in Tn. plus Ky. plus Va. or he could go for B) the win in Florida.

Choice A) would be daunting given the heavy tobacco, coal, and other polluter interests in those states. Gore wisely chose B) and as a result, received the most legitimate votes in Florida.

Posted by: Maezeppa | July 6, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

If Fla. was the goal, maybe he should have picked Bob Graham instead of Liebermann.

When you're a Dem, you've got to be ready to win by a landslide. Close-calls don't count.

Posted by: leoklein | July 6, 2010 4:30 PM | Report abuse

"In re Kevin_Willis comment: this is urban myth"

Well, it's not typical that a presidential candidate not carry his own state. He shouldn't have to campaign for it, really. Even Mondale, who lost pretty decisively, carried his home state.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | July 6, 2010 5:06 PM | Report abuse

Or if Buchannon had actually campaigned even a little in Florida, instead of looting the American Reform Coffers and taking a long and incognito vacation...

Or if either of two judges had said illegal absentee ballots must not be counted.

When exit polling gave Florida to Gore, the Bushes were out rather rapidly, yelling that THEY had won. Of course, since they knew that the fix was in, they were right to do so.

Diebold Voting machines will rearrange the popular vote just about every time.

Posted by: ceflynline | July 7, 2010 5:48 PM | Report abuse

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