Thursday, November 06, 2014

Post hoc rationalization - Brown vs. Shaheen


At National Review Online, Katherine Connell reads the exit polls on the Scott Brown loss in NH:
One thing that jumps out from the exit polls was that a majority of voters thought Brown was too new to their state.

Fifty-three percent answered “no” to the question, “Has Brown lived in N.H. long enough?” Of those who felt that Brown’s migration to the Granite State was too recent, 89 percent voted for Jeanne Shaheen. Of the 45 percent who thought Brown had been there long enough, 93 percent voted for him.
I've lived in, or on the border of, New Hampshire for 30 years now, and you can count me among the group that thinks the "carpetbagger" assessment is strictly post hoc rationalization from Shaheen supporters. If they wanted an alternative to Shaheen, they'd have voted for Brown. They didn't. I would be surprised if there 10 votes cast in Tuesday's election that really hinged in any significant way on Brown's newcomer status.

New Hampshire is not a conservative state, at this point, it's a liberal state, because it's majority-populated by people living within 30 miles of Massachusetts who were Massachusetts residents 25 years ago. Scott Brown was no less a carpetbagger than the majority of those who voted against him. And if he'd been there for fifty years, the race would have turned out the same way. Jeanne Shaheen has won statewide races in New Hampshire consistently for the last 20 years, often by large margins, and the state has continued to grow more liberal during that entire time. Obviously 2008 was a much better environment for running as a Democrat, but she beat an incumbent, John Sununu, who was a lifelong New Hampshire resident by 7 points then, and the state has continued to grow more liberal over the six years since.

To be fair to Connell, she acknowledges this possibility - "Of course, it could be that voters who had made up their mind to support Brown would simply say that they didn’t mind his state-hopping from Massachusetts, and those who favored Shaheen would be inclined to criticize him for it." But she does so almost dismissively, and I think that she's wrong to do so.

I wrote about this effect once several years ago.
Any arguments that too inexperienced and callow to be elected are legitimate.

But if I were to make them, it would be a lie. It would be to imply that, if only he weren't so young and inexperienced, I might vote for him. And the fact is, based on his entire career, the people he's chosen to align himself with and his voting record, there are no realistic circumstances under which I would ever vote for him...It's kind of like the NFL tie-breakers. If you go far enough down the list, you get to things like net points in division games. It's relevant, but the NFL is unlikely to ever actually make a decision based on it, because there are more important things that will separate the teams before you get to it. Obama's youth, his past drug "experimentation," McCain's temper, the Keating five, Hillary's "misstatements" about her trip to Bosnia - all interesting, all legitimate and all so far down the list as to be essentially irrelevant in making a decision.

That's' what's happening here.  No one didn't vote for Scott Brown because he was a carpetbagger, because he just made New Hampshire his full-time residence two years ago.  But if you were going to support Shaheen anyway, you'd be happy to offer that as a criticism of Brown.  I believe that this issue played no real part in any voters' actual decision to choose Shaheen over Brown.

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