Note from Dan: Mark Jurkevich is taking a short vacation, so we don’t have a column from him today. This post is derived from a theory he has and that he explained to me in a series of emails back in January 2010.
The election is tomorrow and it features four relatively physically attractive candidates. So I thought it was time to renew an old post from around back then. We’ll start with an email Mark sent back then that I regarded at startling.
It was about Scott Brown’s victory in a special election to replace the late Sen. Ted Kennedy:
“That is quite a message the folks in Mass. sent to the Dems in electing Brown. The Republicans also seemed to get the theory that when Americans are feeling bad it sure helps to put a good-looking candidate in front of them. Brown looks like Mitt’s younger cousin.”
I responded with some surprise, and he went on:
“A) The USA hasn’t felt this bad about itself since the back end of the Carter years;
B) Reagan won, in part because of his virility, good looks and glamor surrounding him and Nancy. Americans compared them to how Jimmy Carter and his family looked, their tea-tottling and confessions of having lust in his heart etc.;
D) I have an email exchange between you and me from early 2007 where I asked you what you thought about Romney. You basically replied you know nothing about him and that he is irrelevant. I responded about America’s down beat mood and presented my good-looks theory, with the point being this guy might rise-up in the primaries. As it is, he came damn close and was actually a pundit favorite for a few weeks during primary season.
D) Likewise, long before the 2008 primary season, I am on the record of applying the same theory to Obama, and suggesting he just might be the Dem’s candidate. And of course, in the general elections, I pushed the theory.
I responded that if this was the case, how what explains Sen. Barbara Mikulski’s success in politics? She’s never lost a race, but she’d would have never made the cover of Sports Illustrated in a swimsuit, either.
“One thing that is important in this theory is that it is not about just good looks or youthfulness – Donny and Marie Osmond were cute but would not fit the theory. As an example, the Reagans were old, but the theory definitely applies. It’s about conveying health, style, a sense of glamour.
“The point of the theory is that in times when Americans are feeling bad about themselves, they will gravitate towards such a candidate quite strongly even if the candidate’s positions on issues are less aligned with their own, than that of his/her opponent(s). A final point is that many people will probably try to deny this tendency about themselves because they will feel that it is an admission of shallowness.
“Your Mikulski example is flawed. She is a long term incumbent that first won the office in very different times. The theory I support is that Americans — when they are angry, frustrated and hurting — will much more strongly be affected favorably by good looking candidates with good looking family.
“The uglies can do just fine during better and happier times. The last 2 years are not better and happier times. Of course these parameters carry much more significance when neither of the opponents are incumbents.”
I forget how I responded, but he came back one more time:
“Oh, and do you believe that in better times when American’s are satisfied with how things are going in life, business and government – that McCain would have selected Palin, or that Palin would have gotten the traction she got?
Other than being physically attractive, what does she have to offer? In fact, her attractiveness factor drops proportionately to how often she has to talk in any depth about any issue of substance. McCain understood the good looks theory, but like the gambler that he is, he took it to an extreme in what in football lingo was a Hail Mary.”
So what are your thoughts, folks? Is he right or wrong, or it is somewhere in between? And will it have any bearing on tomorrow’s election?