Cruzin’ to victory? UB professor’s research influences Ted’s campaign

Release Date: January 27, 2016

“What the GOP needs is not a base candidate and not an establishment candidate, but one who can bring its two wings together. A divided party is a weak party. And right now, the Republican Party is a highly divided party. Unless they turn around, this significantly boosts the odds of another four years of a Democrat in the White House.”
James Campbell, professor of political science
University at Buffalo

The Ted Cruz campaign is a data-driven one, according to a National Review profile.

So his top advisers point to the books and scholarly articles of political scientists as tools that have guided the campaign’s thinking during its 2016 presidential run. And one of those influencers happens to be James Campbell, UB Distinguished Professor of Political Science.

“I have been told by a few reporters that the Cruz campaign said my research had been very influential in devising their election strategy,” says Campbell. “I was unaware of this, but it makes sense given the fact that my research on elections has been hitting the national media since the early 1990s.”

The Cruz campaign has gleaned the most from Campbell’s research that shows how important it is for candidates to keep their ideological bases happy, and that these bases cannot be taken for granted, a few reporters have been told by Cruz’s top advisers.

“Cruz’s team points to the dozens of scholarly articles written by Jim Campbell of the University at Buffalo, who has spent decades measuring the impact of swing voters on presidential elections,” Eliana Johnson writes in the National Review story.

One of Campbell’s studies showed that winning presidential candidates do not need to win a majority of the swing vote, since turnout of their base more than made up for the difference.

He wrote in “The Swing Voter in American Politics,” published by The Brookings Institution Press in 2008, that a majority of winning presidential candidates from 1972 to 2004 could have lost the swing vote “by a landslide” and still won the popular vote.

Taking the party’s base for granted, alienating potential voters in the party’s ideological base, Campbell says, was a factor in the 2008 and 2012 elections. Republican conservatives were not especially happy with either John McCain or Mitt Romney, and so some stayed home, he says.

“Base voters often decide elections,” Campbell says. “Candidates can win with only 40 percent or even a smaller share of the swing vote. Now, more than ever, that’s the case as we see political polarization on the rise.”

But there’s an aspect of his research that the Cruz campaign should be paying more attention to, Campbell says: a divided party is a weak party.

“What the GOP needs is not a base candidate and not an establishment candidate,” he says, “but one who can bring its two wings together. A divided party is a weak party. And right now, the Republican Party is a highly divided party.

“Unless they turn around, this significantly boosts the odds of another four years of a Democrat in the White House.”

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