How to Win a Presidential Election?

English: Seal of the President of the United S...I recently answered the question on Quora: “Why did Mitt Romney lose the 2012 Presidential election?”  My answer about the axioms that determined the last Presidential election can be generally:

There are two political axioms that come into play in answering why Romney lost to Obama. One general. One specific.

Incumbents lose; Challengers don’t win.  In every political race, the incumbent has the upper hand.  Despite comments to the contrary, Americans don’t like change.  They will keep the devil they know.

Obama ran a winning campaign.  He kept his focus on getting votes.  You might think this is obvious but looking at other recent Democratic  presidential candidates, they got distracted from actually getting people to vote for them. A case in point is Obama’s refusal to waste energy on throwing 3rd party candidates off the ballot as prior Democrat presidential candidates had.  This exercise is focused on stopping people from voting for the candidates that they want, rather than focusing on convincing people to vote for you.  It is a drain on resources, a distraction, and creates unneeded ill will.

Obama won the 3 hour car ride test.  The majority of American voters already know who they are voting for, elections are determined by the relatively few in the middle who have to be convinced.  Those in the middle know that whichever candidate that they choose, they will get the short end of the stick.  Presidential elections, to the middle, are like the tagline from Alien vs. Predator:  “Whoever wins, we lose.” 

So how does the middle make a decision between such a depressing choice?  They choose the presidential candidate that will annoy them the least during the next 4 years, hence the 3 hour car ride test.  These voters, in essence, choose the candidate that they would prefer to be stuck in a car with for a 3 hour trip.  Hence, Obama over Romney.

And it also explains the ongoing popularity of Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan.  Regardless of their policies and personal faults, they would be entertaining travelling companions.

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