This is the last of the series on Establishment and Outsiders. In this post, I’ll deal with how each each us received by the electorate, and what it means in election terms.
Generally, the Establishment candidate has a higher floor of support. Voters feel more at ease with Establishment candidates because they tend to reinforce their views on the parties in particular and politics in general. If the voters are generally happy with the party, an Establishment nominee can consolidate that advantage. On the other hand, an Establishment candidate will have an uphill battle when the voters are not happy with the party. In other words, if you’re looking to protect a lead, the Establishment candidate is your best bet.
That said, the Outsider candidate has a higher ceiling. An Outsider candidate will have to work harder to win over the traditional Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents, but Independents who do not lean to the GOP may be willing to give them a look. The Outsider will need to take the initiative and hold it; and it could require more political capital initially, but an Outsider who can campaign well has a good deal more upside. He or she can even trump a year where the party is on the outs with the voters.
As for governing (or legislating, as the case may be), the Establishment official will largely be in the broad center of the party. Given that the Establishment isn’t driven by ideas (see part 1), “broad center” of the party need not mean center of the electorate (in fact, Bill Bolling himself if the right anchor of the GOP’s broad center).
The Outsider, by contrast, will follow his or her own way, whatever it may be. This does not by definition make an Outsider more honest, but rather less predictable. An Establishment official’s “gaps” on issues can usually be filled in by the party’s consensus view, if there is such. When an Outsider is quiet on an issue, it’s more difficult to gauge where (s)he stands.
So which one should a voter choose to nominate, if a choice is to be made? That depends on many different things: the perceived state of the electorate, the “broad center” of the party and where the Establishment candidate is within it, how complete the Outsider’s record and worldview is, each’s record as a candidate and an official (if applicable).
The point is this: one is not automatically better than the other. To quote the (admittedly fictional) Buster Kilrain, “You take men one at a time.”
Cross-posted to Bearing Drift