Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Does Experience Matter?

One thing I've seen a lot of Democrats fretting about in facing McCain is the question of 'experience'. The concern is usually applied to Obama, but if is a factor it'll be a line of attack against Clinton as well; McCain's 'experience' dwarfs that of both Democrats.

But is it a factor?

In 2004, 1996, and 1984 the incumbents beat challengers with more experience. Okay; incumbency is a huge advantage in its own right, so that doesn't tell us much.

In 2000, with no incumbent running, the guy with less experience won...with fewer votes. In 1988, with no incumbent running, the guy with more experience won handily.

In 1992, 1980, and 1976, the less-experienced candidate beat the incumbent.

All of which means...what? Well, that's exactly the point. I don't think there's any support in recent history for the idea that objectively measurable 'experience' is a significant factor one way or the other in presidential elections.

Whoever gets the nomination will be savagely attacked in all kinds of ways, including on a lack of 'experience', and some of those attacks will be effective. I just doubt very much that 'experience' will be one of the effective ones.