Thursday, August 16, 2007

The candidating game

So, my brother emailed me this quiz that compares your views with the positions staked out by US presidential candidates and tells you which candidates match up with you best.

Here are my results, starting with the candidates who got a positive score:

Hunter +34
Romney +30
Giuliani +29
Huckabee +26
McCain +23
Tancredo +20
Cox +14
Thompson +13
Brownback +7

And then we get into negative numbers...

Richardson -15
Obama -15
Biden -16
Paul -17
Clinton -18
Dodd -19
Edwards -19
Gravel -28
Kucinich -30

This actually is pretty close match to my own perceptions of the candidates, especially given the very simple nature of the test. I'm surprised and impressed with how well this works. (I am especially pleased to see that the program figured out that I dislike Ron Paul almost as much as Hillary Clinton. Nice.) Makes me want to go read up on Duncan Hunter...

But it's definitely a very simplistic test. I did it in two minutes, without thinking about it too much, and was surprised with how well its predictions matched my own previous feelings about the candidates. But I think it's not going to be very helpful for people who are still sorting out their own positions on the issues.

I'm lucky. The issues I care most about are pretty clear-cut. For instance, I think that for our intervention in Iraq to succeed, we need a lot of people there for a long time. The way I read history, anything else leaves the place in absolute chaos. So I support more troops in Iraq for a longer time. And all the candidates have a pretty clear stand on that issue at this point. Now, things could be a lot more complicated. For instance, if the surge were yielding obviously spectacular successes, lots of candidates would shift their positions to agree with mine, at least at that level of detail. And then I would have to get a lot more fine-grained, and tease out much more subtle differences.

That's where the health care issue is, to my way of thinking. Some candidates have positions that are widely divergent, but most of them are pretty close, and you have to get into the nuances to see what the differences are, in lots of cases. For instance, Mitt Romney got a sort of universal health care system started in Massachusetts, but it's not the same kind of universal health care system that Hillary Clinton tried to get passed in 1993. But that was 14 years ago. When she says she wants to reform the health care system now, how different will her plan be from Romney's? And then we have people whose position is much less clear, and much more based in platitudes that obscure these small, nuanced differences-- like Barack Obama.

As I say, I'm lucky. There are a few issues that matter more to me than the rest, and the candidates have staked out pretty clear (and different) positions on those few issues. There are a few other issues like this (I have a friend who decides entirely on what kind of Supreme Court justices the candidate is likely to nominate.) but most are not. I'm just glad I'm not deciding on education policy, or something like that. After quickly eliminating the ones who are way out there at the extreme, I'd be left with the muddled middle. And I'd never be able to figure out who to support.

So, I'd probably just do what I did last time, and support a beltway outsider.


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