What was my impression of the Republican debate?

I watched about an hour total, mostly because my father-in-law has been regularly engaged in this Methodenstreit.  Two related facts struck me:

1. I know this is hard to believe, but not every participant did remarkably well from a marketing point of view.  Put aside whether or not you agreed with them, more than one candidate was disappointing in terms of voter appeal.  Yet these were, for the most part, professional politicians.

2. The two participants who have done the best relating to voters, through the media, are the two former CEOs, Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina.  Overall that is true even if you think Trump had a subpar performance this debate.

A priori, you would think that being a professional politician selects exactly for people who can do well in a televised national debate.  Yet, from this limited number of data points, it is the CEOs who have the relevant skills.

What should we infer about the relative filters for CEOs and politicians?

a. Do CEOs work with real people more?  Or perhaps the CEO filter requires a greater diversity of life experience.

b. Is the CEO market simply tougher, more competitive, and more demanding of talent, given how much money is on the line?

c. Do CEOs have an easier time being eclectic or perhaps talking tough?  After all, they’re “the boss” and they can on a regular basis make tough, oppositional decisions in a way that a mainstream politician usually cannot.  (Indeed Fiorina and Trump have done plenty of this.)  This seems to be a time when many voters prefer eclecticism and outside the box flair.

d. Is there something else about the filtering process for professional politicians?  What might that be, if not the ability to be good on TV?  You might think “ability to raise $$ from big donors” is a major filter, but I would think the donors would care enough about electability for this to collapse back into the original question of why the CEOs are doing better on TV.

Robin Hanson yesterday raised the question of why actors and actresses, in either the literal or the operational sense, do not take over the upper tiers of the political sector.  Take a taller Tom Cruise, subtract Scientology, school him, and put him on that floor — how well would he have done?  Would a George Clooney or Harrison Ford really have no chance?  How about a smart talk show host?

Inquiring minds wish to know.


The NBC Nightly News once edited a segment to make it look like George Clooney and I were having a debate.

Even I have to admit: I got wiped out.

What? Seriously? Have a link to unit, by chance?

George Soros has all the money in the world, so his Media Matters minions preserve online the video of my epic drubbing by George Clooney:


Come on Steve, it gives nothing of that impression. Stop trying to get famous off Clooney.

fyi, this post was not about you even a little bit.

On the question of entertainers: Two, of course, became California governors, and one went on to the presidency. Apart from them, though, entertainers seek adulation and fortune. There's a lot more adulation and fortune to be made in entertainment than in politics. CEOs, on the other hand, like power with their fortune.

And yet neither Meg Whitman nor Al Checchi managed to get themselves elected governor in California.

Having a compelling persona is only one aspect of good debating. It is arguably less important than logic, strategy, knowledge of the issues, having a sense of what the public will respond well to, and thinking quickly on your feet. I'm not sure why actors, who typically perform material written by someone else, should automatically be good at this.

I totally agree. Becoming a politician is just not that attractive anymore. The most talented people go into other fields. Like entertainment (fame and fortune), sports (fame and fortune), science (fame, sometimes fortune), finance/management/law/medicine (fortune, sometimes fame). What do politicians get? Usually a lousy salary (compared to the other fields) and a lot of trouble.

Your chances of making much money as an entertainer or athlete are vanishingly small. It's doubtful that the compensation of the professoriate compares favorably to state or federal politicians (or to big-time local politicians). In any case, professors are satisficers, not optimizers (as are most people, especially public employees). Your real comparison would be with business and law. Most people who start their own business close it with ten years because they can make a better living as someone's employee. It's not surprising that people who make a go of business are not inclined to give up their baby for public office unless they're retiring. So, political office tends to attract a great many ordinary men in law and real estate. That describes the conventional candidates bar Jeb Bush (did fairly well in real estate and banking), Rick Perry (career military), Scott Walker (scant pre-political career), and Bobby Jindal (public sector wunderkind).

Rick Perry spent five years in the military. Does that really qualify as "career"?

He was a commissioned officer and he was in the military longer than Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, or Joseph Biden practiced law. I'd forgotten about his farming years.

Let us not forget Jesse "The Mind" Ventura, who became Governor as well (albeit of Minnesota). Leading to Predator being the only movie in which you can see two future governors acting together.

You and Tyler (And many commentators) are missing a few important facts:

1) debates don't matter that much. Maybe the Nixon v. Kennedy one tipped an election. But they really don't matter that much. Neither Trump nor Fiorina will be the nominee. The party elites still have a big influence. Yes, debate performance can influence them, too, but it's not the only factor. The nomination is still between Rubio, Bush, and Walker.

2) Parties are coalitions. The experienced politicians are more in tune with what that coalition consists of and try to speak to it, which puts huge constraints on what they can say and do in order to not offend the major components of that coalition. Trump doesn't care about the coalition. He picked a few issues that fire up a portion of the party, but he's upset a large portion who he needs to win. He only ran for self-promotion. He just so happened to strike a chord with a large proportion of Republicans than he realized. That's why he dropped his former campaign manager. He suddenly thought he now had a chance. But he doesn't.

aMichael said, "The nomination is still between Rubio, Bush, and Walker."

Yet, the latest polls give the combined support for Rubio, Bush, and Walker less than half that of Trump at 34% who almost doubles his nearest rival.

If the Republican party elites rig the party platform to have their Tweedledum face off against the Democrats Tweedledee, they'll surely lose as 30 - 40% of Republicans abstain from voting during the election.

Until you get to the presidential level, most politicians have no need to look good on national TV to a broad audience. Hardly anyone watches most local politicians or even us congressmen on television, and those that do are not representative of those who watch presidential debates. Donors and interest groups understand this, and understand that their dollars have greater influence on local elections (in part because most such elections are de facto decided by party nominating processes rather than the general elections), and therefore seek candidates who align with their interests better.

I agree. Large donors and the parties discipline candidates to parrot standard sound bites and party lines. Any politician seeking longevity in office must kowtow to them or is replaced with someone that will. Anyone capable of doing it on their own likely has better alternatives so don't make a career of it.

Trump can be funny. While Fiorina had her zinger, her negativity fulfilled Trump's revision, but her record probably doesn't leave her any choice. The other non-politician, Carson, sounds bumbling in contrast.

'Yet, from this limited number of data points, it is the CEOs who have the relevant skills.'

You mean lying to gain their goals?
'All of the candidates on that stage repeated the lies about Planned Parenthood being circulated by CMP — that they “sell baby parts” for profit, etc. — but Fiorina went a step beyond and invented a horrific gory scene that exists only in her mind.

It’s just one more example showing that the Republican Party has become completely unmoored from reality and lost in a kind of negative magical thinking; circulating outright falsehoods and blood libels to attack their enemies with absolutely no concern at all for the truth.' littlegreenfootballs.com/article/45058_Worst_Moment_of_the_GOP_Debate-_Carly_Fiorinas_Imaginary_Blood_Libel_Attack_on_Planned_Parenthood

Or do you mean pandering to gain their goals?
'Audience member: We have a problem in this country — it’s called “Muslims.” We know our current President is one.

Trump: Right.

Audience member: You know he’s not even an American. Birth certificate, man!

Trump: We need this question!

Audience member: But anyway [laughter], we have training camps growing, where they want to kill us.

Trump: Mm hmm.'

You mean lying to gain their goals?

There's only one liar here and it's you. The chop-shops aspect of the abortion trade has been known outside the industry for about 15 years.

Actors and actresses running for political offense is commonplace in India, the largest democratic country on the planet. The question is why not in the USA?

Indeed, in South India more than a couple of popular actors have gone on to the highest political office of their respective states. Film star power is routinely acknowledged and understood there.

A good argument against democracy.

Yes Fiorina's particular description is nowhere on the tapes. She lied. Unfortunately, lying is epidemic amongst both the left and the right.

The answer seems fairly obvious to me. Both Trump and Fiorina are largely self financed or financed by a narrow band of high dollar donors. They don't need to worry about alienating people or triangulating for loci of support.

They are also at liberty to spout nonsense because they don't actually have enough in-depth knowledge about the issues to muddy up their thinking with nuance or complexity, meaning they can talk about issues at the same level of depth as Joe Shmoe because, functionally, that's where they are too. Regular politicians can try to fake it and take positions that are plainly at odds with reality as well, but they can never project the kind of confidence that a person who doesn't know how wrong they are can. http://www.vox.com/2015/9/16/9342761/carly-fiorina-debate

Best answer!

Really interesting answer indeed.

One issue is that the political media is made up of people who are REALLY INTO politics -obviously! Those people, because of their own interests and echo chamber, tend to overestimate how important it is that people like the president have an understanding of the issues that is full of "nuance and subtlety." But in the end I don't think it's all that critical.

Take Obamacare for instance. I am 100% certain that Obama's "nuanced and subtle" version of that law would've been extremely different than what we actually got. But, when the rubber hit the road, Obama decided that it was more important to get something passed that he felt was generically in the right direction, even if it lacked the necessary nuance and subtlety. President Ezra Klein would never have gotten any law passed whatsoever because he'd have been too busy re-running scenarios to see if he could get an expected .01% efficiency increase by slightly rewording subclause

Nuance my ass.

Both Ezra and Obama are interested in control over a growing segment of our economy. Obama's regrets are only about the control he sought and could not get.

I'm not sure what light you're actually trying to shed by just repeateting "nuance and subtlety" in scare quotes. The ACA we got is extremely nuanced. In fact that is its problem. It has 1,001 and details in it that were hammered on and tacked in over months of fractious infighting. So of course it's going to be kludgy and messy. That's the system we have. That's the output you get from contentious legislative processes.

People who work in policy understand that they're mostly picking the least worst feasible option in any given situation. Things will be far messier than an off the cuff grandstanding pronouncement you get to make when you have not even a passing relationship with the reality of governance or policy implementation. Thus you get The Donald talking about erecting giant fortress walls along the border and Fiorina imagining that she will intimidate Putin by adding a couple of extra warships to a fleet that is already larger than all the other navies in the world combined.

I guess I didn't explain myself clearly. Let's take your examples - Trump with the wall, Fiorina with the Sixth Fleet. Those are both placeholders for broader concepts -- Trump's is "we should stop illegal immigration" and Fiorina's is "we should rattle some sabers at Russia." That's what they're really communicating, and I don't take either of those proposals literally.

It seems to me that the nuance and subtlety complaint (took out the quotation marks for you:)) is wholly missing the point. It's saying to Trump, well you say build a wall but how tall should it be?? What materials should it be made of??? How many man hours to build it???? These are details for the Ezra Kleins of the earth to wring their hands about, not the Barack Obamas. I guess this is a longwinded way of saying they're focusing on the trees, not the forest.

It's more like "You say to build a wall. . . But you seem to have no goddamn idea how expensive that would be or that enforcing your deportation plan would functionally turn the US into a police state." There isn't any actual knowledge about trade-offs there or even political feasibility.

It sounds impressive because people get to confidently assert things as true. They don't have to acknowledge that issues are complicated.

“You say to build a wall. . . But you seem to have no goddamn idea how expensive that would be or that enforcing your deportation plan would functionally turn the US into a police state.”

We managed to build 38,000 miles worth of Interstate Highways. A 2,000 mile long wall should not break the bank.

In addition to that, they don't have to send the right coded signals to their donors and various constituencies. Most other politicians must carefully phrase their words so they can be parsed in multiple ways for maximum cross-spectrum appeal. If you don't have to do that it is possible to speak more clearly and to the point.

Best answer!!!

I'm agnostic about US politics but I don't see Fiorina being ignorant about the issues. She's been pretty detailed and forthright compared to the sludge from everyone else.

Is Cruz stupid too? Paul?

Clinton is hiding under a rock, Sanders is an imbecile and Obama, Reid, Boehner and McConnell are galloping a dying horse over the cliff.

You think an ophtalmologist and a lawyer described as 'off-the-charts-brilliant' by Alan Dershowitz are 'stupid'?

Why don't actors and actresses take over the economics profession?

what makes you think they haven't?

whatever the case may be, I suspect the answer is similar the one to Tyler's question

it could be that they aren't playing the game Tyler thinks they are playing.

I think this is resting on the wrong assumption that there's some objective function for political viability, with the most meritorious generally coming out on top. I believe there's a lot of randomness to who gets anointed in front runner position. It's like coalescing around Schelling points, very small bits of randomness can drastically change the outcome. Right place, right time, hook a couplembig donors, make some well tmed appearances, get a few good media segments. Boom, now someone who was virtually unknown may be a presidential nominee.

Theres no way that the 11 people on TV last night were anything close to the smoothest, most charismatic or inspiring people in a country of 300 million. Ergo these characteristics can only explain a tiny fraction of political success. I'd posit that the sizable bulk of the remaining variance is simply unexplainable randomness.

Merit hasn't squat to do with it anymore, if it ever did. Dwight Eisenhower was a merit selection. Of the candidates in recent years, Mitt Romney, Wesley Clark, and Bob Kerrey might be considered candidates who manifest merit.

Bush senior

Up to a point, that's true. He never failed at anything in his life, prospered in the military and business and politicis and he took on more challenging tasks than did his brothers. The trouble was, there were some boundaries defined by his nexus of personal association he would not cross, but he really had no fixed political principles at all nor much manifest interest in that. He was also a dreadful public speaker, just painful to hear.

As in any election, in any country, the best candidates are the ones who are willing to "sell their soul to the devil" more times, and still can look acceptable.

Thanks for a dose of pseudo-sophistication, but it does not describe any recent President, good or bad, none of whom (bar Obama) could be said to have been bought off by any body of interests (outside the imagination of Michael Moore).

No of course not loool ... Do you also believe in the tooth fairy? . What was the war in Iraq then (for example)? Not that this depends on the party (it s not about dems or repubs).

Thanks for the taunts. It's been an education.

I think it was Jonah Goldberg who offered the hypothesis that Trump does well because he's 'unfiltered' and that the self-presentation of the others has been damaged by years of listening to political consultants. R.M. Kaus offers also that Scott Walker's campaign has been brought low by billionaire donor Stanley Hubbard, whose understanding with Walker incorporated Walker taking stances (e.g. equivocating on social questions and immigration) which have ruined his campaign. So, no, Daddy Warbucks who contribute to campaigns do not always seek politicians who sell well.

The selective factors which bring politicians to this point incorporate fundraising and publicity, which do not include public speaking. IIRC, students of public opinion and public reaction to public speaking have discovered that politicians who are stylisitically distinctive tend to be injured by it because people react against that. There was only one Pat Moynihan. Been a while since I read that article, though.

Actors and actresses running for political offense is commonplace in India, the largest democratic country on the planet. The question is why not in the USA?

Indeed, in South India more than a couple of popular actors have gone on to the highest political office of their respective states. Film star power is routinely acknowledged and understood there.

In many countries parties are weak, institutions unstable, and credibility in terms of consistent ideological positions is poor also. Therefore personality and individual branding matter more. Hence the significance of family ties more than party for election in Argentina, India, the Philippines etc. All of the three I've mentioned have had family with ties to other known officials get elected with almost no experience on their name recognition alone. Same for prominent actors, etc. It is also easier in those places for someone prominent to switch parties and still win election.

I believe there is a political science literature on this phenomenon.

I think Trump is one of a kind. Very few CEOs are politically incorrect on purpose. If he weren't running the republican debates would be mostly sterile with significantly fewer viewers. He is made for TV and Twitter. He knows what the public wants : panem et circenses. Substance can wait

Build a wall, tighten cap gains rates. Sounds substantive to me, disagree or not.

Professional politicians, by contrast, will talk in airy terms of "reform" or whatever buzzword the consultants feed them on top of lengthy position papers or proposals which are not filled with detail so much as they're filled with bargaining chips for special interests to haggle over.

There is a kind of Dunning-Kruger effect here, with the cognitive and financial elite simply unable to grasp the appeal of a man like Trump to the folks to the left of them on the IQ/socio-economic bell curve. To summarize greatly, the hoi polloi are nativist and populist, because they can't afford not to be. If you believe representative democracy is the end of history, then you shouldn't complain when the majority shows up and votes.

"If you believe representative democracy is the end of history, then you shouldn’t complain when the majority shows up and votes.

Well said. Many of course do *not* believe that in their hearts.

That's one thing the moderator does not mention. When was the last time you heard a major business executive say something trenchant (say, on MacNeill-Lehrer)? Perot was an outlier. The younger Bill Gates had a sharp tongue, I guess.

I thought you guys had an actor-turn-President not that long ago?

I, at least, assume Tyler was referring to the superstars and not people like Reagan.

You could ask the same question about sports stars. Peyton Manning wouldn't have much trouble converting his popularity into political capital. Since so few stars try to, I expect most don't care enough and others make connections with existing pols on the way up, leaving them willing to support their pol friends rather than replace them.

If only Ditka had run for Senator, Obama would have never had a political career.

Had Dikta run in the early 90s, there is an excellent chance he could have parleyed his fame into a headstart in the polls. Whether or not, he could have made good on the opening is impossible to say. But that name recognition provides a boost to candidates is well documented.

"The two participants who have done the best relating to voters, through the media, are the two former CEOs, Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina. Overall that is true even if you think Trump had a subpar performance this debate."

A few points on this:

1. Trump is doing well at relating to voters thus far. Fiorina isn't doing badly, but she's still running a distant fourth in the polls, even after this debate. To the extent that she's succeeded, it's largely been in winning over political media and pundits, not voters... at least, not yet.

2. Trump has been quite successful at relating to primary voters - not voters overall. This is an important caveat since he's been doing so by taking positions that other candidates, who still need to think about winning a general election afterwards, could not. In other words, he found what his audience wanted and gave it to them (which may also be a CEO skill, of course), but Trump isn't thinking like a professional, or likely winning, politician in doing so.

3. There are many required skills to being a successful politician; being a good debater is only one of them, and probably not the most important by far. Fundraising, retail politicking, relationship development, media presence, etc. are all important. There are plenty of politicians who are mediocre debaters but do quite well.

"2. Trump has been quite successful at relating to primary voters – not voters overall."

The polls say otherwise. Real Clear Politics puts him 3% behind Clinton in a hypothetical match up across a broad range of polls.


The media has really been adamant that Trump will immediately crash and burn in a real General election. Of course, they've also been predicting his immediate demise on a weekly basis since mid-July. It's still early in the process and Trump probably won't even be the GOP nominee, but a Trump-Sanders election would be a really interesting thing to watch, even for someone like me who has never been very engaged.

#1 100% correct. The media's giving her The McCain Treatment. Talk her up as "an electable Republican," despite not connecting to the base like other candidates, then crush her if she gets the nomination.

McCain was not crushed. He lost the election by an ordinary margin in the most inclement circumstances imaginable (and with an execrable pair of grifters as his campaign manager and press secretary, respectively).

Art Deco makes an important point here.

Obama didn't win massive landslides thus showing that Republicans are unelectable. He won by a fairly average margin in 2008 and 2012 was a close one.


"Between 1900 and 1999, only five of the 25 presidential elections were decided by fewer than 130 electoral votes. Only three had a popular vote margin smaller than the Obama-Romney contest. It’s a sign of how accustomed we’ve become to razor-thin margins of victory that Obama’s 2.3-percent popular-vote victory seems almost like a rout."

This is an example of "cognitive dissonance" Scott Adams was talking about, related to Trump's candidacy:

"other candidates, who still need to think about winning a general election afterwards"

According to this explanation of Trump's success thus far, he intends to win the Republican nomination and then quit - that's why he can afford to pander exclusively to primary voters, unlike other candidates. Did I get that right?

Again, he does not do badly in the general election polls against hypothetical opponents. You're suggesting its all a grand ruse to engineer a Hillary election? How does that work as her campaign implodes?

I think GeoffBr is suggesting that - I'm just summarizing his explanation of The Donald's success.

What I'm suggesting is that Trump is in this for many factors other than winning the Presidency: ego, publicity, adoration (which is consistent with his behavior in the past). As a result, he's tailored his comments to those that will win him acclaim with the current audience, but this hardly reflects a conscious messaging strategy or discipline.

Your response implies that Trump would never do that because he is behaving with the incentives of a politician. I don't believe that accurately reflects his true incentives.

"Take a taller Tom Cruise..."

Just curious, how tall is Tyler? My guess from seeing him on stage in videos like this (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_93CXTt2K7c) is about 5'8, may be a little under or over. Guesses?

Who cares? Tyler is just a bum living off taxpayers' money and maintaining his lifestyle by providing a plethora of URLs on daily basis. IOW, Huffington Post, but tenured.

And you make maps.

Pretty irrelevant in the world of Google.


you might want to rethink your comment. how do you think those maps get made?

Ahh, TC, blinded by the glare of the 'omniscient', all powerful CEO, eh?

Your naiveté is touching, but you're playing yourself for a rube: https://hbr.org/2013/08/why-do-so-many-incompetent-men/

ps & who mentioned Meg Whitman, for Christ's sake? Whitman: the Marissa Mayer of the early 'oughts:


That hbr link is excellent, and something I have noticed since I was a young teenager. Some women will be attracted to a scumbag simply because he projects confidence, never mind his violence, general failure at life, etc. Managerial incompetence follows directly as well.

So the push for female CEOs wasn't a great idea after all?


Although some successful politicians (I'm thinking of you Bill Clinton) have had impressive resumes.

What? He was a professor at a state law school for three years and never had any association with a law firm not 'of counsel'.

I think Presidential politics selects for people who have relationships with the donors and political operatives who are essential to running a strong campaign. CEOs who have spent some time in Congress or as a governor can and do become serious contenders for President. Mitt Romney, his father George and George H. W. Bush are obvious examples.

CEOs know how to buy people. Politicians know how to be bought. For Jeb there's a thing called "regression to the mean."

In India and the Philippines, actors and actresses do quite well in electoral politics. There are lots of possible reasons why American actors and actresses don't generally enter politics but one obvious point to bring up is that Hollywood stars are overwhelmingly very liberal and Americans don't generally vote for very liberal candidates. Other reasons include the fact that Americans still expect politicians to look smart and level-headed in debates or interviews with serious journalists and the fact that Americans expect their leaders to live relatively clean lifestyles. I don't think a lot of superstar actors could handle a serious interview or debate without either looking dumb or throwing a tantrum when challenged and many wouldn't be able to survive the serious vetting of one's personal life that comes with running for office.

Maybe Trump will prove these latter two points are no longer true in America but let's wait for him to win a few primaries first before concluding that star-power and charisma are all that is needed any more to win elections.

In these places, politics is even less about policy than it is here.

Some thoughts from a pseudonymous political consultant:
1) The filter for politicians hardly selects for spontaneous television charisma at all until the very highest levels. Typically the types of offices one holds prior to being a Governor or a Senator (Congress, lesser statewide office, Mayor of a medium-sized but not too big city) are offices that select for skill-sets like working a room of a handful of insiders, and avoiding making mistakes; not spontaneously debating on camera. Let's say at any given point in time there are 1,000 people in the country in one of these "feeder" offices (Congress, Statewide elected officials, mid-city mayors, etc).
2) Governor and Senator positions select a little bit more for charisma and media presence, but not much, and usually they only do so in big expensive contested Senate Races - not in the safe blue or safe red states that most Senators and Governors represent. If I were to hazard a guess, I'd say that no more than 50 out of 150 Governors and Senators were elected in the sorts of elections that test a person's debating mettle and television presence. This doesn't seem like a process where one is going to end up with tremendously charismatic TV personalities running for president. But it does pose an interesting puzzle, because it would seem to me that professional entertainers could wipe the floor with politicians.
3) Very rarely do celebrities or CEOs run for offices that are "to scale," or things that they could easily win. If Carly Fiorina had run for an open Republican seat in Congress instead of Senate on her first shot, she'd be a shoo-in. Ben Affleck would be iffy for Senate, but he'd coast to a victory in Congress (and then Congressman Ben Affleck could easily rise up the ranks and build a political career from there, if he had the patience). When they do run for things that are "to scale" - like Kevin Johnson running for Mayor of Sacramento - they tend to win. When they do things not to scale - Chris Dudley running for Governor of Oregon - they tend to lose.
4) Being an entertainer/CEO is generally a better life than being a politician. This selects for second tier CEOs and entertainers running for office, not first tier ones. Al Franken was an entertaining guy, but he was hardly a first-tier celebrity prior to running for office. For him, running for Senate was a step up in status. For somebody like John Stewart or Stephen Colbert, not so much. Similarly, Bill Gates and Tim Cook have nothing to gain by running for office, so the businessperson candidates we get are generally not first-tier. No offense to Carly Fiorina, she has "succeeded" more than the vast majority of people ever will in her field, but she has dedicated her life singularly to making money, and there's thousands of people who have done a better job than her. She's the businessperson equivalent of a State Attorney General, not a Governor or a Senator. Trump fares a little better, but still, there are dozens of more successful businessmen in the U.S. than him. If you were to rank all the politicians in the U.S. in terms of electoral success, all the legitimate presidential contenders would be in the top 150. Would anybody make the case that Carly Fiorina is one of the top 150 businesspeople in the U.S.?
5) This leads to the interesting observation that CEOs and entertainers may be so much more talented at some aspects of charisma than politicians are that a C-list CEO or entertainer might still be more compelling than an A-list politician. And if an A-list entertainer or CEO ever decides to run for major office (like Arnold running for Governor), they'll have a real shot at winning.

Has an A-list CEO ever run for major office. Ross Perot was rich, but was he A-list.

Bloomberg, billionaire mayor of New York. I wonder how he would have done if Hillary Clinton had been nominated in 2008, and Bloomberg had gone ahead with the independent candidacy for president that he seemed to be setting up. Probably the most successful third choice since Theodore Roosevelt, very possibly good enough to become president.

I'd say a self-made billionaire qualifies as A-list.

"Very rarely do celebrities or CEOs run for offices that are “to scale,” or things that they could easily win. If Carly Fiorina had run for an open Republican seat in Congress instead of Senate on her first shot, she’d be a shoo-in. - See more at: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2015/09/what-was-my-impression-of-the-republican-debate-the-night-before.html#comments"

I've noticed this refusal "to scale" and wondered about what the explanation is. Maybe these people want to get on/ stay on TV, which as you pointed out won't happen with one of the "feeder" offices like Congressman.

This applies to Trump too. If he really wants electoral office, he would be hard to beat if he ran for Mayor of New York. The last Mayor was a plutocrat, who was elected as a Republican despite a history of being a money source for the Democrats, and who by accounts has alot less charisma than Trump. Trump's chances for elected office in New Jersey would be as good or better.

Why settle for Mayor of New York when he could be president?

No offense to Carly Fiorina, she has “succeeded” more than the vast majority of people ever will in her field, but she has dedicated her life singularly to making money, and there’s thousands of people who have done a better job than her. She’s the businessperson equivalent of a State Attorney General, not a Governor or a Senator.

She has succeeded at making a lot of money for herself. She has been an abysmal failure at actually doing the jobs she was hired to do. Didn't she claim HRC had "no accomplishments?" Well, no accomplishments is a better record than Fiorina's.

She has been an abysmal failure at actually doing the jobs she was hired to do.

Define 'abysmal failure'.

I appreciate your insights. The thing is, Mr. Schwarzeneggar was not an A-list governor. Scott Walker, Tommy Thompson, and Rudolph Giuliani were A-list public executives.

Granted that Carly is probably not one of the top 150 businesspeople in the United States, she is certainly one of the top businesspeople who want to be President. Most business leaders are accustomed to running organizations where the employees do what the boss wants done. They don't want to make the kinds of compromises necessary to be an effective politician. If Carly wants to try, I'm all for it.

Top 150 is at least half luck. Got to pick or luck into the right business not just be the best CEO. Who knows, the best CEO in the U.S. could be making a profit out of a dying business like newspapers. Think they are gonna give him a chance in the Tech world where many of the richest and therefore presumably A-listers come from.

"Robin Hanson yesterday raised the question of why actors and actresses, in either the literal or the operational sense, do not take over the upper tiers of the political sector."
1) It already happened after a fashion. When Charlton Heston and Bill Clinton crashed, someone said that pitting them against each other was unfair because one of them made a living acting and was skilled enough to convince the public of almost anything-- and the other one was merely Charlton Heston.
2) The right question is, given the money that can be made, why politicians do not take over the upper tiers of Hollywood acting?

Fred Thompson, Arnold, and Jesse Ventura returned to acting/ entertainment after holding elected office, but then they all came from the entertainment industry. But it would be interesting to see someone start in politics and break into entertainment. Actually Jerry Springer may have done this.

Thompson was a lawyer and a political protegee of Howard Baker (and minority counsel on the Senate Watergate Committee - see John Dean's memoirs re Thompson). Entertainment was a second career for him.

The premise is a little off. Trump and Carson have done the best "connecting" according to the polls. Fiorina's rise may come, but so far she has been a niche candidate.

On CEOs, sure: (1) the filter to get into upper management is tougher then the filter to get into upper levels of politics in most states. (2) Most CEOs are used to preparing for board meetings and other occasions where they face informed questioning;. Mastering large sets of facts, having a view of what those facts mean, and being able to articulate all that crisply is essential to what they do. They have to be good at projecting calm and authority and lying in ways that don't get challenged. All this Fiorina exhibited. (Notice by contrast how easily Jeb Bush gets flustered.)

Trump is the exception to that CEO rule, though. He's clearly winging it. Surely he could do better, but I have the sense (someone correct me) that his business career has not been like Fiorina's, answering to boards and whatnot. Maybe he's closer to the actor hypothesis: he certainly plays to a camera better than any of the others.

Will debates even matter? Bad debate performers get elected. Could Fiorina fill a stadium the way Trump can? How to explain Carson?

Note that Trump is not exactly a CEO, he is the owner of his businesses (while, if I am correct, Fiorina was simply one more employee of Hwellet-Packard) - businessmen and managers probably have different skills.

That's a good point. Fiorina has always had to answer to other people. Even when CEO she answered to the board of directors. When your outright owner like Trump, your just a dictator.

Thanks. Just ran across


Which puts it like this

"The problem with comparing the Trump-Fiorina business records is that Fiorina has the distinct disadvantage of running a public company that answers to public shareholders. Trump, meanwhile, runs a privately held personal fiefdom, the Trump Organization, that answers to the The Donald and no one else."

@Tyler Cowen
"Would a George Clooney or Harrison Ford really have no chance? How about a smart talk show host? Inquiring minds wish to know."

Ronald Reagan was an actor and one of the best Presidents regarding rhetorical skills, marketing and communication. So don't you have your answer right there?

And he wasn't even popular as an actor. So an actor who is popular might perform even better in this popularity contest called United States presidential election.

They could but they have to clear two hurdles. First, they can't be a typical Hollywood liberal. Second, they should be patient enough to serve out at least one term in the Senate or in a state governorship first. These two seemingly filter out the vast majority of would-be actors-turned-presidents.

I agree. Being an actor is not enough to become President. You need to be a deeply political person, too. Having a vision might help, too. Not being too liberal might help, too. And you need to have some real political experience before you can get this job. People want political experience. I guess that makes sense. That's why I highly doubt that someone like Trump, Carson or Fiorina can make it. And it's not even a bad thing.

Look at Reagan's actual history.

He was twice-elected the president of a major union. His "Time For Choosing" speech in 1964 made him a serious political force much like Obama's speech at the 2004 Democratic Presidential Convention allowed an unimportant state senator to become a household name.

Then he had 2 terms as governor of California before running for President.

Reagan built a political career. That's very different than George Clooney just deciding to run for president tomorrow.

I think the kinds of skills which make for a successful presidential run are highly unique and non-predictable. Someone you think would make a great candidate (Al Gore?) Doesn't, and someone comes out of nowhere to win (Obama, Clinton).

"Someone you think would make a great candidate (Al Gore?) Doesn’t, and someone comes out of nowhere to win (Obama, Clinton)."
Gore had more visibility in 1999 than Clinton in 1991 or Obama in 2007. Yet, I would say that he is obviously the prototypical good candidate--he was also luck enough, like Reagan, to face a lost incumbent on the first run and a non-entity on the second one.

Regarding charisma, gravitas, rhetorical skills and marketing Reagan, Clinton and Obama were pretty similar - while Gore was not. Not at all.

I meant to say Clinton was the prototypical good candidate–who also faced weak competition.

I meant to say Clinton was the prototypical good candidate--who also faced weak competition.

"Someone you think would make a great candidate (Al Gore?) Doesn’t" Yes, winning the popular vote is not enough in US is it ? ;)

Nope. He's got to win the election too.

I keep seeing this stuff and I think its unfair to Gore. He got elected as Congressman and Senator a number of times (compare to Obama's electoral record before 2008). He won the Democratic nomination for President once and came in third another time. His popular vote percentage in 2000 was higher than Clinton's in 1992 and almost equal to Clinton's in 2000, though Obama did better be a few percentage points in both of his races.

Both Democratic and Republican loyalists have reasons, though different ones, to push the "Gore was a bad candidate" myth.

"He got elected as Congressman and Senator a number of times (compare to Obama’s electoral record before 2008)."
Almost every candidade from a major party did it or something like that. Obama skipped some grades.
"He won the Democratic nomination for President"
So did every single Democratic candidate the Repulicans ever trounced. So what? And Bush Sr. also won a nomination while vice president.
is popular vote percentage in 2000 was higher than Clinton’s in 1992 and almost equal to Clinton’s in 2000."
By this metric, if I am not wrong, Bush I was a better candidate than Reagan in 1980.

Woow , did you know Carly Fiorina has been considered the worst CEO of America ? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carly_Fiorina or that Donald Trump is far from being a self-made men, he just got his business delivered by his daddy? How many Americans know this I wonder?

I'm sure Hillary would have done much better as CEO of HP. Her management of her private email server proves that.

I knew the Donald Trump part.

I don't think anyone considers Trump 100% self-made. And Fiorina was known for being a poor CEO for a long time.

he just got his business delivered by his daddy? How many Americans know this I wonder?

None of them know it because it is not so. Donald Trump and his father ran parallel businesses, with the father specializing in residential housing while the son had a more variegated portfolio which included commercial properties in Manhattan, something his father never did. Donald Trump's net worth is many multiples of his father's at the time the latter died and it's a reasonable wager that his father's assets were largely distributed to his other children.

Ha HA!

Trump would have been as rich as he claims he is if he simply did nothing with his inheritance:


Don't just do something-lie there!

Again, his father died in 1999. Trump was already a billionaire by that point. He's been on the Forbes 400 with scant interruption for 30 years or more and his net worth exceeds that of his father in 1999 by more than 10. The meme you're pushing is just stupid. None of his siblings are big rich on this scale.

Go fondle your WWI medals, you superannuated crank

And change your Depends ™ diaper.

Its full.

For better or worse (I'd say worse), the business of America isn't business, the business of America is image, image created and promoted by the media. And that applies to both political parties, not just the party with actors posing as politicians. Fiorina's record as a CEO is dismal, yet her image is that of a successful businesswoman. Sure, HP doubled in size while she was CEO, not because she increased sales but because she bought other companies including Compaq, which proved to be a disaster for both companies and for which she was fired by the Board. Trump is an actor, not a CEO, yet his image is that of a successful developer of property; Trump hasn't been an actual developer of property for many years, he merely licenses his name (i.e., his image) to real developers. For example, Trump licensed his name for a high rise to be built in the very unappealing (as a place to reside) business district of my sunbelt city. He was paid several million dollars for the use of his name and to appear at a sales promotion, where, inexplicably, the gullible paid the real estate hucksters, I mean developers, millions in deposits for units in a building that didn't exist, some paying as much as several hundred thousand dollars. When the project collapsed in bankruptcy (the developers didn't have the wherewithal to build it), the gullible lost their deposits. When asked why they would give several hundred thousand dollars to real estate hucksters, their answer was that they trusted Trump because of his image as a successful developer. Trump disclaimed any liability because, as was the case, all he did was license his image to the developers. Biden's image is that of Mr. Nice Guy, everybody's best friend. Yet, according to those who have worked for Biden, he's an ass who takes great pleasure in berating his staff. And so it goes. And the business of image applies to business. The image of Silicon Valley is that of brilliant young men (yes, they are almost exclusively men) creating all kinds of new technologies, technologies that will change the world, including self-driving cars and spaceships to Mars. Yet, those high tech companies for whom they do their creating generate their revenues by selling advertising for products made the old-fashioned way, in the world of atoms (to use Thiel's metaphor). The boy wonders didn't build a better mousetrap, they simply built a better way to sell a mousetrap. How have Americans become such suckers for image? Media. And the short attention spans and inability to think critically on which the media thrives.

google is a better mousetrap. It is a much better encyclopedia than Encyclopedia Brittanica ever was. It is a much better yellow pages than the phone book ever had. Frankly, it is almost a better library. Just needs a larger selection of free books. And yes, it is all free unlike the previous products due to advertising. I wish they would give me a free car with advertising all over it. I would take it in a heart beat.

Google's ad business pays for all the research and development. The fact that they do BOTH is necessary.

How do you know that 8 years ago, you wouldn't have had a totally different opinion of such a debate? After all, Trump has tried and failed several times to gain traction in previous Presidential races.

Trump seemed to be a flim-flam man 8 yrs ago, but now seems to be more earnest and frustrated the way things are going.

People like plain spoken politicians. Bush would have been pretty popular if not for Iraq.

We thought Obama was plain spoken, but instead we got a flim-flam man, leading directly to Trump's rise.

Yes, a lot of skills crossover from CEO to politicians and CEOs have had more impact on the local level.

1) Of course a CEO can talk tougher. 1) You can fire people who don't listen. Obama can't fire voters 2) There is a lot less fact checking 3) A CEO can promise a customer more resources on their account when in reality they mean your weekends as more resources. 4) CEOs can talk all being recorded. Romney 47% comment was perfect for CEO donors but terrible for most voters.

2) A CEO for President does not have a political track record. So there is less back tracking on changed decisions. Or you can be like Donald and simply say you studied the issue more (say abortion) and say you changed your mind.

3) This is one election Primary in which the Republicans are fighting the ghost of 2008 and Obama has not been a failure.

4) And what is Donald winning issue? Immigration.

And of course did Ronald Reagan do before giving Goldwater speeches?

1. Radio announcer
2. Screen actor
3. Labor leader (president of the Screen Actors' Guild from 1947-52 and 1960-61)
4. Television actor and announcer
5. Public relations officer (for General Electric).

What has always amazed me is watching footage of when the British PM goes down and is "grilled" by the...House of Commons? House of Lord's? They basically fire zingers at him and he fires them right back. Can you imagine Obama or GWB in that sort of environment? It would be comical. But Tony Blair held his own, during the one I watched, giving as good as he got.

Maybe the process of choosing a PM in the UK selects for a different skill set? Or was Blair just an aberration?

They do that stuff all the time in the UK...It's called something like Questions, or Googling it, Prime Minister's Questions. It's practiced by every seasoned UK pol so they know how to perform for the gallery.

It is called "Question Period" in Canadian legislatures. It is basically all theatre, but fun to watch in small doses.

Remember that in the Commonwealth-style Parliamentary system, the PM and all of his or her Cabinet members are almost always members of the Legislature -- so "Question Period" is not really a special event for the PM, it is part of normal parliamentary debate.

Cabinet secretaries and agency chiefs have to testify in front of congressional committees as a matter of routine. The only officials exempt are the president, the vp, and confidential staff.

True, but cabinet ministers in Commonwealth countries can be voted out of office by their constituents. E.g. in 2011 the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs (equivalent role to a US Secretary of State) effectively lost his job due to an electoral defeat.

They can be voted out of office by their constituents in a given riding. The foreign minister represents more than the riding. The MP in question may have only the most tenuous tie to the riding and have been parachuted in by party sachems. In Canada, a defeated pol might be appointed to the Senate or receive some patronage appointment elsewhere.

That's in pure Westminster systems, by the way. In France, cabinet ministers have since 1958 been required to resign their parliamentary seat upon appointment (if they had one to begin with).

I thought Trump's appeal and effectiveness were not directly related to the fact that he is a CEO but that he is perceived to be a traitor to his class (of CEOs). A class that is deeply loathed by a large segment of the voting population.

Fiorina probably did well because, as a woman, she got opportunities to deliver applause lines that male candidates could not have delivered. Was there anything in her performance that involved brandishing her executive credentials (which most people think have been less than stellar) ?

My Wife's take on Fiorina: "She's a bitch."
Probably because she talked over the moderator. Every. Single. Time.

I'll give her this, she studied a tiny amount prior to the debate and it showed, but it only stands out because everyone else threw out blank platitude. Thing is, the amount of studying that went into her performance was minor. Any of the candidates, including Trump, can pull the same thing off, in a 2 week time.

If any candidate can do it, then why haven't they? The fact that we're months in and Fiorina can show the other candidates up with "a tiny amount" of studying implies it isn't as easy as you claim or the others would have done it.

Also, you're wife is clearly a misogynist. It's your duty as her husband to remind her that feminist doctrine calls for women to speak up lest they be silenced by the patriarchy.

I think it implies that other candidates don't really think it's worth their time because they can't translate that into a debate. Also, I think Christie and Rubio both made informed points that were glossed over in favor of Fiorinia's "mic-drop" response.

Your statement that "they can't translate that into a debate" contradicts your previous claim that "any of the candidates can pull the same thing off in a 2 week time."

Mic-drop responses are a necessary talent in today's sound bite driven culture. Rubio and Christie need to learn it or they'll continue to get upstaged. No doubt it will only take them 2 weeks to master.

Let me clarify: The Candidates feel they cannot translate that research into the debate. That doesn't mean they can't. You know, learned helplessness and all that.

Re: mic-drop, we'll see how that pans out, along with the rest of the Fiorina campaign.

Does a "beta" guy ever contradict his wife?

Absolutely. Just not while she's around.

The Red Pill is its own reward, son!

John Stewart may be short, but he will do well as a politician. And he will own the debates. No question.

Would the Daily Show writers be feeding him lines via earpiece?

Will he be able to run edited tapes in a debate and give his "shock" face?

Sorry. I loved his show, but his act depends on sharing moral outrage over obviously evil things. Real politicians have to build coalitions, split differences, compromise.

Re "short.". I ran across a list of top five google searches on each candidate during the debate. In almost every list was "how tall is ______?". I don't get it. Why would anyone care? Or do people get so bored that they start making bets on heights?

How tall is Tyler?

I'm sorry that I am the first to observe that Carly and the Donald have yet to win a single election or get one vote. Polls do not equal elections.

You mean neither Michelle Bachman nor Herman Cain got the GOP nomination in 2012?

Not sure about the CEO thesis, but...

Is it just me, or do Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz have two of the most punchable faces ever? You can't have a President that you want to punch in the face. Shallow, but true. Actually, Bush's whole body is punchable, as is Cruz's voice. Ted Cruz has a punchable voice.

Scott Walker, who I was really rooting for, also has a borderline punchable face, and he seems too "small" for the job anyway.

Random notes: Ted Cruz says Obama has 'eviscerated' the military. Where's that graph of worldwide military spending? Florida has big plans for military spending too. Trump was vaguer- at one point he promised Americans "more of everything".

Maybe career politician and insider John Kasich is the guy.

Correction, 'eviscerated' came from Rubio, not Cruz.

Also, not Florida, Fiorina (by the way, her face isn't particularly punchable.)

Its just you.

He may also be referring to the habit Democratic politicians have of exploiting the military as a toy theatre for their social fantasies. A new president of sense will have to put a stop to this crap and send a stiff letter to any judge who attempts to interfere with military discipline.

Treating the military as a toy for the fulfillment of their social fantasy is better than the Republican habit of treating the military as a toy for their Genghis Khan fantasies.

The use of the military for social engineering experiments (see DACOWITs) is quite real. The Genghis Khan fantasy does not exist outside your imagination.

Cruz; 110%. Bush, 70%. Walker, 50%.

Jeb comes off as a beta try hard. This was one of the funniest parts of the night.


Big overlap between talk show hosts' and politicians' skill sets. Jerry Springer, for example, might have been governor of Ohio if he hadn't paid a prostitute by check.

I think many of you are under-stating the difficulty of becoming CEO of a large, multi-national company. There are hundreds of very ambitious, smart people who could be qualified to be CEO of these companies. And they are all working to be very successful and make it to the top. To rise up out of that melee and become CEO requires a ton of political skill and managerial success! Plus you almost have to be a good public speaker to motivate employees and announce your vision and strategy. That is definitely a good proving ground to be a politician.

There are hundreds of very ambitious, smart people who could be qualified to be CEO of these companies.

And yet HP picked Fiorina instead.

"Is there something else about the filtering process for professional politicians?"

Yesterday I was watching CNN and they were talking about how Fiorina is now facing attacks because she's risen in the polls. The attacks center on her HP tenure. One of the pundits, a political operative, said how it's easy *for politicians* to manipulate a business man's record ("HE FIRED PEOPLE!!!!") by taking their decisions out of context.

So a strength becomes a weakness (Romney). Also, the disclosure rules discourage rich people because the Sanders' just get on about how they made their money (it's always evil). So business men don't run.

I too watched the debate from here in India and I was surprised to find majority of them support the war on drugs. I thought free market advocates support legalising drugs. Also they l support social security, though targeted towards the needy. Again I thought libertarians, especially inn America, want to shut down social security.And one of them wants to preserve manufacturing jobs in his state. Why not leave it ot the market? I was disturbed by one guy talk of preserving Judeo Christian values. So the likes of atheists, Hindus, Muslims should not find a place in America? I should add I get annoyed when I hear some politicians in my nation talk of preserving Hindu culture. Why cant we keep religion out of politics?

Republicans are not libertarians. And "Judeo-" is kept in "Judeo-Christian" to appease wealthy and influential Jews. Most Jews, I think, know nothing of anything "Judeo-Christian".

Also to make Judeophilic Christians feel better about the label.

Judeo-Christian is used to acknowledge that Jews are part of the family so to speak. Its been in common usage since the 1950s at least.

Its just not Republicans that use the phrase.

The National Conference of Christians and Jews was founded almost 90 years ago and as recently as 1980 'Judaeo-Christian' was a commonplace in public discussion (John Anderson fancied it). The only person I ever recall objecting to it in that era was Leon Wieselteir, not exactly a representative figure among American Jews.

Personally, I think the reason Trump , Fiorina, and Carson are leading is because they're all in some way unique candidates in a large field in which everyone else kind of blends together. All the other candidates can be lumped into one uniform mass of conventional-Republican-white-guy-politician. Trump stands out because of his celebrity status and blowhard personality, Fiorina is a woman, Carson is a black guy. What can you say about Bush/Walker/Paul/Kasich/Christie/etc ? It's like there's really just four candidates: Trump, Token Woman, Token Black guy, and Boring Establishment White Guy.

Any way you slice it, it is jaw-dropping that Trump is the front-runner. The initial instinct is understandable: befriend your schoolyard bully, tell yourself he'll be giving your enemies wedgies on your behalf. But exactly how clueless does one need to be about life to believe that this amounts to a viable presidency? And as to his CEO talents, didn't he file for corporate bankruptcy four times?

"But exactly how clueless does one need to be about life to believe that this amounts to a viable presidency? "

Hillary Clinton's candidacy, compare and contrast.

This is an obvious blind spot for a lot of people on the Left, but Hillary Clinton's email scandal is not some right wing conspiracy. And it's not trivial. A majority of American's believe that her actions were illegal. So, if Trump were to win the Republican nomination (still unlikely in my opinion), he stands a decent chance of beating Hillary Clinton and becoming President.

is because they’re all in some way unique candidates in a large field in which everyone else kind of blends together

I remember the six pack running for the Democratic nomination in 1992, and how the Gennifer Flowers scandal helped Clinton distinguish himself from the pack.

When you've got 15 or so running, something to set yourself apart is even more important.

Focus on the change -- what's different in how politicians are selected in this cycle vs in the last cycle? Pre-Citizens United, a presidential campaign required sustained fundraising from lots of small donors and connected aggregators. i.e. upper middle class, stable professionals. Post-Citizens United, the same billionaire investors who hire and fire CEO's can fund entire presidential campaigns on their own.

An obvious conclusion is that billionaire investors are really, really bad at selecting politicians from the political class. A politician who can raise funds from a room of small donors with $1000 or $2500 limits is a politician who can beat Jeb Bush or Scott Walker handily in a debate and who can have a chance at negotiating with Congress. The billionaires know how to hire CEO's, and CEO's look good on television, but no one really knows if the ex-CEOs can govern or win a general election.

The 2012 election was also conducted under post-Citizens United rules. Is there any evidence that the anti-establishment candidates are getting more money in their affiliated Super PACs than Bush, Rubio, Cruz or Walker?

I suspect the real issue here is that people from the outside provide the illusion of different ideas. The Republican party has rather consistently failed its constituency. The governors running would have to use nullification and the sort of 10th amendment arguments being used for the legalization of pot in order to change, ignore, and hopefully destroy some of the more obviously unconstitutional things being done in America now- and, well, it would be nice if they got the message the war on drugs (as well these other wars) were bad.
But, instead, they interpret things in a way that always allows the left to win. No issue is ever resolved- and many should be, because in most cases the problem is federal overreach. Federal legislation on toilets, for example, cannot be remotely constitutional, and should a supreme court say it is, that supreme court deserves to be ignored.

Under these conditions, Trump and Fiorina provide an illusion of something different. There's a strong aspect of 'anyone but the idiots who have already failed us.'

Occam's Razor here, but this is the last thing the folks who are already on the in will ever want to admit. So they are desperately grasping for other potential explanations.

Yes. This is why I wish no one would vote- it gives them clear evidence. They can either learn or disappear, but I am not going to vote for any of these idiots as it currently stands.

I think it's even simpler than that. Trump, Carson, and Fiorina are just different than the other candidates. You have seven boring white guys in suits saying pretty much the same things. And then you have a TV celebrity, a woman, and a black guy. Who's going to stand out the most?

A very smart black guy. Granted, all these candidates are smart, but Carson clearly is very smart.

Perhaps the relative filters are that CEOs are good at TV and politicians are good at getting elected.

After all, let's not get ahead of ourselves, neither of the two CEOs in the race have gotten elected.

Just to point out that since the advent of popular elections, the best performances by 3d Party candidates have been as follows:

Theodore Roosevelt (1912), former President, Republican Party a refractory mess
Millard Fillmore (1856), former President, party system in flux
Ross Perot (1992), CEO
John Breckenridge (1960), party system in flux, Democratic Party a refractory mess
Robert LaFollette (1924), Democratic Party a refractory mess
George Wallace (1968), Democratic Party a refractory mess, segregationist vote abandoned by major parties.

Perot is the only one of these who ran at a time when the party system was not in a process of reconstitution and when neither major party was cleaved down the middle.

OT: anyone who views the source for the page can see the linebreaks you intended, and also see that they are marked with HTML linebreaks. It is stylesheets that are forcing those linebreaks to not be recognized.

To undo that, put this in your javascript console, and the above comment is a lot more legible:

$(" .custom p br { display:inline;} ").appendTo("head");

Ugh, smart quotes and filtering stomped that. What I trying to say is this line here: http://pastebin.com/JwKkxsr0

Trump and Fiorina are not just CEOs. They are specifically sales specialists, though in very different contexts and therefore with different approaches aimed at different audiences.

She's a 'specialist', all right.

A specialist at revenue recognition fraud.


My impressions, partly informed by watching with someone who'd never seen a US debate before, are:

- Trump's appeal is precisely his brassy aggression, he flopped by trying to moderate. I'm guessing he developed his style more in old boys' clubs than sales per se.
- Fiorina by contrast sounds like she learned her style speaking to investor conferences. It's similar to political speech-making, all about marrying your vision and their aspirations, but somewhat higher-level, less smarmy and pandering.
- Neither Trump nor Fiorina have yet shown that they can deliver a great speech. Not every president can, but it definitely helps.
- Cruz was by far the most skilled straight-up stereotype politician among the others. That's the style that actually usually works best in politics. I'd like to think he's struggling because people sense the phoniness, but it may be something more superficial about the way he looks and sounds.
- Bush was hungrier and more coached than in earlier appearances, but he still comes off like a more distant Bush who doesn't really need this job.

I don't know why Trump thinks he would get along with Putin, but it could be because he's more like a Russian oligarch than a typical American CEO.

I think you are right about Fiorina and the investor conferences.

She impresses me as a rhetorician because she avoids each nugget of political controversy not by dodging it, but by kicking it upstairs. She takes whatever question is given, instantly sees philosophical nub of it, and provides a true, nice-seeming, answer at that abstract level -- without comitting to anything concrete.

You might think that will not impress voters, and indeed in 2016 it might not. But an inferior version of it worked for Obama in 2008. He was always deliberately vacuous, but that vacuum was an excellent medium for transmitting the sound of his true and nice-seeming verbiage.

Major over-extrapolation. Trump has been a reality-TV star for a decade+ (if not longer) and Fiorina was weak in debates during her last electoral effort. She seems to have gotten much better, but we can't infer that it has anything to do with her being a CEO. She's improved as she's gotten further from being a CEO.

What are the odds that the questioner who claimed Obama is a Muslim and not an American was not a plant? I very much suspect getting someone who held those opinions (1) to a debate and (2) in front of a mic would take some significant outside effort.

Why? When someone who holds those opinions is on stage, it makes sense to expect someone who agrees with them to be in the audience.

What I find puzzling is that people say "Obama is a Muslim" like it's an accusation. Let's say he is. So?

You're confused. There was no audience questioning in the debate.

The loony questioner was at a Trump rally, and polling shows that about half of Trump's supporters share his views.

I'll take partial exception. People who are disengaged from civic life may give you lots of idle opinions if you ask them (inasmuch as its something they likely care little about and devote no thought to). The notion that Obama is a 'muslim' would be in that category.

The thing is, there is a fraction of the population of Trump votaries who are avid adherents to the most errant nonsense. I sometimes look in on The Last Refuge, a Republican blog. The readership reflects the moderator, who is given to trading in the issue of his imagination as if it were established fact (the segue between one and the other somewhat obscure because he is forever pretending he has 'sources' ensconced in obscure police departments). The spirit of the John Birch Society lives on in these people, who fancy there is a wire-pulling conspiracy stage-managing the entire Republican nomination contest (or was, until Trump frustrated it), that Barack Obama was born abroad, that all of his degrees are fakes and he was never a student at Columbia or Harvard, &c.

Fiorina surprised me by having the gift of the gab. After finding out about that, I pigeonholed her as a natural-born politician who succeeded in buisness because this talent is one of the routes to the top. That is, starting with her authority as a highly educated secretary, she made a name for herself by politicking the engineers around her into doing useful things.

Trump is less surprising, remember he is selected only partly because he is a buisnessman, and more because he is a TV star.

There's something about a Southern democrat theory

Clinton was able to be a popular liberal because he seemed like a good ole boy and appealed to people who weren't typical liberals. The opposite could apply to Hollywood. They have a stereotype of being extremely liberal, so only a right wing celebrity would be able to succeed. If he's too liberal, it gives off the impression of a typical, disconnected elite. A right wing celebrity would bring in casual moderates who like he or she personally.

If Trump could turn off Trump, he'd be winning in a landslide.

One alt hypothesis for politician selection: ability to simultaneously and with regularity 1) look like you trying to solve a problem and 2) ability to pivot and dance when a bureaucracy or unintended consequences prevent you from accomplishing your goal.

That seems fairly accurate while still being distinct from selectors for CEOs.

Robin Hanson yesterday raised the question of why actors and actresses, in either the literal or the operational sense, do not take over the upper tiers of the political sector.

Because they have no interest in doing so?

Why give up a glamorous life in Hollywood for the dreary world of Washington?

Sonny Bono seemed to enjoy being a Congressman, I don't know if the same would be true of Brad Pitt.

Selection bias. Only CEOs with exceptional charisma run for office. Question: Are former politicians exceptional well performing CEOs? This would suggest that making a career change in both ways help to bring out the best qualities.

Why doesn't Tom Cruise go into acting? Why doesn't any decent high school athlete train to be a place kicker, earn about $500k, be in the NFL. Athletes don't just want to make the NFL but to live a certain lifestyle. I think LA people would have a hard time doing 5 years, even just method acting, in Omaha as a state senator before getting to the fun stuff.
And to get a role on penn ave? Nobody can really put put you in that audition...You have to climb the political ladder for several decades, have family ties, or be some larger than life private sector figure.

Ensure that yourr children have enough healthy foods to eat to
grow strong and healthy.

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