Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Too Bad Michael Phelps Isn't 35

Per the 12th Amendment, candidates for the Vice Presidency must have the same qualifications as those for the Presidency, including being at least 35 years old. Thus, Michael Phelps is not available to serve as running mate for either Sen. McCain or Sen. Obama. Even the Olympics consummate running mate this year, Jason Lezak, is a few years too young. Thus, if either candidate wants to cash in on Olympic fever, he'll have to pick Dara Torres or perhaps Jason Kidd (assuming the U.S. beats Australia in the basketball quarterfinals).

Which leads me to the following question, which I'll pose more or less as an open thread: What is the effect of the Olympics on the Presidential election, each held the same year every four years? My preliminary thoughts are that it has the following impacts:

1) The Olympics help Republicans, as they stir up feelings of unalloyed patriotism, and while candidates for both parties are patriotic, Democrats tend to define patriotism in more complex ways, whereas for Republicans it tends to be more along the lines of "USA, USA, USA." (Yes, that's a vast oversimplification, I know).

2) Effect number 1 is more pronounced to the extent that US athletes succeed. Of course, the US media tend to focus on US athletes, and there are always a good number of successful ones, so this is a matter of small degree.

3) The Olympics delay the start of the general election campaign, so that there's a long period of the candidates feeling each other out after they've clinched their respective nominations. This year that period was shortened by the length of the Democratic race, but it has still seemed quite a long time since Sen. Clinton conceded. Perhaps, however, the Olympics delaying effect is swamped by the effect of the campaign finance rules. Parties schedule their conventions late, so that they can spend money raised for the primaries until the general election public funding limits kick in. Whether that will continue to be true in future cycles depends on how successful Obama's fundraising turns out to be after he dropped public funding for the general.

Posted by Mike Dorf