Partisanship and Consultants in Off-Years

In a town where the politicking never stops, many consultants are already looking ahead two or four years and concocting the strategies that will shape the next round of elections.


In a town where the politicking never stops, many consultants are already looking ahead two or four years and concocting the strategies that will shape the next round of elections. But a few are wondering how their work can help shape what politicians can actually get done.Over at Pollster.com, Mark Blumenthal and others are discussing Stan Greenberg's new book Dispatches from the War Room, which details the Democratic pollster's experiences working for various leaders, with the author himself. Greenberg argues that the leaders all pursued a "politics of purpose" which required them to monitor public opinion to see if their electorate was following the leaders towards their goals. Pollsters and other consultants are essential to ensuring that important policies can be rolled out. Blumenthal explains:

[P]ublic opinion will ultimately limit or control the extent to which policy makers can affect change and achieve their goals, and a wise wonk will want to study public opinion -- both as it exists now and where political leaders can move it in the future.

But by elevating the importance of pollsters in shaping policy, Greenberg suggests that it's important for consultants to be partisan—to be pursuing an active goal and not just chasing victory:

There is evidence cited in the book that more recent generations of political consultants (p. 423) give greater weight to the thrill of the contest rather than partisan or ideological goals, compared to earlier generations. . . [C]ollectively, pollsters and political consultants elevate the political discourse in the country as they are part of that process.  But where they are opportunistically jumping on tactics or "swing groups" detached from that kind of process, they may well be diminishing the quality of political discourse.

Check out the discussion for more. I'm curious what our readers think of the role of nonpartisan consulting—feel free to leave comments below.

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