"Flavor of the month" is not serious analysis

Conservative activists have this nasty habit of denigrating our own politicians, and in fact the very practice of running for office to represent our side. We kick our guys (and girls) at every opportunity, sometimes for no reason but to kick politicians.

It’s in that vein that some have taken to referring to one Presidential candidate or another as the ‘flavor of the month,’ suggesting they’re not serious people, that our electorate isn’t making serious decisions, and that our choices in this election are trivial.

Not only is that not the case, but the plain fact is, the actual rise and and fall of the various candidates doesn’t even match up with the trend. In particular, it’s either ignorant or dishonest to put Herman Cain and Rick Perry into the same category as Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty.

It doesn’t take more than a casual visit to the Real Clear politics archive of polls to discredit that idea, either. Start with Tim Pawlenty, supposedly the first “flavor of the month” of the four. Where did he get in the polling? Did he ever even crack double figures, in those early days of polling loaded with non-serious choices like Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Chris Christie, Rudy Giuliani, and Donald Trump? I actually tried to find last night a single poll that had Pawlenty over ten. I got no higher than six.

Michele Bachmann was the candidate that rose as Pawlenty fell. It was in the same debate that she announced her candidacy that Pawlenty wussed out from attacking Mitt Romney on Masscare’s similiaries with Obamacare. How well did she get? In the RCP average, a crude instrument but good enough for our purposes here, she didn’t even get close to Mitt Romney. She hit double figures, sure. But the closest she got to Mittens was within five points, and that was as Rick Perry was shooting past her.

Rick Perry, supposedly the third flavor of the month, now there’s a peak. The only candidate to cross the 30 point threshold, his peak is over double that of Bachmann’s 14. Perry’s 31.8 took a 12.0 point lead over Mitt Romney. Bachmann’s peak wasn’t even in Perry’s league. Even now, with Perry having bottomed out, he’s at 10.2 in the RCP average. That means Perry at his trough is less than 4 points from Bachmann at her peak. Again: the two candidates just aren’t in the same league.

The same goes for Herman Cain. Cain was actually in second place in the RCP average for much of June, before being passed by both Perry and Bachmann. Does that mean he was flavor of the month twice? Cain’s also only the second candidate to pass Romney in the RCP average. He’s only the third candidate in the race to be a frontrunner.

If you’re going to call Perry and Cain flavors of the month, then you’ve got to call Mitt Romney the same. Those three are in the same class and have had the same kind of popularity in this race. Whatever you do though, don’t even pretend that Perry and Cain are new iterations of Pawlenty and Bachmann. There’s just no there, there.