Like Jonathan Bernstein, I have some concerns about Nate Silver's graphical overview of the 2012 Republican presidential candidates. However, Jon focuses on the horizontal axis; I'm concerned with the vertical one, which charts insider/outsider status. Here's the graph:
I have to admit to being a little fuzzy on this whole insider/outsider thing. So, let's see, Mitt Romney is an insider, while Sarah Palin's an outsider. Yet Palin has a show on Fox and was the most recent Republican vice presidential nominee, while Romney has worked in the private sector for years, has never served in a presidential administration or on a national ticket, was governor of a lefty state, and is a Mormon. Why is he inside and she outside?
There might be a sense in which insider/outsider status is less a function of résumé than of disposition. Palin is a bit of a bomb thrower. She occasionally insults establishment figures within the GOP and even invites challenges to their nominees in primaries. Romney doesn't seem interested in making enemies within the party; he wants to unite as many factions as possible.
Forgive my recent Nebraska obsession, but this is reminding me a bit of Democratic senators (and former governors) Ben Nelson and Bob Kerrey. Nelson is quite conservative as a Democrat, but he's generally deferential toward the party and doesn't make a lot of waves. As senator, though, Kerrey made a habit of pissing off party leaders despite being closer to the party median than Nelson. So, in some sense, Kerrey was more of a party outsider than Nelson.
But maybe we should figure out exactly what these terms mean.