Anyway, the first essay in the book is an October 2000 piece about Ron Popeil. It's fascinating. But there's one anecdote in there that struck me as particularly interesting. As a young man, Ron was convinced he was the best pitchman out there. His relative Arnold Morris felt the same way about himself, as did a man named Frosty Wishon. So the three of them decided to have a shoot-out at the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, MA. They alternated selling the same knife set in different shifts during a ten-day stint at the show. Popeil just edged out Morris, and both of them buried Wishon.
This strikes me as a promising example for political scientists who study campaigns. We often come up with rough measures of candidate quality -- whether they've held office previously, whether they've run for office before, how moderate/extreme they are, etc. But what we really want to know is how good they are. We just knew that Barack Obama was a better candidate than John McCain last year, but how do we measure that? An actual election has too many moving parts to separate out candidate quality. We need a shoot-out. Maybe try the Glengarry Glen Ross approach: put a bunch of candidates in the same room, give them a randomized list of voters and a telephone, and see how much money each of them raises. I don't know. There must be some way to do this.
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