Essays on political competition
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The three branches of American government---judicial, legislative, and executive---serve important governmental roles, and present their own interesting political questions. We answer three here. First, what are the differences between judges and politicians, and how does this inform the formers' selection? Second, how do senators behave to satisfy their political preferences and the electorate's? Third, what is the optimal strategy for a candidate in the Electoral College? American states select judges in various ways. In Chapter 1, we analyze "merit selection." Typically, a nonpartisan commission culls applicants for judgeships, and an appointee is selected by the governor. Then, periodically, this judge undergoes a retention election: an up-or-down vote by the state's electorate. We contribute a microeconomic model to analyze these elections. We compare this institution, in welfare terms, to others used to appoint and retain judges. Finally, we analyze a recent and ongoing phenomenon: these elections are transforming from historically rubber stamp formalities into contested, politicized contests. The politicization of issues brought before courts increases the likelihood of judges being ousted. In Chapter 2, we explore the behavior of legislators in the U.S. Senate, and of the voters who elect them. We examine shifts in incumbent senators' espoused political positions over time, as the reelection campaign approaches. We introduce novel game theoretic models of incumbent-challenger interaction. We find, through empirical analysis of senators' roll call votes, that senators moderate their positions over time, as potential reelection approaches. Moreover, this moderation accelerates. This is explained by the behavior of voters: the moderation is mirrored by the attention paid by voters. Also, the identity of an incumbent's challenger plays an important role in the amount of moderation exhibited by the incumbent. In Chapter 3, we consider a highly adaptable game theoretic model of competition in the Electoral College. It takes the form of a repeated game. Candidates make allocation decisions to persuade voters. Candidates get utility from winning office, and disutility from expending resources. We characterize optimal campaign strategy, and present comparative statics. We show, inter alia, that a candidate with an inherent advantage may prefer a longer campaign.