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In the context of US presidential elections, I always thought “electability” was a subjective, hypothetical probability judgement of how a given candidate would do in the general election, conditional on them winning their party’s nomination. At least that’s how I’ve been using it.

For example, you might get a candidate who strongly appeals to the party’s ideological base (e.g. Barry Goldwater in ‘64 or George McGovern in ‘74) or an “establishment” favorite (Mondale in ‘84) who ends up winning the nomination only to belly-flop in the general election. Or you might have a centrist or moderate candidate who fares poorly in the primary, but who might do well in the general election against an unpopular rival (e.g. Yang in the current election, who has virtually no chance of winning the primary, but, by virtue of him being a centrist taking on Trump, might fare better in the general election).


nceladean: yep, that is how I'd define electability; it's a prediction of who would win in the general election assuming the candidate wins in the primary. I agree with the 538 assessment that it is used to create self-fulfilling prophecy. If voters do pick someone based on "electability", that candidate becomes more electable. It's circular.

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