From Jim Harper of the Cato Institute on May 23:
“Voting does more than elect candidates.
“Votes are a dazzling roman candle of information supplied to elected officials, their staffs, political parties, journalists, opinion leaders, and future candidates, to name a few. All these witnesses to elections incorporate vote information — not just outcome, but win/loss margins — into their actions and assessments well beyond election and inauguration day.
“Here’s one use of vote information that I’m familiar with as a former Hill staffer: Folks in Congress assess each other’s strength and weakness according to electoral margin of victory. When a one- or two-term member of Congress is re-elected by a wide margin, it’s a signal that he or she is there to stay. That member is going to have a vote for a long time and will acquire more power with increasing seniority. The stock of that person and his or her staff rises, and they immediately have more capacity to move their agenda.
“The process is the same in reverse. When a longer-serving member suffers a narrow win, that signals blood in the water. That member is likely to draw a more serious, better funded challenger in the next election, and defeat becomes much more likely. The stock of that politician drops, and the ability of that person’s office to advance an agenda falls with it.
“Winning is essential, but margins of victory affect margins of power.
“In the coming presidential election, margin of victory will have similar dynamics among other groups — and they could be quite substantial. The larger the “protest vote” going to Libertarian Party candidates or others, the more news stories there will be that expose people for the first time to the existence and relative popularity of libertarian ideas, as well as others. While driving up the stock of liberty, a showing for libertarian candidates could drive down the stock of the Republican and Democratic offerings, putting blood in the water around the establishment parties.”