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Why the Republican Presidential "Turn" is a Myth

[Cross-posted at ProgressiveHistorians, Daily Kos, MyDD, and My Left Wing.]

For some time, there has been a meme in political discourse indicating that Republicans choose their Presidential candidates based on some notion of whose "turn" it is to win the nomination.  I have found evidence of this meme from both the right (William F. Buckley) and the left (a MyDD commenter).  Given the pervasiveness of this meme, I decided to test the historical evidence behind it by examining Republican presidential nominations from 1960 -- a full twelve years before the first election in which primaries played a deciding role in the delegate count -- through 2004.

According to most versions of this theory, there are three ways that one establishes one's "turn" in line: 1) by being a sitting or former Vice President; 2) by running in a previous year, losing but doing better than expected; or 3) by attaining some sort of formal institutional leadership, i.e., serving as Senate Minority Leader or Speaker of the House.  I aim to show that criterion #1 is both natural and common to both parties, and that criteria #2 and #3 are simply not the hard-and-fast rules they have been made out to be.  In fact, in the past twelve election cycles, there has been only one instance where a Republican presidential primary was decided by anything close to the concept of "turn," and even in that instance the outcome was far from certain until well down the stretch.  Essentially, the Republican presidential "turn" is a myth with no predictive value for the 2008 GOP primary.

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