Congratulations to the good people of the United Kingdom who, "American Idol"-like, have been selected to act as judges on a vitally important question: Who's better at winning political campaigns, David Axelrod or Jim Messina?
If those names don't ring a bell, perhaps you are one of the unbiased Brits selected for this important task. So: Axelrod was the chief strategist for President Obama's 2008 and 2012 campaigns; Messina was campaign manager for the 2012 bid. Since last August, Messina has served as an adviser to British prime minister David Cameron, leader of the Conservative Party. (This is the juncture at which Messina, were he here, would probably interject to say that British Conservatives aren't like American conservatives, and he would have a point.) Cameron faces a significant threat in next year's planned parliamentary elections, however, in the form of Labour's Ed Miliband. (This is the juncture at which you should go read this post, titled, "Is Ed Miliband too 'weird' to be British prime minister?") Miliband, as you may have guessed, hired Axelrod in April to guide him to victory. (This is the juncture at which you read the Times more robust history of the dynamics, if you wish.)
Two men enter, only one can leave. And, no, we aren't talking about Cameron and Miliband -- we are talking about Axelrod and Messina. But which man?
You, like us, are probably too impatient to wait to see who will win. So we offer two ways in which you can jump into the contest immediately.
First, there's polling. Wikipedia has a lengthy track of recent polling, but as Post polling guru Scott Clement warns, "it's difficult to have strong confidence in most British pollsters' estimates, many which rely on surveys of Internet-recruited respondents rather than random samples of the population." Clement points to this Guardian poll from May 13 as sound. It gives the edge to Messina/Cameron /the Conservatives.
That poll was taken before last week's dominating performance by the UK Independence Party in the European Union elections. (An important detail: The far-right UKIP, as it's known, opposes the country's membership in the EU.) So, grains of salt all around on the polling.
Then there's the other, more fun metric. In Europe, you can bet on elections. And one bookmaker is already taking bets on how 2015 turns out.
PaddyPower, one-time sponsors of American diplomat Dennis K. Rodman, offers real-time odds on the race. Miliband is currently favored at 4-to-5 odds. But it's close: Cameron is at 11-to-10 as of writing, hardly out of the running. (Ed Miliband's brother, David, is at 66-to-1. He is unrepresented by any important American political consultants.)
(By the way, if you think betting on an election in 2015 seems a bit premature, PaddyPower will also let you — assuming you are allowed to do so legally — bet on the winner of our 2016 race. Hillary Clinton is the favorite, of course.)
On May 7 of next year — only 344 days from now! — British voters will go to the polls and resolve one of the few outstanding questions in recent American politics: Axelrod or Messina? We wish them well with that decision, and also with, you know, whoever ends up running their Parliament or whatever.