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Competition between Specialized Candidates


Opposing candidates for a political office often differ in their professional backgrounds and previous political experience, leading to both real and perceived differences in political capabilities. We analyze a formal model in which candidates with different productivities in two policy areas compete for voters by choosing how much money or effort they would allocate to each area if elected. The model has a unique equilibrium that differs substantially from the standard median voter model. Although candidates compete for the support of a moderate voter type, this cutoff voter differs from the expected median voter. Moreover, no voter type except the cutoff voter is indifferent between the candidates in equilibrium. The model also predicts that candidates respond to changes in the preferences of voters in a very rigid way. From a welfare perspective, candidates are “excessively moderate”: almost certainly, a majority of voters would prefer that the winning candidate focus more on his or her strength.

Corresponding author
Stefan Krasa is Professor, Department of Economics, University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, 1407 W. Gregory Drive, Urbana, IL 61801 (
Mattias Polborn is Associate Professor, Department of Economics and Department of Political Science, University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, 1407 W. Gregory Drive, Urbana, IL 61801 (
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American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
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