Do economists <i>really</i> support John McCain?

Kevin Drum, among others, is excited by the news that some economists appear to be recanting on their support for McCain's economic plan:

Now, this is good sport, to be sure, but there's also a serious side to this stuff. Somebody who's not me ought to start dialing up the other 280+ signatories and find out just how much of McCain's plan they really support. Do they think the current Social Security funding mechanism is a disgrace? Are they in favor of a gas tax holiday? Do they think his multi-trillion tax cut will increase revenues? Inquiring minds want to know.

I wouldn't get too excited. I got the same press release, and I've been wondering whether to blog it, because running an eye down the list of signatories, it doesn't look like the Politico exactly dialed at random. I'm familiar enough with about a quarter of the list to be able to confidently predict their reaction if telephoned, and to a first approximation, pretty much all of them would enthusiastically support McCain over Obama. Most of the article seems to be making a mountain out of a molehill--Gary Becker supports McCain's plan without having studied in detail every single provision. This is news? How many of the economists who signed the John Kerry letter four years ago could have given you chapter and verse on his economic plans? I bet I could have beaten 99% of them in a quiz on Kerry's policies--aye, even things which made the second page of his position paper. Nor, when pressed, would very many of them have been willing to put their professional credibility on the line by supporting every provision of it.

The economists who signed the letter aren't choosing "John McCain's platform over The Platonic Ideal Economic Policy". They're stating whether they prefer it to Obama's plans. And overwhelmingly, they seem to--the Politico found one out of twelve who says he'll probably vote for Obama, and given where he teaches, this was probably one of their better shots.

If anyone bothers to call them, I'm pretty sure they'll get a few not-very-political types who were recruited by enthusiastic colleagues, and then a boring litany of "Maybe not perfect, but a lot better than the alternative". Listening to that being said 300 times will not exactly bolster the case for Obama.