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I was thinking about various politicians who, at the beginning of their campaigns (usually presidential campaigns), held opinions typically associated with "left" or "liberal" ideology, and who, over the course of the campaign season, would shift gradually towards more centrist positions. I was trying to recall the term for this type of political tactic; does anyone know what it is?

I'm reasonably confident it is not "triangulation;" the way I understand triangulation is that one presents themselves as "above" the typical left-right dichotomy (as Bill Clinton did during his reelection campaign), which is not quite the same as this left to center shift. Any input would be sincerely appreciated. Cheers.

Edit: I was thinking more about this left to center shift specifically. For example, Elizabeth Warren started her campaign this cycle by supporting Medicare for All, and then once she gained some traction, she seemed to back off the idea (leaning more towards a public option). This is a recurring theme in Democratic primaries, and I was wondering if there was something specific about this particular type of shift.

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    Political Repositioning? – Alexei Mar 2 at 9:28
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    @Alexei This is not quite what I'm thinking of. While the article you linked seems to include this issue (and is also interesting independently), I was thinking more about this left to center shift specifically. For example, Elizabeth Warren started her campaign this cycle by supporting Medicare for All, and then once she gained some traction, she seemed to back off the idea (leaning more towards a public option). This is a recurring theme in Democratic primaries, and I was wondering if there was something specific about this particular type of shift. – scoopfaze Mar 2 at 9:38
  • In the future, please use the edit function to clarify your question. – Fizz Mar 2 at 15:44
  • Also, I don't follow this matter closely, but I have the impression you've misrepresented Warren's position somewhat, although the general vibe that she was perhaps laying out the details (as a phased transition) as to assuage the more moderate voters is perhaps not wrong. Sanders has also proposed a four-year transition period. – Fizz Mar 2 at 16:56
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The term you're looking for is Pivoting.

While the word's origins come from the engineering term, the political use of the word pivot has been taken from the rules of basketball: that once a basketball player stops and holds the basketball, they are allowed to move one foot but not both. Likewise, the politician has to hold onto the primary voters (the stationary foot) but change their angle to point towards national voters. Moving both metaphorical feet (changing everything about the candidacy between primaries and national election) is to abandon the primary voters, and is often called flip-flopping.

How does this work in practice? Typically by emphasizing more moderate aspects/facets of your platform than you did in the primaries while avoiding self-contradiction from what you said in the primary.

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There's probably no single established term for this. In the US context that you're talking about, it's been various called "shifting to the center" (or "rightward" when it's a Democrat doing it), "chasing [...] the swing vote", "courting the independent voter" etc.

The other answer says "pivot" is used to mean this, but it seems to me some writers qualify that as "centrist pivot" to be more clear/explicit. One can "pivot" a campaign in other ways, e.g. "immigration pivot" or "pivoting its primary strategy to aggressively target [a specific opponent]". Likewise, one campaign-theory (academic) blog uses "pivot" to more generally refer to a shift in strategy that is deflection from the current course. So I think "pivot" doesn't really carry the implicit centrist annotation.

I also disagree that "flip-flop" is generally a good synonym, unless the change in position is so dramatic as to be basically contradicting the previous one (which might actually be the case though for candidates initially on the more extreme end of some policy dimension). This latter term has a Wikipedia page probably because it's more established; it is used mostly as a derogatory term. A mere change/pivot/shifting in campaign emphasis toward issues that a "centrist" voter might care for probably would not qualify as a flip-flop. I.e. some campaign pivots/shifts are flip-flops, but not necessarily the other way around.

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