Excellent post over at Lawyers, Guns and Money on lessons learned from Moneyball (A's Clinched!) that apply to politics:
Beane, as Lewis explains, was particularly well-positioned to see through the fallacies of received wisdom because he himself was a handsome, picture-perfect athlete who looked like a model major league player--and hence was drafted in the first round--but couldn't actually play major league baseball. This is why, when a scout criticized a player's body, he said that "we're not selling jeans here." Physical attributes are only relevant to the extent that they produce results. Tony Gywnn and John Kruk were terrific players; Deion Sanders was a terrible player, and Michael Jordan couldn't hit AA pitching. That's Beane's crucial insight, and it's applicable to far more serious pursuits.
Yes, pesonality heuristics matter to voters (although one would hope that intellectuals would transcend rather than reinforce them), but they're inherently unstable, and voters can be smarter than they're often presumed to be.
But even worse is when empty suits selected to embody images rather than because of their ability is that they might actually win. If the Bush administration--which has been almost as disastrous from a principled conservative perspective as from a progressive one--teaches us anything, it's that competence actually, you know, matters.
Go read it all.