Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Politics Shmolitics

Obama is going to win. Unless he flies a plane into a building (too soon?), he's going to win. It doesn't matter what the polls say, it doesn't matter who you think is a better candidate, it doesn't matter (that much) whom he selects for a running mate. He will win by a substantial margin. A gaggle of economists and political scientists have weighed in on this (do social scientists travel in gaggles?), and several have developed models that can predict presidential elections more accurately than polls. Three things matter: the state of the economy, the duration of the incumbent party, and the approval rating of the incumbent party. Notice something that's not on the list? That's right: what the voting public thinks about the candidates.

Now, when we get a little closer to November, the polls and the reality will veer more closely together. Right now people are discounting the future, giving answers that they have not genuinely thought out. Let's break this down, shall we? Here's the theory:
  1. In a presidential election, people vote for a party, not a candidate.
  2. If the rate of change of the economy is dropping, regardless of how good things actually are, people will vote against the incumbent party.
  3. If the approval rating of the incumbent president is low, people will vote against that president's party.
  4. If the president's party has been in the white house for 8 years or more, people will tend to vote against that president's party.
The only thing that a president actually has any direct control over is his approval rating. So for all the campaigning, all the rhetoric and rigger-more-all, the election is determined by factors that are largely out of the candidate's grasp if not completely out of the candidate's grasp.

Follow the data as far back as you like. The above conditions hold pretty well, outside of acts of God/terror. McCain will lose. It is what it is.

That said, watching the groundswell under Obama has been entertaining.


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