Thursday, March 06, 2008

Endorsements and Game Theory

If you are a big shot in the political world then endorsing a political candidate has a game theory flavor to it. I'm sure someone could make a formal game theory problem out of it. There are two possibly competing options:
  1. Endorse someone who you think will get the nomination.
  2. Endorse someone who you agree with politically.
And there are four scenarios.
  1. You endorse someone who you think will get the nomination but who you disagree with.
    1. They win: you may get power (e.g., a cabinet post) but you may not be able to use that power to do what you want. In short, you have power but have lost your integrity (If you have been in politics long enough thats probably already gone.)
    2. They lose: you have lost your power and your integrity. (Pat Robertson's endorsement of Guilliani may be like that.)
  2. You endorse someone who you agree with but probably won't get the nomination.
    1. If they win then you are in great shape. You get power and integrity.
    2. If the lose this isn't so bad since you still have your integrity. And if they did better-than-expected (e.g, Mike Huckabee) then you may have some power.
  3. You endorse someone who you agree with and who you think will get the nomination.
    1. If you endorse after its obvious they will get the nomination then you don't get much. (Six Republican Govenors recently endorsed McCain. Too late to get any brownie points for that. Or the Vice Presidency.) If you endorse before its obvious then you could get power and keep your integrity.
    2. If they lose then hope that it is not thought that your endorsement caused the loss.
  4. You endorse someone who you disagree with and who you think won't get the nomination. You may be in the wrong business.


  1. Who are the other players?

  2. You lost me when you assumed Pat Robertson had any integrity to lose.

  3. On the last point: if you disagree with the candidate but feel their nomination will cause them to lose the general election, then your endorsement may serve larger goals.

  4. Hello. As a CS student I have quite a bit of skepticism about ideas by Kurzweil and others of AI surpassing human intelligence in e.g. 30 years ( the other hand it seems that this question has to do with computational complexity somewhat more than with other sciences. Nevertheless, media (even Wikipedia) seems to happily represent almost only the optimistic side. It would be very interesting to know what you think about that.

  5. Be more rigorous. Power is not like di-lithium crystals. Remember that nothing unreal exists. What does "Power" mean exactly?

    When you support a candidate you are trading your endorsement for something. If you increase their legitimacy at a critical time, then you may win them the election. So what?

    Even if you bought them, that doesn't mean they stay bought. link. If they know you are corrupt why would they support you after the election? If they are corrupt why could you trust them?

    Politically stupid politicians can't stay in power.

    The way for a voter to tell if a politician is honest is the same way a 16 year old girl can tell if the boy who wants to get her in the back seat is honest. It is words AND action AND both observed well over an extended period of time.

    A democratic politician who can reasonably expect to trade their integrity for a position of power can only exist in a system where voters have quit watching the cross-correlation function of words and actions - a system where voters have already abdicated.