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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Random thoughts about the election

Random comments on the election.
  1. John McCain gave a nice concession speech and was excellent on SNL on Saturday. If he was that way the entire time he might have won (if he also didn't pick Palin and we didn't have the economic crisis and we were more clearly winning the Iraq War). However, I've heard that line before- Kerry, Gore, Dole also looked alot better after they lost. Are candidates overly managed and overly cautious? Does this work against them? (Obama seems to have escaped that.)
  2. Whenever a party loses it splits into factions: (1) We lost because we strayed from our true principles. They can split further on what the true principles are. Some of these may support Palin in 2012. (2) We lost because we are too isolated from the mainstream. Some of these may blame Palin for the defeat.
  3. Could any Republican have won the Presidency year? With an unpopular war and the economic crisis they would have needed a weak oponent and some distance from George Bush (Mitt Romney 2006 might have worked). Obama was strong competition and John McCain was seen (fairly or unfairly) as being just like W.
  4. Hillary-supporters had basically two arguments in the primaries: (1) Hillary has a better chance of beating McCain then Obama does. This has proven false. Or has it? better chance- how can that be quantified once the event has happened. (2) Hillary would make a better president then Obama. We will never know.
  5. Obama ran an excellent campaign. McCain ran a terrible campaign. McCain had current events against him (as Colbert has said the truth has a liberal bias). Here is a silly statement: Obama's victory is due 30% to his campaign, 40% to McCain's campaign, and 30% to reality. I just made up those numbers, but can that question be asked and answered?
  6. This is why I study math. Math has well defined questions that (for the most part) have answers (though we may not know them yet). But the question why did Obama win? can't really be asked rigorouly or answered definitively. One can even criticize how I phrased it- should I have asked why did McCain lose??

9 comments:

  1. I think (5) can be asked and answered, in a sense. There is an an analogous concept in the financial world where you can view a company as belonging to various categories and see how the stock price is correlated to those categories. I.e. Microsoft would roughly track large US companies in general, but there's also a component for the tech sector, risk of stronger antitrust laws, perception of Bill Gates, etc. You can calculate the correlation coefficients over any time range where you have samples for every variable.

    I think you could model the "reality" component with something like the S&P 500 and poll numbers for public support of Bush and the war. A political scientist could probably point out a metric for the efficacy of each campaign.

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  2. Re 1: i didn't like the part of his speech where he mentions the "special significance" of this election for african americans. sounds like he's saying obama won because of his race.

    Re 5: i think you're over estimating the role of mccain's campaign. i'd say it was 30% obama's campaign, 65% reality (i.e., economics), and 5% mccain (most importantly, his choice of vp).

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  3. Could a Republican have won this year?

    Given the closeness of many of the state elections, it seems that a McCain-Lieberman ticket might have won. (McCain-XXX with XXX anyone other than Palin may also have had a shot.)

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  4. This is why I study math. Math has well defined questions that (for the most part) have answers (though we may not know them yet). But the question why did Obama win? can't really be asked rigorouly or answered definitively. One can even criticize how I phrased it- should I have asked why did McCain lose??

    Bill I think it's important that we don't just study well-defined questions but study relevant questions that are ill-defined. We need life, leaders, politics to be able to have fun of studying well-defined questions.

    I am not saying everyone should do everything. Different people are meant for different things.

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  5. Given the closeness of many of the state elections, it seems that a McCain-Lieberman ticket might have won.

    This is a fallacious argument, since it counts the increase in centrist voters but fails to count the decrease in religious voters who love Palin and hence voted for McCain but hate pro-choice Lieberman and would have stayed home for the election.

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  6. The roles of both campaigns may be even smaller. I would say it was 90% reality (i.e., economics), and 5% per each campaign. McCain seemed to have gained momentum and broken even with Obama right before the stock market crashed.

    Given all the hoopla about the "epic election", and superior funding/organizing advantages of Obama's campaign, it would be surprising that the voting statistics are kind of ordinary ( please check ttp://www.stat.columbia.edu)/~gelman/blog/).

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  7. 1."...and we were more clearly winning the Iraq War..."

    A country is destroyed and half million people were killed, and yet the only thing you felt regret about is not "more clearly winning". Excuse me, Professor Gasarch, I never held any hope for the humanity of US, but a comment like this from an intellectual in this country, just taught me how coldblood the americans could be.

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  8. I think the reason for (1) is psychological: it's easy to be gracious in defeat and people naturally feel sorry for the defeated and like and admire people who appear gracious in defeat.

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  9. 1) Nagesh: YES, I am only saying that is why I pesonally don't study these things. This is not a value judgement on what anyone else chooses to study.


    2) Anon 7: The IF-THEN statement
    ``If we were more clearly winning the Iraq War then
    John McCain might have won
    the election.'' is NOT
    an endorsement of the war
    or a statement that contradicts that it has
    been a horrible thing.

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