Thursday, November 01, 2012

Random thoughts on the election

Neither Lance and I have commented much on the Prez election.
I only found one post from 2012 that mentioned Romney:
Romney vs Aaronson.
A few mentioned Obama but not with regard to the election.
I give you some Random thoughts on the election before its over.
They are nonpartisan unless they are not.

  1. I polled the Sophmore discrete math class (secret ballot) and got the following: of the 99 students in the class (1) 64 for Obama, (2) 17 for Romney, (3) 8 for Gary Johnson (libertarian), (4) 2 for Jill Stein (Green). Those were the only ones on the ballot; however, there were some write-ins: (5) 2 for Ron Paul, (6) 1 each for Newt Gingrich, John the Baptist, Mickey Mouse, Gumby, and two names I did not recognize but may have been the students themselves. You know what they say: As goes discrete math, so goes the nation. Hence Obama now has it in the bag.
  2. I predicted it would be Romney vs Obama on Feb 15, 2012. I also predicted that Obama would win. I never wavered from that prediction, so you can't call me a flip-flopper. You can read it here. The first part (Obama vs Romney) has already come true; we will see if the second one does.
  3. Assuming Obama wins I have a bet on the Republican nominee in 2016: I have bet Lance Fortnow, Chris Umans, and Amol Despande (DB guy in my dept) that it will be Paul Ryan.
    (ADDED LATER- I misunderstood Amol- he wants to bet WITH me, that Ryan will win,
    with the odds I got.) If I win I get $1.00, if they win they get 30 cents. I have a bet with Mike Barron (a friend of mine not a theorist--- yes I have non-theorists friends), who is more of a risk-taker, where if I win I get $10.00 and if he wins he gets $3.00. Are these good odds? I ask this nonrhetorically.
    1. Why Ryan? 1972 is the beginning of the modern political era. That's when Prez candidates had to compete in primaries to win the nomination. (Humphrey got the nomination in 1968 without entering a single primary, then the McGovern Commission changed the rules so that a lot more primaries were included. And, the man who understood the rules, McGovern, got the nomination in 1972.) Since 1972 the Republicans have almost always nominated a KNOWN person, someone you heard of four years earlier. Not including incumbents here is the list:
      1. 1980 Reagan. Known- Had run in 1976.
      2. 1988 Bush Sr. Known- Was VP under Reagan.
      3. 1996 Dole. Known- Had run with Ford as VP, had run for Prez before.
      4. 2000 Bush Jr. Unknown- One can argue he was known via his dad, but I'll just say Unknown.
      5. 2008 McCain. Known- Had run before in 2000.
      6. 2012 Romney. Known- Had run before in 2008.
      By contrast the Dems have sometimes nominated someone you had not heard of. Here is their record:
      1. 1976 Carter. An Unknown Former Gov or Georgia.
      2. 1984 Mondale. Known, Former VP.
      3. 1988 Dukakis. An Unknown Gov of Mass.
      4. 1992 Clinton. An Unknown Gov of Arkansas.
      5. 2000 Gore. Known. Was VP.
      6. 2004 Kerry. An Unknown Senator.
      7. 2008 Obama. An Unknown Senator.
      (One could debate how unknown some of these were.) Note that whenever the Dems nominated a known person they lost- perhaps a cautionary note to those who want Biden or H. Clinton in 2016, and an encouraging note to Andrew Cuomo, current gov of NY. (If you say whose that? you've proven my point.) But ANYWAY, the Republicans have ALMOST ALWAYS given it to a KNOWN person. None of the people who ran for the nomination in 2012 seem plausible to get the nomination in 2016, though The Daily Show is doing a segment on the fictional Cain Presidency. Some sort-of-known people who didn't run in 2012 but may in 2016: Chris Christie (Gov of NJ), Jeb Bush (Gov of Florida), Tim Pawlenty (Gov of Minnesota), Mitch Daniels (Gov of Indiana), Marco Rubio (Senator from Florida), Bobby Jindal (Gov of Louisiana) . The last two are more known for being talked about as Prez of V Prez Candidate then for anything they've actually done. I grant that any of these people are possible. However, they are not quite as well known as Ryan. Also, I predict that if Romney loses it will be blamed on we were not true to our principles and they will go further rightwing with Ryan.
    2. Why it might not be Ryan: The above argument sounds convincing but the problem with predictions in politics (and elsewhere) is that, to quote a friend in Machine Learning, Trends hold until they don't. Anything could happen! Things may change drastically! As an example see this XKCD.
  4. Another prediction, though harder to quantify. When Gore, Kerry, and McCain lost they or people around them said things like I let my handlers handle me too much- if I had run as myself I would have won. I predict that Romney will think the same thing. I doubt he'll say it.
  5. There is an issue on the Maryland Ballot that involves Game Theory and Gaming. Roughly speaking the issue is should we allow more gambling in our state. PRO: People are going to adjacent states to gamble and we should get that money. CON: Gambling is a regressive tax and bad for the economy in the long run. The more states have gambling (or build baseball stadiums or give businesses who move there tax breaks) the more other states have to go along to compete. A classic Prisoners Dilemma--- except that West Virginia and Delaware have already defected so we have no choice. Or do we? There is a rumor that the anti-gambling adds in Maryland are being paid for by the West Virginia Casinos. The anti-gambling ads are not anti-gambling, they are just against this bill- they claim that the money won't really go to education for example. I admire the honesty--- if a West VA casino had an add in MD saying how bad Gambling was morally that would look rather odd. Even so, Should I vote FOR gambling just to spite the out-of-state casinos running adds in my state? Should I vote FOR it since the ads against it are not giving MY arguments against it? Should I vote FOR IT and tell people I voted against it?
  6. There is a marriage-equality referendum on the ballot- Question 6. There has been almost no ads or talk about it. Why? One speculation--- the people against it know they will be on the wrong side of history, and the people for it don't quite know how to sell it. Its ahead in the polls so maybe they don't want to rock the boat.
  7. If you ask a pro-Obama pundit who will win he might say Obama because people know Romney is a liar. If you ask a pro-Romney pundit will win he might say
    Romney because Obama has not fixed the economy and Mitt can. Either may use poll data as window dressing, but they tell you what they want to happen rather than what an honest scientific study will show. Nate Silver, a scientific pollster, says in his book The signal and the noise: Why so many predictions fail--- but some don't that pundits are right about half the time. Not surprising.
  8. George McGovern died recently at the age of 90. The 1972 prez election, McGovern vs Nixon, was the first Prez campaign I paid attention to. I passed out McGovern pamphlets in my precinct of Brooklyn and McGovern DID win that Precinct. I regard that as a Moral Victory.


  1. Why not Ryan? Because there are several other KNOWN Republican candidates (Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, etc.) also...

  2. So do you want a piece of the action:
    Bet me
    If Ryan gets the Nomination I get one dollar
    If not then you get 30 cents.

    Or we could do 10 dollars versus 3 dollars.

    Either make a comment agreeing or email me privately.

    Another reason why Ryan- its not just that most other nominees were
    known- most had run for Prez or VP or had been VP. Running for Prez is
    hard so it seems like you need to do it once to get a sense of it.

    And again, I could still be wrong and I freely admit that. I despite
    pundits who are sure they are right on things you cannot possibly be sure
    you are right on.

  3. Looking at the history of Republican nominations, one can draw the analysis further. Ford doesn't count for nominations given how he became president through succession.

    His predecessor, Richard Nixon was definitely known. He'd previously run for president in 1960, but losing to Kennedy. Barry Goldwater (1964) was relatively well known given his staunch conservative positions. Although that ties back in with being "known"...

    Before Goldwater we had Richard Nixon for the first time. Even here, he was recognizable as Eisenhower's VP. And although not a politician, Eisenhower was certainly a household name (WWII) when he ran.

    Based on this, the odds seem to favor Ryan running for president in 2016.

    1. Gerald Ford, the President who was elected to office by less than 1 percent of the nation.

  4. The recent history of "known" Republican nominees is because of their primary system: prior to 2012, most states were winner-take-all rather than proportional. You had to be established to get the funding to run a campaign or the delegate math would never add up.

    In a more proportional system its easier for fresh faces to run a grassroots or outsider campaign.

    1. yes, and it is easier for a man to lift a house than to lift an apartment building but it's still not going to happen

  5. To track millions of election-related predictions, and place your own, go to . Here are some in my portfolio:

    * Republican Party will win a path of states in the Presidential election that connect from Canada to Mexico (current odds: 98.8% chance)
    * Republican Party will win the Presidential election (18.3%)
    * Democratic Party will win between 6 and 8 states that begin with the letter M in the Presidential election (12.3%)
    * Republican Party will win the Presidential election in Iowa AND Democratic Party will win the national Presidential election (22%)


  6. Jon Katz is in:
    If Paul Ryan is the VP nominee in 2016 then I get $10.00
    If not then he gets $3.00

    NOBODY who I talked to about this bet thought it was insane.
    Various people took either side of it.
    But only Jon (aside from those mentioend above) put his money
    where his mouth is.

    But its not for the money- its for the braggin rights!

  7. David Pennock is in for the big bucks:
    If Paul ryan is the Prez Nominee in 2016 I get $10.00
    If not he gets $3.00.

    He also emailed me this

    which has odds close to mine.