Crystal Balling for Fun & Prophet

What if someone could use scientific research to divine the sure winner of the 2004 election?

I love it when someone finds valid patterns where everyone else sees chaos. I even love it when someone pretends to find valid patterns where everyone else sees chaos. Today’s report is courtesy of Doc, who sent me a link to research reported by Eric Schulman, Ph.D, an astrophysicist who probably understands math better than Doc and I combined. But Eric is also a humorist who has authored a book, A Briefer History of Time and a number of articles spoofing the world of research. My favorite title: The History of the Universe in 200 Words or Less in 30 Languages or More in Teeny Tiny Type

Schulman has devised the Electability Formula, which looks at candidates’ years of experience in various public roles, and the actual results of campaigns:

Electability = 4P – V – S + R + 9G + 95DCI + 95GEN + 95NUC,

where P is the number of years the candidate served as President, V is the number of years the candidate served as Vice President, S is the number of years the candidate served as U. S. Senator, R is the number of years the candidate served as U. S. Representative, and the Boolean variables DCI/GEN/NUC are 1 if the candidate served as Director of Central Intelligence (e.g., George H. W. Bush), was a general officer in the United States Armed Forces (e.g., Dwight D. Eisenhower), or ordered the combat use of nuclear weapons (e.g., Harry S. Truman), respectively. Note that this is not necessarily a unique solution (i.e., we stopped searching once we found a set of parameters that worked). In each U. S. Presidential election between 1932 and 2000, the candidate with the higher electability won.

Historically, Schulman contends, a President’s years in office has an advantage against most contenders (4 points per Pres. year), unless he’s running against a former Governor (9 points per Guv year) or someone who has earned 95 bonus points. The 95 bonus points accrue to anyone who ordered the use of a nuclear weapon (N), has been a General (G), or was Director of the CIA (D). Such statistical gymnastics was the only way Schulman could explain Truman’s defeat of Dewey in 1948, Eisenhower’s wins against Adlai Stevenson or Dubya’s dad against anyone. You’ll notice that it’s a negative to have been a Vice President or a Senator, which probably comports with your personal view.

By jiggering the formula until it worked, Schulman has been able to rationalize the outcome of every presidential race since 1932. This is the kind of thing that Wall Street’s technical analysts do, so brokers can promise amateurs they can beat pros in the stock market. Schulman’s point is that his is a bogus indicator, only true retrospectively. The question is whether it will still be retrospectively valid in 2005.

Theoretical Musings, 2001

Americans seem to love experienced Governors who run for office, and not Senators or VPs. In 2001, Schulman noted, tongue firmly in cheek, that it would take a 4-term Governor to defeat George W. Bush:

“An empirical formula is of little use if it cannot predict future events. Should George W. Bush remain in office and run for re-election in 2004, he would have an electability of 70. The Democrats, however, could defeat him if they nominated James B. Hunt, Jr., the four-term governor of North Carolina. But Republican strategists will no doubt have read this article, too, and could respond by nominating four-term South Dakota Governor William J. Janklow. Both candidates would have electabilities of 144 (assuming they have no other relevant government experience between now and 2004). Two candidates with tied electabilities would surely lead to the closest U. S. Presidential election in 75 years.”

Candidate Year Pres VP Sen Rep Gov (x9) D/G/N?
(95)
Electabilty
George W. Bush 2004 4 0 0 0 6   70
James B. Hunt, Jr. 2004 0 0 0 0 16   144
William J. Janklow 2004 0 0 0 0 16   144

“This catastrophe could be avoided if President George W. Bush orders the combat use of nuclear weapons before November of 2004, in which case his electability would jump to 165, comfortably larger than any of the possible Democratic candidates.”

Outcome if George Bush Manages to Nuke Somebody
Candidate Year Pres VP Sen Rep Gov (x9) D/G/N?
(95)
Electabilty
George W. Bush 2004 4 0 0 0 6 N 165
James B. Hunt, Jr. 2004 0 0 0 0 16   144
William J. Janklow 2004 0 0 0 0 16   144

2003 – Real News for a Real Election

We are indeed fortunate that Dr. Schulman updated his research at the end of June. He applied his groundbreaking algorithm to the field of Democratic hopefuls and concluded that, despite General Wesley Clark’s 95 point advantage from his Generalship, Howard Dean is the best man to beat Bush, if the Dems are smart enough to nominate him:

“George W. Bush will have an electability of 70 if he remains in office through November of 2004. The Democrats could defeat him if they nominated either former Governor Howard Dean (electability of 108) or retired General Wesley Clark (electability of 95). Since the Democrats wish to regain the White House, they will presumably nominate one of these men.”

Candidate Pres VP Sen Rep Gov (x9) D/G/N?
(95)
Electabilty
Howard Dean 0 0 0 0 12 108
Wesley Clark 0 0 0 0 0   95
George W. Bush 4 0 0 0 6     70
Bob Graham 0 0 -18 0 8     54
Richard Gephardt 0 0 0 28 0     28
Dennis Kucinich 0 0 0 8 0       8
Al Sharpton 0 0 0 0 0       0
John Edwards 0 0 -4 0 0   -4
Carol Moseley Braun 0 0 -6 0 0     -6
Joseph Lieberman 0 0 -16 0 0 -16
Bill Bradley 0 0 -18 0 0   -18
John Kerry 0 0 -20 0 0 -20
Joseph Biden 0 0 -32 0 0   -32

It’s the Algorithm, Stupid

Don’t pay attention to Dean’s advantage in real-world politics – the 75,118 people signed up to go to a Meetup tonight, or the 258,452 people who have registered at DeanforAmerica.com, or the campaign’s ability to raise a half a mill by posting a graphic on their site or by Dean’s appearance on the covers of Time, Newsweek and U.S. News. None of that matters. Schulman’s math tells us all we need to know: Howard Dean will be our next president and, with any luck, General Wesley Clark will be his running mate.

Except for the Rove factor.

Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.

Schulman notes one wild card:

“However, should President George W. Bush order the combat use of nuclear weapons before November of 2004, his electability would jump to 165, comfortably larger than any of the possible Democratic candidates.”

12:17:40 AM    

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