November 08, 2018

Predicting Presidential Elections since '60

I’m too data-driven with regard to understanding events that defy logic to some extent like how someone gets elected president. The heart has its ways where reason doth not go, or something like that. And people are complex.

But I always try to figure out a formula that will determine who will win presidency.

I think in the modern era (1960s on), there are three components.
1) A feint in the opposite political direction. (Works for popes too since many thought Bergoglio was a conservative when he feinted that way years ago.)
2) Comfort with television and/or telegenic.
3) A lack of experience. Theoretically people’s thirst for a lack of experience must eventually find a bottom, though hopefully before we amend the Constitution and start electing pre-teens. Some would argue our current occupant is a pre-teen but that’s off topic.
Character plays a role too as reactions.  Jimmy Carter was a reaction to Nixon admin and George W. Bush against Clinton.  If this holds true in 2020, a Democrat like Bernie Sanders might be helped.

Let’s see if it works.

1960: Kennedy v Nixon. Kennedy feinted as a conservative with his hawkishness and fiscal sanity. A Look magazine cover in 1946 read: “A Kennedy Runs for Congress: The Boston-bred scion of a former ambassador is a fighting-Irish conservative.” Nixon, by comparison, rarely looked liberal prior to 1960. Kennedy also wins on television obviously. Experience a wash, although slight edge to Kennedy likely.
Verdict: theorem worked.

1964: Johnson v Goldwater. Goldwater never feinted left in his life, at least not prior to ’64, and Johnson as a Southern Democrat feinted that way when he had to. They were a wash as far as television, and both were career senators.
Verdict: theorem worked, although wouldn’t have predicted a landslide.

1968: Nixon v Humphrey: This one I’m going to say the theroem didn’t work. Similar experience, slightly better TV maybe for Humprhey although Nixon had a lot of experience with the medium by this point. And both career pols.
Verdict: No.

1972: Nixon v McGovern. Similar experience, similar TV skills, but Nixon by this time had most definitely feinted left early and often (picture Bill Clinton after ’94 midterms), while McGovern never feinted right in his life except in restaurants if a waiter was coming by with a tray full of drinks.
Verdict: worked

1976: Carter v Ford: No (federal) experience for Carter, better on TV, and Carter feinted right simply by being a Southern Dem.
Verdict: worked

1980: Carter v Reagan: Reagan wins on TV easily, no federal experience for Reagan, so that’s two out of three right there.
Verdit: worked

1984: Reagan v Mondale: Reagan wins on TV, plenty of experience on both sides (wash), and Mondale didn’t perceptibly feint right.
Verdict: worked

1988: Bush v Dukakis: Bush wins narrowly on TV, less experience for Dukakis (point for him), but Dukakis never feinted right. Narrow win for Bush.
Worked, arguably.

1992: Clinton v Bush: Clinton kills on TV, less experience for Clinton, Clinton feinted right with Sister Souljah and being Southern Dem.
Worked.

1996: Clinton v. Dole: : Clinton kills on TV, experience a wash, Clinton feinted right with Sister Souljah and being Southern Dem.
Worked.

2000: W.Bush v Gore: Bush slightly better on TV, experience less for Bush than career pol Gore, and Gore didn’t feint right.
Worked.

2004: Bush v Kerry: Bush slightly better on TV, experience a wash, and Kerry didn’t feint right. Bush feinted right with “compassionate conservatism”, runaway spending, prescription drugs for Medicare, etc.
Worked.

2008: Obama v McCain: Obama killed on TV, less experience for Obama, and Obama feinted right with his 2004 “can’t we all get along unity-religious" speech at Dem convention.
Worked.

2012: Obama v Romney. Obama killed on TV, experience a wash (still slightly less for Obama arguably), and Romney didn’t feint left.
Worked.

2016: Trump v Hillary: Edge to Trump on TV for his experience and comfort with medium, experience huge mismatch in favor of Trump, and Hillary didn’t feint right.
Worked.

I want to examine why someone like Rubio wouldn’t have made it to nomination. Experience is in Trump’s favor, Rubio feinted left on immigration (not good in primary but good in general), and one would think he was better on TV but for his repetitiousness.

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