Annals of Improbable Research Online (December 1, 2008)

 

Who Will Win the 2012 U.S. Presidential Election?

 

Eric Schulman

Alexandria, Virginia


Daniel Debowy

Massachusetts General Hospital / McLean, Belmont, Massachusetts



Abstract

     Our 2003 algorithm for determining the winners of United States presidential elections correctly ascertained the winner of each of the 56 U.S. presidential elections between 1789 and 2000 and correctly predicted the winners of the 2004 and 2008 U.S. presidential elections. In this paper we apply the algorithm to 18 potential Republican candidates for the 2012 U.S. presidential election and find that seven have presidential electabilities greater than the Obama/Biden ticket will have in 2012: Michael D. Huckabee, Timothy J. Pawlenty, David H. Petraeus, Marshall C. Sanford, Haley R. Barbour, Sarah L. H. Palin, and Pyush Jindal. If the Republican Party nominates any of these candiates then they will win the 2012 U.S. Presidential election. An additional two potential Republican candidates (Ronald E. Paul and Paul D. Ryan Jr.) could have electabilities greater than the Obama/Biden ticket if they choose the appropriate vice predidential candidate. Barack H. Obama II and Joseph R. Biden Jr. will be re-elected in 2012 if the Republican party instead nominates a ticket with an electability of 35 or less.

 

1. Introduction

    The Annals of Improbable Research U.S. Presidential Election Algorithm (Debowy and Schulman 2003) correctly predicted the outcome of the 2004 and 2008 United States presidential elections. Now that the 2012 campaign for U.S. President has officially started, we apply our proven algorithm to 18 potential Republican candidates for this election and compare their electabilities to that of President Barack H. Obama II and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

 

2. Methods

    We determined the electability for president and vice president of the potential Republican candidates for the 2012 U.S. presidential election using the following formulas:

     Presidential Electability = 5*(years as President) + years as U.S. Representative + 11*(years as Governor),
     +110 if the candidate has been a four-star general officer in the United States Armed Forces,
     +110 if the candidate has been a college or university president or chancellor,
     +110 if the candidate is the child of a U.S. Senator,
     –110 if the candidate has been divorced,
     –110 if the candidate has been a special prosecutor,
     –110 if the candidate was the first adherent of a particular religion (e.g., Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) to be a major-party candidate for President,
     –110 if the candidate was an officer of a lobbying organization at the time of the election.
    
     Vice Presidential Electability = 4*(years as Vice President) + years as U.S. Representative + years as Governor,
     +110 if the candidate has been a corporate banker,
     +110 if the candidate has been a college or university president or chancellor,
     +110 if the candidate is the child of a U.S. Senator,
     –110 if the candidate was the first adherent of a particular religion (e.g., Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) to be a major-party candidate for Vice President,
     –110 if the candidate was an officer of a lobbying organization at the time of the election.

Total Electability = Presidential Electability + Vice Presidential Electability.

Years in office is equal to the number of years the candidate served in a particular office, rounded up as long as the partial year service was one month or more, unless the candidate moved directly from one public office to another, in which case the office in which the candidate spent a larger fraction of their time during that year receives credit for the year. Years of service for offices were verified using the standard repository of all knowledge and wisdom (Wikipedia), which also provided the list of potential candidates as of November 20, 2008. Although the electorate doesn’t care one way or the other how long a candidate has served as a U.S. Senator, we included this information for completeness. We assume that incumbant candidates will continue to serve in their current office until 2012 unless they are term limited, in which case they will finish their current term. We further assume that no potential candidates will serve in any new elective office between now and election day in 2012.

3. Results

    The presidential and vice presidential electabilties for the 18 potential Republican candidates for president are shown in Table 1.

 

Table 1. Electability of Eighteen Potential Republican Candidates for President in 2012


Candidate
Years as

Notes
Electability
Pres.
V.P.
Sen.
Rep.
Gov.
Pres.
V.P.
Michael D. Huckabee
0
0
0
0
11

121
11
Timothy J. Pawlenty
0
0
0
0
10

110
10
David H. Petraeus
0
0
0
0
0
General
110
0
Marshall C. Sanford
0
0
0
6
8

94
14
Haley R. Barbour
0
0
0
0
8

88
8
Sarah L. H. Palin
0 0 0
0
6

66
6
Pyush Jindal
0 0 0
3
5

58
8
Ronald E. Paul
0
0
0
23
0

23
23
Paul D. Ryan Jr.
0
0
0
14
0

14
14
Michael R. Pence
0 0 0
12
0

12
12
John R. Thune
0 0 8
6
0

6
6
Gary E. Johnson
0 0 0
0
8
Divorced
-22
8
Jon M. Huntsman Jr.
0 0 0
0
8
Mormon
-22
-102
Charles J. Crist Jr.
0 0 0
0
6
Divorced
-44
6
Williard M. Romney
0
0
0
0
4
Mormon
-66
-106
Newton L. Gingrich
0
0
0
20
0
Divorced
-90
20
Eric I. Cantor
0
0 0
12
0
Jewish
-98
12
Rudolph W. L. Giuliani
0
0
0
0
0
Divorced
-110
0

   In every presidential election between 1789 and 2008, the major party ticket with the highest electability was declared the winner and took office. In 2012, President Barack H. Obama II will have an electability of 20 and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. will have an electability of 16, for a total Democratic electability of 36. Seven of the potential Republican candidates for president in 2012 have presidential electabilities of more then 36, which means they would win the November 2012 election if the Republican Party nominated them and they chose vice presidential candidates with non-negative vice presidential electabilities. Ronald E. Paul would win if he received the Republican nomination for president in 2012 and he chose Newon L. Gingrich or Marshall C. Sanford as his vice presidential running mate. Paul D. Ryan Jr. would win if he received the Republican nomination for president in 2012 and he chose Ronald E. Paul as his vice presidential running mate.

4. Discussion
   In March of 2007, the political prediction market Intrade.com showed a negative correlation between electability and price for potential Republican and Democratic candidates for president and vice president. Schulman and Debowy (2007) concluded that readers of their paper could make a lot of money at Intrade.com if major party primary voters chose their candidates based on electability. As it turned out, in 2008 both major parties chose candidates with low electabilities (the Obama/Biden electability was 0, while the McCain/Palin electability was -104). As of November 20, 2008, there is a postive correlation between electability and price for potential Republican candidates for president, as shown in Figure 1.


Figure 1. Electability vs. Intrade Price for Potential Republican Candidates for President in 2012

Presiential Electability vs. Intrade Price

5. Conclusion

    In the ten U.S. Presidential elections since 1972, the Republican Party nominated two tickets with electabilities less than 36 (Dole/Kemp in 1996 and McCain/Palin in 2008). Both tickets lost. Although Democratic and Republican primary voters chose candidates with low electabilities in 2008, after the 2008 election most Intrade users believed that 2012 Republican primary voters would choose candidates with high electabilities. If this is true, the Republican ticket will win the 2012 U.S. Presidential election and Barack H. Obama II and Joseph R. Biden Jr. will not be re-elected.