November 8th can’t come soon enough. When it does, take a deep breath and remember this: “tomorrow will still be Wednesday.” Whoever manages to win the unpopularity contest that is the 2016 presidential election, the earth will remain on its axis, the sun will rise again on November 9th, you can still hug your children (if they live away from home they still won’t return your call but they will respond to your texts), and no doubt your dog will love you unconditionally no matter who wins. You wouldn’t know it from the hyperbole on both sides but on November 9th know this: the republic will remain standing. That is my mantra at the end of an awful campaign that has cheapened and debased our electoral system in a way that won’t be easily repaired. You don’t have to like the politics of past presidents to appreciate that, for the most part, they led our country with dignity, honor, and respect, things that are just as important to maintaining our democracy and our position in the world as are any shows of military or economic strength. Nobody gets to be president of the United States without a healthy ego and sharp elbows but today, with an election that shows how easy it is for many to excuse rudeness, sexism, racism, nativism and just about every other “ism” as a justifiable response to political correctness or as a sign of “strength,” I can’t help but think of past presidents who led our nation through difficult times knowing that they could not do so alone and with with a decency and a humility characteristic of genuine strength and leadership.
I definitely picked a bad year to try to make political predictions based primarily on economic conditions and without regard to the particular candidates running. As a lover of statistics and statistical models I like reading Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight blog for its election predictions but when he said: “Still, you should be wary of economic determinism. “Fundamentals”-based models that don’t look at polls have a fairly bad track record, even in years that aren’t as crazy as this one.” I couldn’t resist the effort to predict presidential election results with a regression model that used primarily economic data and that didn’t require the complexity and volume of polling data that FiveThirtyEight uses. In fairness, Mr. Silver did also say “I do not mean to suggest that the economy does not matter to elections, or that there is no predictive content in looking at economic variables. As this experiment should show you, the economy assuredly does not account for 90 percent of voting results. But it may well account for half of them.” I would argue more than half. I won’t say, but I have heard others say, that Mr. Silver would have better luck with “economic determinism” if his model used individual state-level economic data and conditions rather than national data because economic conditions vary greatly across states (note here that I am doing my best Donald Trump imitation by saying something without taking responsibility for it). I also won’t say Mr. Silver would have better luck using economic variables that aren’t endogenously determined (i.e. some of the explanatory economic variables he uses are almost completely determined by other economic variables in the model). That is a pretty big no-no for a stats maven to make but only if he knows something about economics.
I first posted in April and updated in July, a presidential election prediction model. I failed to note in prior posts that I consider only the two candidates from the major political parties in the model so the winner of each state is the one that gets more than 50 percent of a state’s vote and the predicted vote percentages will not be similar to actual results that include third party candidates. In July I also promised to post one more iteration of the election model after the latest state-level personal income data was released prior to the election because personal income growth trends are so important to the model’s predictions.
In the November election model the Democratic candidate still has a large advantage in the electoral college but as the chart below shows, there are more states currently predicted as Democratic victories that could switch to a Republican victory than vice versa. In the unlikely event that all predicted narrow Democratic victories changed to Republican victories and all narrow Republican victories remained Republican wins, then the Republican candidate would be awarded 294 electoral votes and win the presidency. On the other hand, in the unlikely event that all predicted narrow victories for the Republican candidate changed to Democratic victories and all predicted Democratic victories remained Democratic wins, the electoral college vote total tally would be 384 to 154 in favor of the Democratic candidate. These are the extremes of potential outcomes but while the July model suggested an almost impossible path to electoral college victory for the Republican candidate, the November model shows an improbable but not impossible path.
To the Victor Goes the ?
President Obama’s reward for winning the presidency was inheriting an economy in a severe recession but at least one where the most controversial policies adopted to combat it were already largely in place. The next president will begin seeking reelection fully 10 years since the end of the “great recession” making it the longest period of economic expansion in U.S. history and suggesting the possibility that U.S. will once again be in, near, or ending a recession. I believe Mrs. Clinton will win the White House and a recession in her first term and voter fatigue after three terms of a Democratic presidency will give the 2020 election to the Republican Party. Of course that assumes a disarming of the circular firing squad that is the current Republican Party and if there is one thing the Republican Party probably doesn’t want to do it is disarm. Republicans may be able to capture the White House in 2020 with a better salesman at the top of the ticket but demographic trends suggest it will need more. To me, the most interesting aspect of the 2016 election is that it hints at a future realignment of political parties, with the Republican party becoming the party of the working class and the Democratic party becoming the free trading, immigration supporting, party favored by business.