Some Fair Reassurance

Whining is unbecoming.  Granted, last week’s elections were a disaster for conservatives, but must we whine about it?  The reasons for the losses are legion, but do any of them really make any sense?

OK, Gov. Mitt Romney may not have been the perfect candidate, but give him a break.  No one is.  And the months of unanswered negative charges in swing states, like the “Stage” ad in Ohio, did untold damage.  And yes, the Republicans are earning a reputation of giving away at least a couple of easy Senate seats per election.  That is annoying.

The day after the election, Rush Limbaugh made a pretty good case for “Santa Clause,” handing out “free stuff,” being President Obama’s winning strategy for re-election.  And I read somewhere that “the takers” now outnumber “the makers,” which would explain why Americans would re-elect such a liberal president.

My personal favorite gripe is that Gov. Romney wasted a lot of time in Democratic strongholds, like Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Cuyahoga County, Ohio, both of which had 70+% victory margins for President Obama.  If past election campaigns have taught us anything, it is to leave alone your opposition’s strongholds.  You certainly don’t want to remind them to go out and vote.

As cathartic as it is to complain, it seems as if there is no single gripe that really explains our losses.  You know, it sure would be nice if there was some mathematical formula to predict the outcomes of an election.  Something in which we could input a few numbers, press enter, and have a prediction handed back to us.  Something that would take away the emotion of it all.  If only…

Well, there is.  While there have been several formulaic electoral predictors in the past, the most accurate through the years has been a formula developed by Yale professor Ray Fair.  The “Fair Formula” predicts the re-election of the president or his successor depending on recent quarterly GDP growth and inflation numbers since inauguration, with an added figure of how many quarters during the incumbent’s term that the real GDP rate has increased over 3.2%.  Input these numbers into his equation, and you get a pretty accurate prediction of the success of a president’s re-election, or the re-election of the candidate from the president’s party of the president isn’t running for re-election.

Robby The Robot, during a break in the filming of the 1956 movie Forbidden Planet

Picture Robby the Robot, from the 1956 movie Forbidden Planet, and a few other appearances like the TV show Lost In Space.  Robby doesn’t care what the candidates do or say.  Just input a few numbers and Robby will spit out an answer, with less than 3% margin of error.  Kind of takes the fun out of it all, but it works.  This formula has correctly predicted all presidential elections since 1916 with the exceptions of 1992 and 2000.  (The 1992 election featured Ross Perot, the spoiler, and 2000 was a squeaker, decided on only a handful of votes in Florida, so to be fair to Prof. Fair, we can’t criticize his formula for those years.)

Professor Fair even has a website where you can input your own numbers, so I gave it a try.  I inputted the numbers from 1988, strong economic and low inflation numbers, with several quarters of real growth above 3.2%, and — voila! – the incumbent party candidate, George H.W. Bush was predicted to win re-election by 53.9%, almost exactly the actual popular vote victory of 53.4%.  I then inputted the numbers from 1980, which were weak economic and high inflation numbers, and – danger, Will Robinson! – Jimmy Carter, lost re-election in a landslide, just as predicted by the formula.

For 2012, the numbers entered yielded a very close result, 49.5% of the total popular vote for President Obama, when the ultimate result was 50.6%.  That means that for all the ridiculous economic policies of the last four years, the wasted stimulus, Cash For Clunkers, four record-high annual budget deficits, Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, wacky energy policy, all the Solyndras, everything, there was just barely enough recent economic growth and low inflation to make the final call entirely within the margin of error as to whether President Obama would win re-election.

Of course, the economy four years from now will probably be a disaster.  Deficits like this cannot last forever, even with the Federal Reserve’s printing presses running at full capacity like they are.  Interest rates will rise, and once the world notices how many excess dollars are spoken for we are bound to face a pretty scary inflation.  I am sure that in 2016 the Fair Formula will predict this, but only time will tell for sure.  And remember that it will be the most recent economic and inflation numbers that will predict the outcome of the 2016 election.

So cheer up, conservatives.  We can change minor things in the campaign, but anything we do can only tinker with the margin of error.  The American people will basically vote for whomever improves the economy, specifically their after-inflation take-home pay.   So stop whining, just be ready for the next election.  Forward!  Er, well, maybe some other expression for looking ahead.  You know what I mean.



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