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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

"Implications of the ‘Bread and Peace’ Model for the 2008 US Presidential Election"

In comments, Douglas Hibbs notes that he has "recently posted an analysis of the implications of my Bread and Peace model for the 2008 US presidential election." 

Let's back up. From an earlier post:

Lane Kenworthy...:

Bread, Peace, and the 2008 Election, by Lane Kenworthy: Douglas Hibbs’ “bread and peace” model has been extremely effective at predicting the outcomes of U.S. presidential elections. ...

There are two main exceptions: 1952 and 1968. ... This is where the “peace” component of the model comes in. In those two years the incumbent (Democratic) party suffered from a large number of American casualties in a war for which it was viewed as responsible — Korea in 1952 and Vietnam in 1968. Those two wars were still relevant in the ensuing elections, in 1956 and 1972, but the incumbent (Republican) party didn’t suffer much because it hadn’t started the wars. ...

What does the model predict for the 2008 election? It’s early yet, but nevertheless interesting to take a look. Through the end of 2007, Hibbs’ ... model projects a victory for the Republican candidate. ...

Surprised? Many citizens and pundits expect a Democratic victory. And seemingly with good reason. The current Republican president is extremely unpopular, the Democrats did very well in the 2006 mid-term elections, Democratic voters appear to be more energized than their Republican counterparts, and the two issues voters say are most important to them, the economy and the Iraq war, seem likely to favor the Democratic candidate. ...

But this update comes to a different conclusion:

Implications of the ‘Bread and Peace’ Model for the 2008 US Presidential Election[1], by Douglas Hibbs [IE only] [web page]: Summary: Presidential election outcomes are well explained by just two objectively measured fundamental determinants: (1) weighted-average growth of per capita real personal disposable income over the term, and (2) cumulative US military fatalities owing to unprovoked, hostile deployments of American armed forces in foreign conflicts not sanctioned by a formal Congressional declaration of war. At the end of 2007 weighted-average growth of real incomes during Bush’s second term stood at 1.1 percent per annum. If the same performance were sustained for the rest of the term it might barely suffice to keep the Republicans in the White House, other things being equal. However the economy slid into recession at the beginning of the year and per capita real incomes will most likely decline throughout 2008. Moreover, by Election Day cumulative US military fatalities in Iraq will approach 4,500 and this will depress the incumbent vote by more than three-quarters of a percentage point. Given those fundamental conditions the Bread and Peace model predicts a Republican two-party vote share of 46-47% and therefore a comfortable victory for the Democrats in the 2008 presidential election.

Relieved? Not so fast. Here's a bit more from the paper:

...Qualifications The Bread and Peace model aims to quantify the effects of fundamental determinants of presidential voting outcomes. Every election is affected by random, idiosyncratic factors which at times are important enough to obscure the persistent influence of fundamental determinants. Indeed idiosyncratic events contribute a lot of the fun to political affairs...

In 2008 the Democratic nominee will be either a woman or an Afro-American man – both firsts in American major party politics. Most of us would like to think that the US has matured enough that candidate gender and race as such are of no electoral consequence. Most of us are also realistic enough to know that this untested proposition is uncertain. Pure gender or race effects will cut both ways in 2008 but on balance they likely will hurt the Democratic Party candidate – more so in Obama’s case than Clinton’s. On the Republican side are the issues of John McCain’s age and health. Should he win election, McCain (b. August 29, 1936) would be the oldest first term president ever – a fact that could begin to weigh more heavily on voters than earlier as attentions get focused after the party conventions. Another episode of melanoma (McCain is known to have had three non-malignant bouts so far) could also become a significant negative. A diagnosis of malignant melanoma, which would be impossible to keep secret, would devastate McCain’s chances producing a much lower Republican vote share than expected from fundamental factors.

The Democratic Party nomination process could play out to be a more important idiosyncratic factor in 2008 than health issues or unprecedented candidate demographics. If Hillary Clinton manages to secure the nomination by somehow overturning the ruling of the Democratic National Committee that delegates elected in the unsanctioned, uncontested Florida and Michigan primaries will not be seated at the Party’s convention, then in the absence of sanctioned primary election do-overs or Obama’s acquiescence by acceptance of second place on the ticket, large numbers of otherwise reliably pro-Democratic voters will sit on their hands or defect to McCain – and McCain will win the election even though the fundamentals favor the Democrats. It would be ironic indeed if once again a dispute about electoral procedures in Florida helped put a Republican in the White House.

    Posted by on Wednesday, March 12, 2008 at 05:09 PM in Economics, Politics | Permalink  TrackBack (1)  Comments (34)

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    » New Douglas Hibbs forecast for 2008 from Brendan Nyhan

    Via Mark Thoma, Douglas Hibbs has updated the 2008 forecast of his respected "Bread and Peace" model of presidential election outcomes and the news is good for Democrats (IE-only link): Presidential election outcomes are well explained by just two obje... [Read More]

    Tracked on Thursday, March 13, 2008 at 06:39 AM


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