Ask a Bureaucrat (October 2012)

Dear Bureaucrat,

Who is going to win the election and how will that affect my agency?


Dear IDK,

Second things first. Count the number of people who have to approve every memo you write and divide by six. If the answer is enough to form a football team, nothing will change no matter who’s in charge. Take as evidence the photo of President Gerald Ford still hanging in your office. As for who will win the election, I’ll have to turn to my friend the forecaster.


Dear Forecaster,

Who is going to win the election?


Dear Bureaucrat,

As few modern elections as we’ve had, the gold mine of statistical data available to forecasters is astonishing. For instance, did you know that an incumbent president has never lost a bid for reelection in a year that was also a prime number? True, there’s never been one, but still.

And get this: if on election day the high temperature in seven or more states that last voted Democrat is two or more degrees warmer than the high temperature on election day four years prior, then three to five of those states are anywhere from ten to fifteen percent more likely to vote Republican this election cycle.

This one’s my favorite. Take the letters in the middle names of each of the top two candidates. If, when combined, the Scrabble sum of those letters played across a double word score is less than the number of points scored by playing the last name of the third party candidate on a triple word score, then the third party candidate will win two electoral votes in Nebraska.

Now to make the call on the upcoming election consider this: in instances where an incumbent president is younger than his opponent by the square of the length of his time in office, the challenger has won two out of three elections in which half the difference in their ages was less than twice the number of times the New York Yankees won the World Series in the previous decade. The analysis would be more robust if I had comparable data for the Chicago Cubs, but the record book doesn’t go back that far.

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