Wednesday, October 20, 2004

The Incumbent Rule

As one who is fairly new to political awareness, having been tuned in now for about a year and a half, I find myself learning new things all the time. One I keep hearing about lately is "The Incumbent Rule." Essentially, according to Chris at MyDD, if an incumbent is below 47% in the polls, then it's over for them. Toast. Road kill. Last stop. Cue the fat lady.

The more I learn about this "rule" the more I agree with it. So I thought I'd try to explain it for those unfamiliar, as the best way to really learn something is to teach it to others. So here goes:

The idea is simple really:
Take 100% of the voters that show up in the polls. If two candidates are polling at 47% each (as is the case in many of the polls these days), you wind up with 94% committed for each candidate. That leaves 6% undecided in such an arrangement (100 - 94 = 6). But let's say Nader or someone else enters into this arrangement as a third party candidate. Let's give him a generous 2%. That leaves 4% undecided.

Based on some research Chris has done, we find that undecideds break on average at least 2 to 1 for the challenger. Now that's at least 2 to 1. Higher numbers, like 75-80% in the challenger's favor are not uncommon.

So if we take our 4% undecideds from our example, that means a straight 2-1 challenger advantage, Kerry adds 2.64% and Bush adds 1.32%. Which leaves us at a minimum with:

Kerry: 49.64%
Bush: 48.32%
Nader: 2%

If the undecideds break at 75% or better, Kerry wins by a majority with 50% or more of the vote. That's something that would help silence the critics of a Kerry presidency as even with all the election fraud and voter disenfranchisement on his side, Bush never achieved a majority. And remember, Nader ain't on the ballot in many states, and 2% is generous for a third party candidate this year. And let's not forget the polls don't call cell phones. And let's not forget Democratic registration are WAY up compared to Republican registration.

The Incumbent Rule. Less than 47% and Bush is toast. That should make poll watching much more fun.