Princeton Election Consortium

A first draft of electoral history. Since 2004

Ryan 2012 v. Palin 2008

August 26th, 2012, 7:05am by Sam Wang


An obvious comparison is to ask how Ryan performed compared with Sarah Palin, another running-mate intended to be a game-changer.

Ryan and Palin bounces in Meta-margin
As you can see, a major advantage of the Meta-analysis is that it allows high-resolution tracking over time. This kind of precision is hard to achieve even with national polls, probably because there are fewer of them. Here are my thoughts on this comparison:

For Palin, I have indicated key events that seemed significant at the time: her electrifying RNC speech (9/3), the airing of her disastrous interview with Charlie Gibson (9/11), John McCain’s appearance on The View (9/12), the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers (9/15), and the first Obama-McCain debate (9/26). In each case the arrowhead indicates the expected direction of movement.

As I noted before, any race-shifting event would make itself apparent after a delay of a few days. In 2008 the post-Palin-speech delay appears even longer, probably because state polls were put on hold during the Republican National Convention. I am struck by two points.

First, the post-Ryan shift is almost twice as large as the post-Palin bounce. I find that a little surprising. Then again, the Ryan announcement was preceded by a month of very effective attacks on Romney over his tax returns and Bain Capital involvement. And Palin’s appeal at the time may have been focused on mountain/frontier states, which were largely not in play. It’s hard to say where the natural baseline is for judging the size of these shifts.

Second, McCain peaked on September 15th, 12 days after the Palin speech. If the reversal for Romney on August 22 is the corresponding peak, that would be 11 days, very similar. In both cases, two weeks was long enough to gauge the initial shift. The Ryan bounce might now be declining more steeply.

Next, the Republican National Convention. The convention has only three rather than four days to make an impression because of Tropical Storm Isaac. Luckily, their lineup is shortened by the absence of some major figures, Sarah Palin and George W. Bush. Seems like a good idea to me.

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An aside: the Meta-margin bounces look similar when plotted in units of electoral votes:
Ryan and Palin bounces in EV
Over the range shown in these graphs, 1 point of popular vote margin translates to about 12.5 EV, in a linearly proportional manner.

Tags: 2008 Election · 2012 Election · President

14 Comments so far ↓

  • AlpsStranger

    I don’t want to get too hopeful, but the “Obama is doomed” narrative they’re spinning throughout the media seems to be disputed by both your model and Nate Silver’s. I realize we’re comparing August to September here, and that the money advantage is on the other side, but I’m starting to wonder if Obama isn’t doing a lot better than the narrative indicates. I personally know a few people who stayed home/did write-ins in 2008 and are voting for Obama this year.

    I hope you and Nate are right and Obama has the high ground, but the political environment is psychologically draining for liberals right now. My brain thinks Obama will win but my gut thinks he will lose.

  • Sam Wang

    This is a common feeling among liberals. Nate’s model has lots of assumptions. My probability calculation is simpler. Not really a model. Go read it.

    There’s a 12% probability your fears will come true. Turn that fear into productive action. One idea is in the left sidebar.

  • Woody

    Thank you Sam for the great maps and charts. I also appreciate the fact that you are not beholden to the MSM’s bullshit narrative of the hour/day/week. As much as I admire 538, sometimes I just have to shake my head at the way Nate seemingly has to frame his work in a way that doesn’t screw too much with his boss’s and the media’s current meme and their over exposure of the horse race through the lens of Rass and Gallup. The signal to noise ratio is simply better over here. Thanks again.

  • Sam Wang

    Ah yes, but will you thank me on the day that a future race points the other way?

    In seriousness, commercial outlets all benefit from apparent uncertainty. If they were focused on the Senate and House, where control is on genuine doubt, it would make more sense. I wish we had better pundits.

  • E L

    12%? I’m still fearful enough that Romney would succumb to the far right in Congress, the big oil lobby, the Wall Street gang, the anti-science cranks, the gold bugs, the “pain-is-good-for-you” clique that I opened my wallet for Obama. I am old enough to vividly remember the McCarthy era insanity. We are capable of going through such a hysterical fit again with more devastating results.

    • Sam Wang

      If that is your fear, giving to Obama is not an effective use of your money. If you pride yourself on being swayed by evidence, read the last two weeks of analysis here.

  • Woody

    “Ah yes, but will you thank me on the day that a future race points the other way?”

    Ha ha. Well when you put it that way… I’m pretty sure I’d still be grateful, but not nearly as much ;-)

  • xian

    I’d still thank you because I like to know what’s really going on and plan accordingly.

    Most of the doom-mongering for Obama is based on the fallacy that the economic fundamentals demand that he lose. Anyone who isn’t simply pulling hot air out of their hat has established clearly that this is not true, and that the economy makes it close but does not at all dictate an advantage for the challenger.

    It is definitely possible to imagine scenarios that would shift the odds but I don’t see any of them currently happening.

  • Olav Grinde

    Seems to me there’s still time for a lot of campaigning and propaganda. Not much evidence, however, that Romney is turning his significant cash advantage into anything resembling an electoral advantage.

    Question: Has anyone here seen Mitt Romney in a debated? My gut instinct (since that is what we are referring to) is that Obama will blow him away.

    PS. And then of course there are the national conventions. I’ve been joking that God has sent Hurricane Isaac to punish the GOP for scoffing at the idea of Global Climate Change.

  • E L

    Sam:
    I followed your advice. You are right. But it’s not as personally satisfying as giving to Obama because of my distaste for Romney and his cynicism.

  • LondonYoung

    O. Grinde – How come you think Romney has a significant cash advantage? Honest question. The NY Times seems to think Obama and allies have raised and spent more http://elections.nytimes.com/2012/campaign-finance

  • Olav Grinde

    @LondonYoung:
    (New York Times, 20 August 2012) — ”“Mitt Romney’s cash advantage over President Obama and the Democrats more than doubled in July, as intense Republican fund-raising and heavy spending by Mr. Obama and his allies left Mr. Romney and the Republican National Committee with $62 million more in the bank than the Democrats at the end of last month.”

    The NYT article contains more detail, of course, and other news sources also make the point. Here’s the link.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/21/us/politics/romney-racks-up-huge-cash-advantage-over-obama.html

  • LondonYoung

    Got it. So, while Mr. Romney is being out-raised by Mr. Obama, he is being out-spent by him by even more – thus Mr. Romney has a cash-on-hand advantage.

  • Olav Grinde

    The unseen factor here is, of course, the SupePACs. As far as I know, no one has any idea how much they are spending — and I understand that those on the GOP side are far better financed than the corresponding ones on the Democratic side.

    Dr Wang, do you have any information about the relative budgets and impact of the PACs and SuperPACs?

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