Predicting the Midterm Elections: A Freakonomics Quorum

This year's midterm elections promise to be a bit more eventful than usual, with predictions of seismic change in Congress and in many statehouses, most of it in a blue-to-red direction. But predictions aren't elections; and even if the predictions hold true, what happens next?

Detecting Political Momentum Is Harder Than You Think

Over at, Nate Silver has a post attempting to debunk the idea that there is momentum in political campaigns. But I think he's wrong. And his post provides a fun opportunity for a simple statistics lesson on the difficulty of discovering momentum.

Numbers Are Bad Liars

In a Washington Post op-ed, Bernd Beber and Alexandra Scacco claim that the truth lies in the digits of the vote count. Humans are bad at making up fraudulent numbers, they write, and the fact that the vote counts for the different provinces contain "too many 7's and not enough 5's in the last digit" and not enough non-adjacent digits points to made-up numbers.

Can't Anyone in This State Get Elected?

Now that New York Governor David Paterson has appointed Kirsten Gillibrand to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, here’s a strange fact to consider: There are six positions in New York State for which statewide elections are held: governor, lieutenant governor, the two U.S. senators, attorney general, and comptroller. […]

Term Limits? We Don’t Need No Stinking Term Limits!

So it’s nearly official that Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York (and onetime member of a fantasy New York trifecta in the presidential race), will seek to overturn the city’s term limits in order to run for a third term as mayor. Here’s an A.P. article and here’s an excerpt from the New York […]

A G.O.P. Convention Bleg

I am heading to Minneapolis-St. Paul tomorrow to spend a couple days at the Republican National Convention on behalf of the new public-radio show The Takeaway. Obviously the shape of the convention depends a great deal on the route of Hurricane Gustav. That said, I’m looking forward to it. While I have some ideas of […]

Because Elections Are Determined by the Median Voter

The folks at the Census Bureau have just finished compiling the most recent data on income distribution. I’m betting that the following chart will get a lot of political play: Yes, median real household income was lower last year than in 2000.

Success Cannot Be Legislated: Who Said It?

Perhaps I should leave these matters to our resident quote bleggar Fred Shapiro, but in this case I cannot resist: Without resorting to Google, a reference book, or the comments section below, who do you think said the following? The people cannot look to legislation generally for success. Industry, thrift, character, are not conferred by […]

So Much for One Person, One Vote

Photo by whoohoo120 We live in a democratic society where each adult (except for some felons) gets one vote for president. Except for Oprah. She gets one million votes. A new study by Maryland economists Craig Garthwaite and Tim Moore argues that Oprah doesn’t just sell books, she influences votes too. Using geographic variation in […]

Playing the V.P. Game

A recent headline noted that McCain will likely wait to announce his vice president choice until after Obama picks his. McCain can wait until the Republican convention, which is after the Democratic convention, when Obama must make his choice. This gives McCain the advantage of tailoring his choice’s strengths to whatever weaknesses he sees in […]