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Thursday, June 14, 2007
posted by Justin Hart | 10:30 AM | permalink
In our continuing quest to predict the outcome of the 2008 race I submit the second in a series of posts examining how the academic world perceives primary elections.

Last week I examined recent computer models predicting that the GOP nominee will be known earlier than the Democratic nominee because of the type of primaries utilized by each party. I surmised that this phenomenon currently bodes well for Mitt Romney who is leading in New Hampshire and Iowa.

This week we examine momentum in more specific terms

Momentum is a powerful thing. Will the traditional model of front-loading wins in primary states, the so-called New Hampshire effect, hold true for 2008?

In his 1983 study, M. Malbin reported that George Bush and Ronald Reagan allocated ¾ of their respective total 1980 campaign budgets to early primary states. A 1987 study reported that the New Hampshire election grabbed 20% of the 1984 season’s news coverage. You might also recall Howard Dean’s burnout because he spent so much money up front.

This pattern has been well established for over two decades. In short, early primary states have historically garnered a disproportionate amount of attention. But for good reason.

Tilman Klumpp and Mattius Polbor in their 2005 paper “Primaries and the New Hampshire Effect” (pdf file) describe this interesting phenomenon: “The outcome of the very first primary election creates an asymmetry between ex-ante symmetric candidates which endogenously facilitates momentum in later districts.”

Endogenous is a great Scrabble word meaning: “no apparent external cause.” In other words, the momentum factor of early primary wins is a very real and hard rule of elections.

They go on to note:
Although our analysis compares mainly two extreme cases—completely sequential elections versus completely simultaneous elections—, the distinct results of the sequential case basically apply to a mixed temporal structure as well, as long as it involves some sequential elements at the early stages. One can argue that such an intermediate system is closer to the modern primary races, in which there are dates (such as “Super Tuesday”) when several states vote simultaneously.

Nevertheless, even in this case, some primary states vote in sequence at the very beginning of the nomination process. We show that this is enough to generate (and sometimes even amplify) the momentum effect and the spending pattern that arise in a completely sequential system.

Put a babel fish in your ear and read that paragraph out loud: “Regardless of the adjective you use to describe that infamous Tuesday, as long as New Hampshire and Iowa come up first, a candidate has a better than even chance to build some serious kick-butt momentum.”

Another 1005 study by L. Keele was more explicit:
We find that, while front-loading has significantly shortened the primary season, it has not altered the effect of finishing strong in Iowa and New Hampshire.
But for Klumpp and Polbor this is not just fun theoretical musing. The goal of their paper is to recommend campaign expenditure models. At one point they examine the comparison to sporting tournaments:
[I]n sporting tournaments it is often desirable to induce contestants to spend a maximal amount of effort, or to induce an effort allocation that increases the chance of a close contest, as this enhances the excitement level the tournament generates. For primary elections, on the other hand, we are interested in finding a design that minimizes wasteful campaign expenditures and avoids long, close battles as these will be very costly.
Channeling the Powell doctrine this adds up to: “use overwhelming force to win before it even gets close.”

OK… now this might seem absurd (it is academia after all) but Klumpp and Polbor go on to identify an actually mathematical formula to predict how much money and effort must be expended in early primaries to win outright. Here’s part of their equation:

I know. That’s sick and wrong. Calling John Derbyshire!

They bring the model back to earth with a pretty straight forward table showing who won New Hampshire and what percentage of primaries they won in Feb/Mar and Apr/May.

They conclude from this table:
One implication of our model is that winning the first primary makes it more likely to win the nomination. Out of the ten races in Table 4, six were such that the winner of the New Hampshire primary was the eventual nominee. Although this seems hardly indicative of the existence of momentum effects described in this paper, one needs to keep in mind that in most of these races there were more than two candidates in the New Hampshire primary.
Their overall conclusion is also striking:
The winners of early districts is endogenously more likely to win later districts than the loser, not because voters react to performance in previous elections, but rather because of equilibrium candidate spending behavior. In addition to reproducing these stylized facts from primary races, our model also provides a rationale for why political parties have chosen a sequential organization of primary elections: First, it induces lower expected expenditures and higher expected rents than a simultaneous structure. Moreover, if one candidate has an ex-ante advantage over the other, either in terms of campaign effectiveness or in the number of assured districts, a sequential organization selects the stronger candidate with probability close to one, provided there are sufficiently many districts.
Now, I think you know what conclusion I’ll draw from this. Let’s just say, the guy currently spending tons of dough in NH and IA and earning double-digit margins in return will likely win the nomination: Mitt Romney.

(Please note, lest you think me outright biased, there are a few of characteristics coming up that favor candidates other than Mitt)

More to follow...


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Yawn. Show us a picture of Paris Hilton w/ Romney or something. This was a yawner.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at June 14, 2007 at 4:33 PM  

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