September 3, 2004
CABANA GAME BOY (via jd watson):
President Elect 2004 -- The Game (Douglas Kern, 09/02/2004, Tech Central Station)
President Elect 88 casts zero to three players in the role of campaign manager to the presidential nominees of the major parties and third parties. (Yes, zero players; the computer can simulate elections without human input.) You can choose from a set of over fifty prefabricated candidates from elections past, or create your own. Players can select any election from 1960 to 1988. At the outset of the game, the status of the economy, unemployment figures, the national mood, etc. must be provided to the computer -- or players can apply the historical information from the game's database. Based on that information, the computer gives you the initial polling data from Labor Day -- and you're off, buying commercial time, scheduling campaign stops, and strategizing for televised debates.
President Elect 88 was surprisingly successful at predicting the outcome of the 1988 election. Although the game was released prior to the 1988 election, the game designers noted in the manual that Bush would probably beat any of his likely challengers by five to seven percentage points. Not a bad bit of prediction there. [...]
I was reminded of President Elect 88 while pouring over the latest polling data from the current election. Surely, I mused, my old game could predict the outcome of the 2004 Presidential campaign as well as these useless Internet pontificators, if not more so. [...]
Bush wins. Big. Almost always.
Bush beats Kerry by an average of sixteen points. In fact, Kerry beat Bush in only one test run -- when Bush unwisely chose to make a diplomatic visit to a hostile country in October 1988, with disastrous results.
To make the experiment more interesting, I changed the parameters. I recreated Bush as a deformed hunchback with Tourette's syndrome. Result? Bush still wins in over fifty percent of the elections. I then gave Kerry superhuman powers of charm, eloquence, and stamina. Result? Bush still wins about half the time. Not until I jacked up unemployment while throttling back the mood of the country did Kerry win consistently.
So Kerry's best strategy is simple: cure cancer, give the Sermon on the Mount, and replace Bush with a look-alike chimpanzee. Otherwise, book the cheap caterer for the election party.
What's going on? It appears that President Elect 88 gives incumbents a huge amount of "credit" for economic growth, low inflation, and low unemployment. When these factors are coupled with reasonably good news during wartime, even Bozo the Clown will pull off an electoral landslide.
You'd have to think that 56% is the maximum that the President can get and the Senator can't do any worse than 40%. But you don't need maximum/minimum to get to 16% if Nader (with whom we'll include the rest of the alternative candidates) does reasonably well--say 2% or even 4% At that point you're at 54% to 42% and that seems entirely doable.. Posted by Orrin Judd at September 3, 2004 11:26 PM