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News from the Votemaster

Israelis Worry about Romney's Visit

While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a conservative who has been friends with Mitt Romney for 30 years, undoubtedly personally prefers Romney to President Obama, who has often criticized Netanyahu, he has to tread very carefully. The last thing he wants is for U.S. support to become a partisan issue. For decades, Israel and groups (both Jewish and evangelical) that support Israel have made an enormous effort to appeal to both Democrats and Republicans and stay out of U.S. politics. So Netanyahu will no doubt do his best to keep it that way. Besides, Romney's promise to support Israel if it attacks Iran is just campaign talk. If Romney wins, he will become President and no President wants another war in the Middle East.

Netanyahu went to high school just outside Philadelphia, has a bachelors degree in architecture from M.I.T. and a masters from the M.I.T. Sloan School of Management. He served as Israeli ambassador to the U.N. from 1984 to 1988 and speaks flawless unaccented English. He could pass for a U.S. senator and understands U.S. politics probably better than any other world leader. While he no doubt likes to hear Romney talk tough, he understands that he has to take this with a grain of salt.

Government Releases New State-by-State College Attainment Data

The Dept. of Education just released new numbers giving the percentage of people 25-34 years old who have a postsecondary degree. The five least educated states are Nevada, Arkansas, New Mexico, West Virginia, and Louisiana, with Nevada the lowest, where only 28.4% of the yong people have college degrees. The five most educated "states" are New York, Minnesota, North Dakota, Massachusetts, and D.C., with D.C. the highest, where 68.8% of the residents have a college degree.

Naturally, it is interesting to see if there is a correlation between education and how blue or red the state is. The simplest metric is simply the percentage of the vote that Obama got in 2008. Below is a scatterplot of Obama's percentage as a function of the state's educational level.
Obama % vs. College degree %
A linear regression line is also shown. The state names are given for some of the outliers; it is too crowed along the regression line to give any more. Here is the raw data in .csv format for you to play with.

There is clearly a positive correlation between the two variables. On the whole, the more educated a state is, the bluer it is (i.e., the slope of the regression line is positive). However, do not assume that correlation means causation. Hot states have more alligators than cold states but heat doesn't cause alligators to appear. The Sahara is also hot and has no alligators. It could be that well-educated people vote Democratic but it could also be that liberal states find it important to fund college education or states with good coffee attract both college graduates and Democrats or something else. Do what you wish with the information. If you have a mathematical bent and want to learn more about correlation and causation with real-world data, here is a book you might find interesting.

Does the Vice-Presidential Candidate Help the Ticket?

One of the attributes every presidential candidate looks for in a running mate is the ability to win his own state. In 1960, John Kennedy picked Lyndon Johnson, who he despised as a country hick, because he knew Johnson could bring in Texas, which was essential to winning. How well have vice-presidential candidates done at their #1 job, actually? The table below shows all the presidential and vice-presidential candidates since WWII, which states the Veep candidates were from and whether they indeed brought in their own state.

    Winning Candidates   Losing candidates
Year Winner President Veep Veep's state Carry it?   President Veep Veep's state Carry it?
2008 Dem Barack Obama Joe Biden Delaware Yes   John McCain Sarah Palin Alaska Yes
2004 GOP George W. Bush Dick Cheney Wyoming Yes   John Kerry John Edwards North Carolina No
2000 GOP George W. Bush Dick Cheney Wyoming Yes   Al Gore Joe Lieberman Connecticut Yes
1996 Dem Bill Clinton Al Gore Tennessee Yes   Bob Dole Jack Kemp New York No
1992 Dem Bill Clinton Al Gore Tennessee Yes   George H.W. Bush Dan Quayle Indiana Yes
1988 GOP George H.W. Bush Dan Quayle Indiana Yes   Michael Dukakis Lloyd Bentsen Texas No
1984 GOP Ronald Reagan George H.W. Bush Texas Yes   Walter Mondale Geraldine Ferraro New York No
1980 GOP Ronald Reagan George H.W. Bush Texas Yes   Jimmy Carter Walter Mondale Minnesota Yes
1976 Dem Jimmy Carter Walter Mondale Minnesota Yes   Jerry Ford Bob Dole Kansas Yes
1972 GOP Richard Nixon Spiro Agnew Maryland Yes   George McGovern Sargent Shriver Connecticut No
1968 GOP Richard Nixon Spiro Agnew Maryland No   Hubert Humphrey Ed Muskie Maine yes
1964 Dem Lyndon Johnson Hubert Humphrey Minnesota Yes   Barry Goldwater Bill Miller New York No
1960 Dem John Kennedy Lyndon Johnson Texas Yes   Richard Nixon Henry Lodge Massachusetts No
1956 GOP Dwight Eisenhower Richard Nixon California Yes   Adlai Stevenson Estes Kefauver Tennessee No
1952 GOP Dwight Eisenhower Richard Nixon California Yes   Adlai Stevenson John Sparkman Alabama Yes
1948 Dem Harry Truman Alben Barkley Kentucky Yes   Thomas Dewey Earl Warren California No

The first thing to notice is that in every case but one, the winning vice-presidential candidate did indeed bring in his state. The second thing to notice is that in 9 of the 16 elections, the losing vice-presidential candidate failed to bring in his state.

Now we have to be very careful about correlation and causality again here. Did Geraldine Ferraro's 1984 failure to bring in New York cause Walter Mondale's crushing defeat at the hands of Ronald Reagan (who won every state except Mondale's home state of Minnesota)? Doubtful. Could anybody else have saved Mondale? Unlikely. Nevertheless, the fact that on successful tickets the Veep pulls in his own state and on unsuccesful ones he generally doesn't is something worth noting.

In particular, the top two choices for Mitt Romney are probably former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty and Sen. Rob. Portman (R-OH). Pawlenty is an inoffensive figure and would campaign hard, not make any mistakes, and do Romney's bidding, but he is probably not capable of pulling in Minnesota. In contrast, Portman might add 2-3% to the ticket in Ohio and that could be enough to win the state. And as we all know, no Republican has ever been elected President without winning Ohio. On that basis Portman is a better choice. However, there are other factors Romney must consider. The most important is that Portman ran the OMB (Office of Management and Budget) for George W. Bush. If Romney picks him, Obama is going to say that Romney will go back to Bush's economics--and as proof show that Romney's first decision was to pick the guy who managed the economy during Bush's tenure. That's not entirely true but most people don't have the foggiest idea of what the Director of OMB actually does all day, other than it has something to do with numbers--very big numbers. So Romney has to weigh this hit nationally against the very real chance that Portman can bring in Ohio.

Texas Senate Runoff Tomorrow

We are not done with the primary elections yet. Key Senate primaries are still on tap in Hawaii, Missouri, Texas, and Wisconsin. The first one is tomorrow in Texas where Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (R-TX), a multimillionaire supported by Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) and the entire Republican establishment in Texas and Washington is in the fight of his life against tea party insurgent Ted Cruz. Dewhurst beat Cruz in the first round 45% to 34% but failed to break 50%, so there is a runoff tomorrow. A PPP poll released yesterday has Cruz ahead 52% tp 42%. Make no mistake, the tea party is going all out for Cruz because they know the Republican--no matter which one--will win this open seat against a Democrat who will also be chosen Tuesday. Sarah Palin, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), and Rick Santorum are all rooting for Cruz.