Behavior Economics

Election 2020: Handicapping the Nomination: What do Risk and Uncertainty Tell Us?

Predicting the Primary and the Election

This election is a risk election in the strict behavioral economist meaning of the term. People abhor risks, but this election is fraught with them: (1) Is a second term for the Ol’ Pussy Grabber viewed as a risk? Never forget that if the Ol’ Pussy Grabber gets a second term, we’ll have a 7-2 conservative SCOTUS split for the next generation, especially since they will buy the retirements of the “older” conservative judges just like they did with Kennedy. And (2) which candidacies of the Democratic hopefuls viewed as risks?

The Ol’ Pussy Grabber as Risk

I’ve read reporting that voters will vote for the Ol’ Pussy Grabber even though they don’t like him because the economy is “good.” The economy ain’t good. It just looks good for this ephemeral moment. It’s an illusion propped up by stock market surges and smoke and mirrors. It isn’t good for the average person. And, if history is any indication, it won’t be “good” much longer.

The economy is the only argument the Ol’ Pussy Grabber has going for him. Traditionally, it has been a good one for the incumbent to run on. Essentially, it is the Ol’ Pussy Grabber’s election to lose.

The job of the Dem’s job is to hammer the Repubes as fraught with risk.

The Riskiness of the Dem Candidates

The current state of the race could be seen as a judgment of how much risk the Democratic electorate views each candidate as having. In other words, how electable is each candidate or in even more other words, how likely is each candidate to beat the Ol’ Pussy Grabber? I’ll break it down:

Joe Biden

Biden is seen as having the least risk. He has surfed his name recognition, the good vibes of the Obama administration, and his aw-shucks I’m just a regular guy advantages through the entire process. Essentially, his entire task to date has been to not fuck up.

That’s his whole candidacy: I’m the most likely candidate to beat Trump. I’ll return us to normalcy. As in the Warren G. Harding campaign slogan that pledge a return to the bye-gone years of American tranquility after the horrors of WWI. It worked for Harding, and it’ll likely work for Biden in the primary. The nostalgia vote will be strong. We want to go back to what seem like the halcyon days of the Obama administration after the utter destruction that this administration has laid down across the world.

I’m not convinced that Biden’s appeal to nostalgia and a return to normalcy will hold up in the general election, especially given Biden’s track record as a candidate. However, like all things that the Ol’ Pussy Grabber touches, this next election will be anything but normal. It will reek of the sewage that the Ol’ Pussy Grabber is so expert at flinging.

Bernie Sanders

Sanders is in second place nationally and Iowa and in first place in New Hampshire. Sanders has near universal name recognition and a small but fanatical base of support. He’s been busting it with the fundraising, too.

In the sense that he is a known quantity, he is a safer choice. It helped him immensely to have run in 2016. The mere exposure effect suggests that he is considered a safer and more trustworthy bet than he was then and than anyone else running besides the better known Biden. As we get closer to the actual vote, it is only natural for undecideds to begin drifting to the safer choices in this atmosphere.

Sanders has also benefited from the Ol’ Pussy Grabber’s break neck attack on the news cycle. His heart attack is not old news and long since forgotten. Of course, the Ol’ Pussy Grabber will dredge it up dripping with slime and mud to fling it at him and every other sentient being that seems to be paying attention. We’ll see if it sticks any better then than it did when it happened.

Elizabeth Warren

If anyone can fix the mess that the Ol’ Pussy Grabber and the authoritarian #MoscowMitch will have left us with, it is Warren. I’m afraid Biden is too mired in the politics of his youth and Sanders is fighting the democratic socialist wars to be as effective as a policy wonk with a detailed plan and a head for the bully pulpit can be. But, Warren has two strikes against her: (1) she’s a woman and (2) she’s a woman.

I know its smart politics to say that women aren’t any less likely to win elections than men are, but those studies looked at legislative elections. There are few studies that include executive branch election, partly because there are so few of those.

Because she’s a woman, we don’t have a model of what a female president would be like, making her potential election a big risk. Our only experience with the Ol’ Pussy Grabber winning an election was against a woman, so it makes her a big risk. In these uncertain times, it makes her a big risk. As it comes time to decide for reals, it may be too big of an ask for people to take the chance on her rather than the surer quality of Biden or Sanders. It is as simple as that.

Pete Buttigieg

Buttigieg has done well for himself rising from nothing to once have been leading in the polls in Iowa and been the steady fourth place nationally. In any other time, he might be a real contender. He sounds great! He speaks well. He says the right things. However, he is unproven. He’s gay. And, he’s short. With few exceptions, the shorter candidate usually doesn’t win. Correlational fact. While the data isn’t overwhelming and far from conclusive, it is disheartening for Buttigieg.

While the Dems haven’t used his sexual orientation against him, you can bet the Ol’ Pussy Grabber will. The Dems have tried using his inexperience against him, and you can bet the Ol’ Pussy Grabber will, too. A Buttigieg candidacy is pretty uncertain. He has few assurances of victory.

The Russian Factor

It’s clear that the Russians are attacking the race. I see botty comments on Twitter daily. There’s evidence that voting rolls and voting machines have been hacked. There are no disincentives coming out of Congress or the administration and the absence of preventative measures can only be seen as encouragement.

One way to handicap the race is to try and determine who the Russians are backing. Obviously, they’re going to back their number one useful idiot, the Ol’ Pussy Grabber and then try to get him the weakest opponent they can. The Russian hacking machine and the useful idiot volunteer brigade seems to be promoting Bernie’s candidacy, which strongly suggests that the Russians believe that he is beatable by the Ol’ Pussy Grabber.

They seem to be attacking both Biden and Warren, which suggests that they see them as the most difficult to beat in 2020. Those are endorsements if I’ve ever heard them.

My conclusion after all of this is that it’s going to be Biden. There ain’t much other than himself that’s going to stop it. Uncertainty and fear are the signs of our times, and they drive people to be more conservative and cautious. They seek a sure thing. In this election, Biden is the closest thing we’ve got to a sure thing. He’s the cautious choice. He’s the one people are going to gravitate to. It’s the reason he’s numbers are improving.

Image Attribution

The featured image was found using a Creative Commons search. It was found on the WikiMedia page, File: Alternative 2020 Election Brown v. Pence.svg. It was produced by AJD2002. It was licensed under Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.

16 replies »

  1. I think Kamala Harris is the obvious choice for Biden. (However, I don’t know their personal relationship.) She checks all the boxes he doesn’t, i.e. compliments him perfectly and “unites” all the different tribes of Dems. Except the “bro” boys – Bernie’s & Yang’s. Which is a problem. I’m thinking it’s going to be a brokered convention with Bloomberg a big player. Here in the states he’s everywhere!
    Talk about irony – a choice between two billionaires! But one’s funny!
    And, sure, Trump is hated by 40-50% of the population, depending on the day. But, he’s not so risky anymore. He’ll have a 4 year record, and barring any unforeseen catastrophe … he is now the status-quo. All the doomsday predictions did not materialize. Where I live (exurb of Denver) things could not be better. Everybody’s “happy” – drinking wine and local beers, smoking’ weed, spinning, doing yoga, painting, building, watching their screens and kids play soccer, etc. etc..
    Colorado could flip to Trump.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. ya know……it totally depends on Biden’s running mate..should he get the nomination (of course he will get it..old white man, duh!). If he chooses Elizabeth Warren I think he’d win in a heartbeat. He can’t choose Bernie. They really would muck things up and be forever fighting…quietly and politely, but fighting nonetheless. Second best choice (IMO only) would be Kamala Harris. looking at the stupidity of the average american, the middle-of-the-roaders would go for a black woman before they’d go for a “socialist”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Howdy Suze!
      I think Biden-Warren would be a winning combination, but Warren “hates” Biden, and I don’t think he appreciates her candor and ethical stance on issues. The other factor that enters into that pairing is age. Both are in their 70’s. I think Biden chooses Stacey Abrams. It’s a good choice. She is charismatic, passionate, intelligent, and will take it to critics. Traditionally, the VP pick has to be an attacker, so the candidate can stay above the fray. Of course, Trump does away with that calculus.

      I’ve always thought that the best thing Biden could do to win the nomination and election is promise to be a one-term president and pick a young viable candidate for his VP to set up as successor. Abrams fits that bill, too.


      Liked by 1 person

  3. Assuming that Biden gets the nomination, his choice of running mate will be critical. In terms of bridging between the “moderate” base and the Progressive base, Warren would be the obvious pick. I can’t picture Biden and Sanders doing much other then rubbing each other the wrong way as Prez & VP.

    I have trouble imagining Biden doing well in a debate with Trump. I picture him getting run over the way Romney did. He’s just not the kind of sneaky “set him up and knock him down” debater that can get Trump to go full bonkers off script. Biden would try to frame the debate as a fair fight with rules and about policy. That has never worked with Trump who makes it utterly a matter of personal humiliation, distraction, and irrelevancies. Trump is much more likely to make a fatal debate error against a woman who simply will not take his BS and call him out on it instantly. He doesn’t know what to do with a woman who stand up to him and makes it stick (Pelosi, Merkel) other than just get more vile and disgusting, or pull back in confusion.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Howdy Bob!
      That’s what makes Warren the perfect pick: she’s the anti-Trump in every way imaginable, but the electorate can’t collectively tolerate taking a chance right now, or, at least, that’s my perspective. I don’t think it would be good to have two 70 year olds on the ticket. I think, by necessity, Biden will have to pick a younger woman of color as his running mate. I think the obvious choice is Stacey Abrams. Hopefully, that sets her up for a presidential run in 2024 and 2028 and pulls our bacon out of the fire and service it up when it is crisp and not burnt.

      Biden is not a great candidate. Anyone who remembers his past runs knows that. He is just too unfocused to do well under the klieg lights 24/7. We’ll see how it plays out with Trump, but he hasn’t been impressive in the Democratic debates.. I despair of him running against Trump.

      I understand the situation, but it is the perfect storm for getting Trump re-elected. It plays right into the hands of the Russians and the willing useful idiots who would rather sit out the election than vote for someone they deem lesser than their favorite candidate. Would that Joe and Bernie have recognized that their times had passed and sat this one out. But, here we are.


      Liked by 1 person

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