Thursday, October 09, 2008

Running Up The Score, Part 2

In Baseball and Politics, Wins Mean More Than Runs

Barack Obama's got so many electoral votes that he's got some left over for John Kerry and Al Gore. At least that's what FiveThirtyEight says, predicting a final electoral vote of 346.8 to 191.2.

That .8 must mean that Lincoln, Nebraska is splitting out its electoral votes by ward or something. (An exaggeration, but only slightly. Nebraska splits its votes by congressional district, which is why Omaha has seen both a Sarah Palin visit and a Barack Obama office grand opening in the past week.)

It looks like the Democrats will win the total electoral votes of the 2000s decade while "losing" two of the three elections. It's like the paradox of the electoral college itself; winning the blowouts doesn't make up for losing the close ones. The general election is the inverse of the Democratic nomination process, where a 60-40 split in a congressional district's vote often meant a 3-3 delegate split between Obama and Hillary Clinton, and Obama won an edge by winning more 75 to 25 percent blowouts.

Bill Mazeroski crosses the plate after his Game 7 home run in the 1960 World Series

Not so in the fall, where it's winner take all (except, as noted, in Nebraska and Maine). Since the baseball playoffs and election season coincide, I like to think of it as the 1960 World Series paradox:
The Yankees outscored the Pirates 55-27 in this Series, outhit them 91-60, outbatted them .338 to .256, hit 10 home runs to Pittsburgh's four (three of the latter's coming in Game 7), got two complete game shutouts from Whitey Ford--and lost, three games to four.

1960 went down in history as one of the all-time classic World Series, capped by Bill Mazeroski's walk-off, game winning home run in Game 7. 1960 was also one of the classic, close finish elections.

The 2004 Series saw the Red Sox break their decades-long jinx and win their first World Series since 1918, but Boston's John Kerry was not so lucky. This year looks like the flip side. Chicago was knocked out in the first round of the baseball post-season, but looks set to win the World Series of politics.

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