Figuring out the most electable Republican candidate using Intrade

by phil on Sunday Dec 4, 2011 3:09 PM

Intrade is a futures market where people bet real money on the likelihood of real-world events, like political outcomes. It's eerily accurate, and I follow it obsessively to get a real gauge on the changing fortunes of political candidates.

Today, I wondered if it's possible to use a basic conditional probability formula to determine which Republican candidate is most likely to beat Obama IF they win the Republican nomination. In other words, which candidate is the most "electable."

The formula I used is the following:

In layman's terms, the "probability of A given B" is equal to the "probability of A and B" divided by the "probability of just B." So to apply this to Intrade, treat A and B as winning the general election, and B as just winning the nomination. So you take the probability that a candidate will win the general election and divide it by the probability that they will win the Republican nomination. Following this formula, here's what I came up with:

The results make sense in a way. Jon Huntsman is very competent, gaffe-proof, scandal-free, and has major crossover appeal. Ron Paul also has crossover appeal it seems; whenever I present quotes from Ron Paul to my liberal friends they generally respond favorably.

Gingrich vs. Romney is interesting. I think while Romney may have more crossover appeal, he is too much like Obama (thanks to the hinging of Romneycare to Obamacare), and so whatever appeal he might get, Obama will have already siphoned it.

Gingrinch, on the other hand, is polarizing, and so if Republican sentiment is more positive than Democratic sentiment, he will be the one to seize it during the general election.


David Lewis said on December 5, 2011 12:26 AM:

Well, consider me a liberal friend, and I DO NOT respond favorably to Ron Paul. Have you actually read his positions -- all of them?

Yes, he's good on getting out of wars and staying out -- that's where he appeals to liberals. And he sounds good on personal liberty. But it's so extreme that chaos would ensue if we actually tried to implement what he says. And guess who wins when there is chaos -- not the 99.9%.

But on everything else, he is either deluded or parroting made-up Repub talking points -- or both.

Phil Dhingra said on December 5, 2011 3:18 AM:

I brought this up among my liberal friends, and it stirred up very positive reactions. You are right though, this is mostly about foreign policy:

From the New Yorker -- Setting aside Gingrich’s admirable refusal to endorse dispatching Texan grandmothers back to Guadalajara, the only real departures from Republican orthodoxy came from Ron Paul, who was in fine fettle. Time and again as the debate went on, I found myself writing down his statements in my notebook. Here are some of them:

On the Patriot Act: “I think the Patriot Act is unpatriotic because it undermines our liberties.”
On the war against terrorism: “We are using loose language. I don’t remember voting on a declaration of war.”
On the Middle East: “Israel has two hundred to three hundred nuclear weapons. They can take care of themselves. Why do we have this automatic commitment to send our money and kids to Israel?”
On the failure of the super committee: “We are in big trouble, and nobody wants to cut anything. The biggest threat to our national security is our financial position. This is just aggravating it.”
On the war on drugs: “I think that’s another war we should cancel…. The federal war on drugs is a total failure.”
On Perry’s proposal to establish a no-fly zone over Syria: “Why don’t we mind our own business.
Hitherto, I admit, I haven’t taken Paul very seriously. On domestic issues such as social welfare, commercial regulation, and central banking, his free market nihilism leaves me cold. But on some non-economic issues, he has a knack of identifying and querying the assumptions on which members of his own party, but also many Democrats, base their policy recommendations.

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