Saturday, January 3, 2015

There are only 55 weeks...

...left until the New Hampshire primary, Gail Collins reminds us in her column today in the Times. Also (my emphasis):

When Hillary Clinton thinks about running for president, do you think she contemplates the fact that no Democrat has been elected to succeed another Democrat since James Buchanan in 1856?

Consider that succession information for a minute. We have had Democratic vice presidents step into office when the Democratic president died. But the voters haven’t gone to the polls and elected one Democrat to follow another since before the Civil War.

Now there was a time not too long ago when I would have thought, Whoa! We're screwed.

But not now. I've gotten a little more sophisticated -- a little more -- and realize that since there have only been 56 or so elections in American history, that that number is not statistically significant. (I don't know what would be, several hundred? A thousand? But 56 is definitely not.)

I bring this up because Ms. Collins also reminds us that with only seven months until the Iowa straw poll, "Buchanan was also the last former secretary of state elected president."

And my point is that you are going to hear a ton -- a ton! -- of facts and figures like that in the next two years that will support someone's observation about the 2016 primaries and general election.

(How about this one: No woman has ever been elected president of the United States -- ever! Meaningless, right?)

Much of what you hear in the next couple of years will be wrong. Several "firsts" will be established in this cycle, much to the astonishment (!) of TV and print commentators (including this one) because we are still in the process of establishing a statistically significant sample. In fact, I'll probably certainly die before we have one.

So come back in a thousand years or so and maybe you'll be able to make some reliable forecasts about the elections based on past data.

Until then, enjoy the show, because we have no idea what's going to happen. (And that's one of the reasons I love politics so much.)

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