I teach political economy and statistics at a large public university in the US. You can find my academic website here.

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politics · January 19, 2012 · comments

The Rime of the Texas Candidate

by Chris Adolph

So the idea is that on one of his hunting trips, Rick Perry shot an albatross?


um, hoover Institution? It looks like one of your fellows missed both 5th grade history on the presidents and 5th grade math on percentages:

Bill Whalen, fellow at the Hoover Institution, says today’s end to the Rick Perry presidential campaign dramatizes what can now officially be called “the 16-year curse of Texas politics” for presidential runs… Whalen’s take: when it comes to presidential politics, “Texas is boom and bust. You’re either Bush, father and son, and you go all the way.” Or “you’re the rest – and you can’t get out of the first round.”

Source: Carla Marinucci, “Perry latest victim of ‘16-year curse of Texas politics’ – either you’re Bush or you’re screwed“ Houston Chronicle, 1/19/2012.

So let’s look at the presidential campaigns of the last 16 years – that’s Whalen’s interval, and if anything, it’s stacked in favor of his argument, as he just manages to exclude the second-to-last Texas president from consideration.

From 1996 to the present, twenty percent of the major party candidates were Texans, half of the time the president was a Texan, half of the total national elected office-years were held by Texans, and in three out of four concluded elections, a Texan was on the national ballot in November. Texas’ share of the national population? That would be just eight percent.

Can any state in recent history claim to dominate presidential politics as Texas has over the last sixteen years?

Talk of a “curse” reveals Texas-sized insecurity–which, to be fair, we grow by the acre down there. Texans are squeezing other states’ candidates out of the “second round” just as they are (much less often) pushed out themselves. In statistical terms, the fate of election campaigns from the same year are not independently and identically distributed, or iid. For that matter, neither are campaigns across years iid: surely Perry would’ve done better if the last two-term double-barreled Texas ticket hadn’t destroyed the global economy, apparently leading even South Carolina epublicans to fear the pocketbook effects of electing Texans who are ignorant and proud of it.


Pretty impressive to think that Perry is dropping out not because he’s managed in a brief campaign season to accuse a NATO ally of being an Islamic Terrorist state, or because he failed to remember the names of just three federal agencies, but because of a curse.

tags: bemoaning

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