The Overrated Vice Presidential Home-State Effect
In comparison to the dog-and-pony show that has dominated the political news cycle as of late, the question of whom Mitt Romney might pick as his vice presidential nominee is at least one of some substantive importance. Since 1900, about 25 percent of the men and women nominated for vice president by the major-party candidates have later become presidential nominees themselves, and 15 percent have actually become president, whether by winning the office on their own or by succeeding an incumbent who died or resigned in office.
Still, the vice presidential question is not all that friendly to statistical analysis — there is no objective formula to determine whether Senator Rob Portman of Ohio would be a better choice for Mr. Romney than, say, Susana Martinez, the governor of New Mexico. One thing we might be able to address, however, is whether a vice presidential nominee can help the candidate to carry his or her home state.
Since 1920, major-party nominees for president have carried their running mate’s home state 65 percent of the time; the percentage is slightly higher than that, 72 percent in elections since World War II. This, however, is not that revealing a statistic. If Mr. Romney wanted to guarantee that he will win his running mate’s state, he could pick one from Alabama or Utah. That does not necessarily mean that his choice would be optimal, however, in terms of the electoral math or otherwise.
Instead, what we want to know is how much of a push a vice presidential candidate gives to a nominee relative to how he would do otherwise.
Say, for instance, that Mr. Romney picks Ms. Martinez of New Mexico, but narrowly loses New Mexico by one percentage point to President Obama in November. Is that a good performance or a bad performance for Ms. Martinez? Well, it depends. If Mr. Romney’s one-percentage-point defeat in New Mexico came in an election that he lost by 10 percentage points nationwide, that would actually speak quite well to Ms. Martinez, since New Mexico would have voted significantly more Republican than the country as a whole, even
You can read the rest of this article at:: http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/04/23/the-overrated-vice-presidential-home-state-effect/
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