David R. Henderson  

My Election Outcomes

Reality Check... A Question for Steve Sailer's ...

One winning bet, three losing bets, and one election won.

First, my winning bet. In July, I bet a local prominent Republican, Peter Newman, $50 that Obama would be re-elected.

Second, my three losing bets.
1. Last week, I bet Scott Sumner what he called "reputation points," where he gave me 70-30 odds. My bet was that Romney would win at least 280 electoral votes. Since it's about reputation, let me say that I am humbled. I bought too much of the "the crowds for Romney are large and energetic and therefore Romney will do well on turnout" spin. I remember Mondale, in 1984, making the same mistake I made.
2. At a conference in Miami this weekend, I bet Washington State University, Vancouver political science professor Carolyn Long that Obama would get fewer than 280 electoral votes. Of course, I lost. She gave me 5-3 odds. I would have won $100. Instead I owe her $60.
3. At the same conference I bet her that the Democrats would not make a net gain in the Senate. Even odds. I owe her $50.

Third, the election outcome I helped win. A friend and retired lawyer, Carl Mounteer, and I wrote the ballot argument against a property tax increase in Pacific Grove. The measure, Measure A, needed 66.7% to win. We got 34.95% and so squeaked out a narrow win. My gut told me that we would get 38% but in the last couple of days I revised that downward to 36%. I was close. BTW, a switch of 108 votes would have caused us to lose. Going by the number of pro-A signs and the pro-A mailer I received, I estimate that, if you leave out our time value for writing the ballot argument and writing a local newspaper op/ed and two letters to the editor, we were outspent by over 200 to 1.

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CATEGORIES: Public Choice Theory

COMMENTS (7 to date)
Steve writes:

Big win for the nerds. Pundits should have their tails between their legs but to be a pundit you have to have no shame...

Peter H writes:

I understand making bets to clarify held positions and establish credibility, but why did you take flatly contradictory positions in your bets? The only logical explanation I can see is that you believed Obama would win in July, and then changed your mind by last weekend, which I suppose is a plausible (if of course wrong in hindsight) position.

David R. Henderson writes:

@Peter H.,
The only logical explanation I can see is that you believed Obama would win in July, and then changed your mind by last weekend,
I did change my mind. But notice that I didn't bet last weekend that Obama would lose. I bet that he wouldn't get 280 electoral votes.

Ken B writes:

My predictions were all almost identical to yours but I'd have given odds on an Obama win, and wanted better odds on the 280.

What is a ballot argument?

mark writes:

I'm curious how you can sharpen your thinking by
the July bet? Isn't that pretty much a guess at that time. I wouldn't have taken your bet by the way. The funny thing about Romney is that Romney the Bain guy probably would have never contributed to Romney the candidate guy. Just enough evidence from 2008 and earlier that he didn't connect to voters. Thank you for your efforts on the local issue.

happyjuggler0 writes:

Ken B,

In the US in several states there are ballot questions in addition to voters choosing a candidate for office. This is about as close to direct democracy as you can get. They are plentiful here in CA.

Voters are presented ahead of the election with the text of the ballot questions, along with a summary of them (I don't know how these writers are chosen either), as well as both a pro and an against argument.

A ballot argument is an argument written by one or more people (I don't know how they get chosen) detailing an argument for or against the ballot measure.

I have found a link for the actual ballot arguments (and rebuttals) of the ballot measure in question:


P.S. I can't get the "link" button here to work properly, at least not in the preview window, where it shows no link at all. Therefore I added the link URL without the direct click and link feature. Sorry.

Peter H writes:

Ah, sorry, I had misread that to be 270, since in almost all electoral college discussions, 270 is the salient number. My apologies.

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