President Palin

September 5, 2008

There’s a lot of talk these days about Sarah Palin’s qualifications or lack thereof for assuming our nation’s highest office. This is certainly an important discussion to have, but I’d like to leave aside the debate – if it can be characterized as a debate – over whether Palin should be president, and focus on the question of whether Palin will be president. Whatever we think of the former question, it is simply a fact that the governor is now one of the four people most likely to be president, say, three years from now. As there are a great many people who seem to think a Palin presidency would be a disaster, it would be helpful to know just how likely a contingency that is, so they can prepare themselves accordingly – gazing fondly at the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge in its pristine condition, treating themselves to one last abortion, building a bomb shelter, or in whatever other way they deem appropriate. So let’s kick the ballistics here.

Alex Burns over at Politico, citing Social Security Administration data, claims that for a man of McCain’s age there is “between a 14.2 and 15.1 percent chance of dying before Inauguration Day 2013”. For convenience, I’ll split the difference and call it a 14.65 percent chance. It’s worth noting that this is a pretty crude estimate, as it considers only age and gender. As President, he will have a terrific health plan – and don’t let Obama tell you he can get you the same deal. On the other hand, he’s a cancer survivor and I hear his diet in Vietnam wasn’t very health-conscious. So it might be worth crunching the numbers a little more carefully but, for now, I’ll work with what Burns has given me.

Of course, all that is moot unless McCain is elected. President McCain futures are trading at 43.7 over at Intrade at the moment. It would be a stretch to call guessing about politics an efficient market at this point, but as a rule it’s always better to listen to people who are paid to be right than to people who are paid to say clever and interesting things. As far as I know, Intrade is the best game in town for the former.

Finally, we need to consider the possibility that the governor will go the way of Thomas Eagleton. The market says there is a 5.8 percent chance that she will withdraw before the election.

Now I get to show off my math skills: the probability of Sarah Palin becoming president before the next election is (.437 * (1-.058) * .1465) = .0603 = 6%. (I realize I didn’t account for the possibility that McCain dies in office but only after Palin herself shuffles off this mortal coil, but that would be a fairly minor adjustment.)

So there you have it. If you ran the next four years a hundred times, we’d have six President Palins. It probably won’t happen, but I’d recommend against divorcing any of her family members.

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One Response to “President Palin”


  1. […] Not so Hot after all September 18, 2008 Back in the early days of the Despot, I argued that Intrade was the place to go for election predictions: President McCain futures are trading at […]


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