UPDATE: Goodbye Romney. Fivethirtyeight Has Some Interesting Statistics on the GOP Field

*** UPDATE:  Romney will not seek the nomination for 2016.  This changes…umm…nothing.  But it’s good to know.

“Exposing the obvious using statistics” may be the new slogan over at fivethirtyeight.com.  Harry Enten has written two pieces based on his analysis of Republican presidential hopefuls name recognition vs their favorability.  His conclusion?  That Chris Christie and Sarah Palin likely have no chance at the nomination.  Duh.  But their data is much more interesting—and useful—than that.

Based on polls taken at this point in the race in presidential elections since 1980, the Manhattan cheeze-wizzes have plotted the candidates name recognition on the X axis and their net favorability rating on the Y axis.


The trend line is telling.  I have to quote Motor Trend to really get to the heart of it.

It’s said you don’t get a second chance at a first impression, but modern attention spans have given lie to the adage. Make a strong enough first impression, good or bad, and you’ll never have another go at it. Make a weak impression and wait long enough, though, and you’ll get another shot.

(If you actually read the article at Motor Trend, you get extra points, and if you can afford a 2016 Mercedes Maybach S600, with price tag somewhere near Beyoncé’s party budget, you can invite me to become your chauffeur.)  Be that as it may, the statement is true:  candidates with low name recognition and low net favorability can come back to win, but well-known and well-hated candidates have little hope of raising their reputations.

So, who’s got a shot, based on this analysis?  Just about everyone.  Everyone except Sarah Palin and Chris Christie, that is.  But we knew that.  If a candidate is within one standard deviation of the trend, it makes sense to spread wings and spend cash, and go for it.  Outside the envelope is a poor place to start.  This is really good news though.  It means that Bobby Jindal, Scott Walker, [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ], and Rick Perry, all solid conservatives, are right on the line.  In fact, as Leon wrote, Walker is well positioned to become a favorite.

The bad news for conservatives is that Mitt Romney is at the top right of the trend line, while Jeb Bush is almost 1 standard deviation below it, although with higher name recognition than Perry.  It’s likely at this point that Romney will throw his binder in the ring, and we will likely hear nary a peep from him on the conservative side of the party, other than the drumbeat to “get in line’.  Me, I hope he finds himself leading a parade of one:  himself.

Washington (CNN)Former Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney has made a decision on whether to go forward with a third presidential bid and will tell to supporters which way he is going in a Friday morning call, a source familiar with Romney’s plans tells CNN.

Mike Huckabee, much maligned by fiscal conservatives, and painted as an outsider, finds himself directly on the trend line—but Mike’s got to decide what he wants to be when he grows up.  Huck can’t be a folksy, backwoods preacher extolling pickup trucks, pulled-pork sandwiches, and Lynyrd Skynyrd, while living like the millionaires he laments as “misfortunate.”

By taking this approach, Huckabee is essentially attempting to become to the Right what the likes of Neil deGrasse Tyson have become to the Left: namely, a proxy figure who can be used as shorthand by the lazy and the lost to signify their allegiance to a set of cherished cultural values. “We like the simple life,” Huckabee announces in his book. “Status is a Ford 150 truck; luxury is crawfish étouffée and slaw on your pulled-pork sandwich; and privilege is front-row seats at a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert.” And unlike those “misfortunate” souls in “Manhattan, the Washington Beltway, or in Beverly Hills,” we know the joy that one can get from wading “in chest-deep water to hunt mallards.” Insofar as it goes, there is nothing wrong with this. Indeed, I like many of these things too. But the self-conscious spinning of local tradition into a national political aesthetic is invariably irritating, and, typically, electorally counterproductive. There are many wonderful things about the world Huckabee is attempting to represent. But surely, just surely, it is possible for a southerner to run for high office without dressing up as Forrest Gump?

I hope that fivethirtyeight’s propeller-beanie crew will continue to update this chart as the campaign season ramps up.  It’s a useful gut-check on who’s got the potential to break out, and who should give up.  For now, they seem to be content comparing Christie with Palin, which is about like analyzing the 2014 Red Sox versus the Houston Astros, to try and predict the 2015 playoff picture: only the true fans of either give more than a rat’s tuchas.