Thursday, February 26, 2015

Bad at math

I have a friend who is a cement mason by trade. Like many construction jobs, in order to be a good cement mason you need to be competent at math. Since I am somewhat math challenged, my friend refers to my mathematical errors as "history major math." As I write this it occurs to me that this may be my friend's polite way of calling me "college boy," but I don't think so.  In any event, my point is that I am not good at math so take the analysis that follows with a grain of salt.

David Graham has a story in The Atlantic about how the Democratic Party's efforts to re-take control of the Senate in 2016 are dependent on a "graying pool of candidates."  Put another way, Mr. Graham is saying that Democrats are relying on old candidates to take back control of the Senate.  Although, the Democrats need to take 5 seats to control the Senate (4 if the Democrats also take the White House), Mr. Graham focuses his article on 3 races.  First, Mr. Graham looks at Ohio where the likely Democratic candidate is 73-year-old former Governor Ted Strickland.  I think we can agree that 73 is old and is a good example that supports Mr. Graham's thesis.  But check out what happens next in Mr. Graham;s

Describing this as the second-most "obvious example" of the graying of the Democratic party,  Mr. Graham discusses Wisconsin and a possible run by 61-year-old former Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold. The reader might question whether 61 is actually that old for a Senatorial candidate.  I guess we should assume 61 is old is because then says that 61-year-old Kay Hagan is being recruited to run for the North Carolina Senate seat up for election.  Mr. Feingold and Ms. Hagan are both former Senators for their respective states which makes them attractive candidates because they have shown an ability to win statewide elections.  A demonstrated ability to win a statewide election is a desirable quality for Senate candidates in any political party.

As his last example, Mr. Graham points to Pennsylvania where Joe Sestak, a 63-year-old former Congressman who lost his 2010 Senate race is "itching to take another shot" at actually winning an election for senator.

Set aside the fact that Mr. Graham does not provide us with any information about whether other-presumably younger-Democrats might be running for Senate in Wisconsin, North Carolina, or Pennsylvania.  I guess also set aside the issue that the article is not even clear that anyone other than Joe Sestak wants him to run for the Senate seat in Pennsylvania.  We should also set aside the issue that since Republicans control 54 seats in the Senate, Democrats need to pick up 5 seats to win control of the Senate (unless the Democrats also win the White House, then they only need 4).  The question is whether these candidates actually support the idea that Democrats need to rely on old candidates to take over the Senate.

It seems to m that the answer depends on whether these candidates are old for being a Senator.  This begs the question of what is the average age of a Senator.  Mr. Graham does not tell us until the last paragraph of his article.  He probably had a good reason for waiting that long because it turns out that the average age of a Senator is 62.  Note that Russ Feingold-the second-most "obvious example" of Mr. Graham's thesis-and Kay Hagan are younger than 62,

So while I am bad at math, it seems to me if an argument that Democrats are relying on old people to win elections hangs on two candidates that would be below the average age for people who have won the election, than that is not a very good argument.

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