Correlation vs. causation
Posted by aogWednesday, 28 April 2004 at 10:11 TrackBack Ping URL

I have to say, the reports on the state of electoral play in Ohio here and here mystify me. The claim is that a Republican presidential candidate has never won the national election without also winning the Ohio election. The strange part is the conclusion that therefore, it’s critical to win in Ohio for both sides.

It’s a classic mistaking correlation for causation. Do these people really think that in some mystical way, winning Ohio will cause a ripple effect across the nation, affecting the votes in other states (some of which may have closed their polls before Ohio has finished voting)? Or is it possibly that there is some other, larger cause that affects Ohio in particular and that just changing the result in Ohio won’t determine the overall race? No, that’s silly - it must be that Ohio is a mystical place that controls the rest of the country.

Clearly Ohio is an important state with lots of electoral votes, so it’s not irrelevant. But I just don’t see how it can be more important than its electoral votes. If there’s a problem on the Republican side which might cost them Ohio and other states, wouldn’t it be better to work on that problem rather than tactical maneuvering in Ohio?

Comments — Formatting by Textile
John Weidner Wednesday, 28 April 2004 at 16:58

And many of those Republican wins were with large majorities, and would have been won without Ohio. Remember that other old saw, “as Maine goes, so goes the country…”

Annoying Old Guy Wednesday, 28 April 2004 at 20:36

Yes, all of those correlations work until they fail.

I should have said that concentrating on Ohio is like relying on rescucitating the canary to fix a gas problem.

Tom McMahon Thursday, 29 April 2004 at 10:34

A long time ago Maine used to be considered such a bellweather state, evidenced by the old saying “As Maine goes, so goes the Nation.” But after Alf Landon only carried Maine and Vermont in losing in a landslide to FDR in 1936, some wag modified this to “As Maine goes, so goes Vermont.”

End of Discussion