The Red Sox Effect

The Butterfly Effect is a well—known anecdote that describes how presumably insignificant occurrences can have a profound influence on seemingly unrelated events. As it's told, a butterfly flapping its wings in one part of the world can set off a chain reaction that results in a cataclysmic weather episode thousands of miles away.

This year's Presidential election produced such unexpected results that they can only be explained by the confluence of unanticipated, random factors. Consider how the contest was supposed to go, given all the traditional indicators:

— Bush's job approval in the last days prior to the election, by all counts, hovered in the 47—49% range, which, according to conventional political wisdom, should have represented the upper percentage of the popular vote that the President would receive.

— The stock market was almost 4% lower on Election Day than it was at the beginning of the year, which almost always signals defeat for the incumbent.

— Early exit polling gave Kerry a strong lead in many crucial states, causing panic among Republican pundits and jubilation in the Democratic camp. Susan Estritch, Democratic strategist and former Dukakis campaign manager in 1988, appearing on Fox News said at around 6:00 PM that 'unless the exit polls are completely wrong, it's going to be VERY difficult for George Bush to win.'

— The mainstream liberal media, dropping all their thinly veiled pretence of 'objectivity,' waged an all—out pro—Kerry crusade in the last weeks leading up to the election. Media observers reported that the coverage of Kerry in October was overwhelmingly more positive for Kerry and more negative for Bush. Undaunted, unconcerned (and apparently, unashamed) about their Dan Rather fake National Guard memo fiasco, CBS jumped right back into it with another attempt to influence the outcome by planning on breaking the 'missing explosives' story on 60 Minutes the Sunday before the election. They were beaten to the punch by The New York Times, the anti—Bush paper of record.

— President Bush's lackluster performance in the first debate on Foreign Policy cost him an immediate 4—6% in the polls, as his lead vanished virtually overnight. Kerry supposedly established himself as a credible Presidential alternative that night, and convinced the country that he was more than up to the task of Commander—in—Chief.

— A huge push to register young, first—time Democratic voters, especially the 'Rock the Vote' movement, would give Kerry a significant new pool of 18—29 year—old supporters to bolster his effort.

— The undecided voters were going to break strongly in Kerry's favor. With the rough average of pre—election polls showing an even race or a 1—2 point Bush lead with 3—5% still undecided, the traditional 80%—undecided—to—the—challenger rule should have put Kerry slimly, but comfortably, over the top.

— Even the Washington Redskins football team portended a Kerry victory. Ostensibly, when the Redskins win their last game prior to the election, the incumbent wins. When the 'Skins lose, the incumbent also loses. Washington lost convincingly to Green Bay, 28—14. 

So what happened?

The explanation boils down to two things: First, despite the media trying to influence the outcome as much as possible (presenting a one—sided, intentionally—misleading, never—ending stream of bad news from Iraq, their over—hyping of the Kerry debate 'victories,' their constant down—talking of the economy despite its undeniably solid performance in GDP growth, job creation, low inflation, record home ownership, and continuing strong consumer spending, and their attempt to portray the administration as being insensitive on racial and civil liberty issues), enough of the electorate was able to see through the haze and make up their own minds. Certainly, this was helped by the rise of the Internet bloggers, who could correct an inaccuracy with lightening speed and get it out into the mainstream news right away. For sophisticated news consumers—the opinion leaders, with widespread influence—this had a material impact on the outcome.

The second big reason was the same line one hears in every ad for financial services: 'Past returns are no guarantee of future performance.' Simply because something happened a certain way in the past has no bearing on whether the same thing will necessarily happen again in the future. For example, the Republicans made significant gains in the 2002 mid—term elections, including regaining control of the Senate, in spite of the historical pattern of the incumbent party losing seats in off—year races. No past occurrence—not John Kerry never having lost a debate, not his reputation as a 'great closer,' not the stock market being down for the year, not even the Redskins losing their last pre—election game—had any bearing whatsoever on the outcome of Bush vs. Kerry, 2004.

Perhaps the real indicator that this election would shatter all preconceived notions took place the week earlier, when the Red Sox accomplished the impossible and reversed the Curse of the Bambino. Surely, that amazing accomplishment served notice that all bets were off. The ramifications of The Red Sox Effect are just totally unpredictable.

The Butterfly Effect is a well—known anecdote that describes how presumably insignificant occurrences can have a profound influence on seemingly unrelated events. As it's told, a butterfly flapping its wings in one part of the world can set off a chain reaction that results in a cataclysmic weather episode thousands of miles away.

This year's Presidential election produced such unexpected results that they can only be explained by the confluence of unanticipated, random factors. Consider how the contest was supposed to go, given all the traditional indicators:

— Bush's job approval in the last days prior to the election, by all counts, hovered in the 47—49% range, which, according to conventional political wisdom, should have represented the upper percentage of the popular vote that the President would receive.

— The stock market was almost 4% lower on Election Day than it was at the beginning of the year, which almost always signals defeat for the incumbent.

— Early exit polling gave Kerry a strong lead in many crucial states, causing panic among Republican pundits and jubilation in the Democratic camp. Susan Estritch, Democratic strategist and former Dukakis campaign manager in 1988, appearing on Fox News said at around 6:00 PM that 'unless the exit polls are completely wrong, it's going to be VERY difficult for George Bush to win.'

— The mainstream liberal media, dropping all their thinly veiled pretence of 'objectivity,' waged an all—out pro—Kerry crusade in the last weeks leading up to the election. Media observers reported that the coverage of Kerry in October was overwhelmingly more positive for Kerry and more negative for Bush. Undaunted, unconcerned (and apparently, unashamed) about their Dan Rather fake National Guard memo fiasco, CBS jumped right back into it with another attempt to influence the outcome by planning on breaking the 'missing explosives' story on 60 Minutes the Sunday before the election. They were beaten to the punch by The New York Times, the anti—Bush paper of record.

— President Bush's lackluster performance in the first debate on Foreign Policy cost him an immediate 4—6% in the polls, as his lead vanished virtually overnight. Kerry supposedly established himself as a credible Presidential alternative that night, and convinced the country that he was more than up to the task of Commander—in—Chief.

— A huge push to register young, first—time Democratic voters, especially the 'Rock the Vote' movement, would give Kerry a significant new pool of 18—29 year—old supporters to bolster his effort.

— The undecided voters were going to break strongly in Kerry's favor. With the rough average of pre—election polls showing an even race or a 1—2 point Bush lead with 3—5% still undecided, the traditional 80%—undecided—to—the—challenger rule should have put Kerry slimly, but comfortably, over the top.

— Even the Washington Redskins football team portended a Kerry victory. Ostensibly, when the Redskins win their last game prior to the election, the incumbent wins. When the 'Skins lose, the incumbent also loses. Washington lost convincingly to Green Bay, 28—14. 

So what happened?

The explanation boils down to two things: First, despite the media trying to influence the outcome as much as possible (presenting a one—sided, intentionally—misleading, never—ending stream of bad news from Iraq, their over—hyping of the Kerry debate 'victories,' their constant down—talking of the economy despite its undeniably solid performance in GDP growth, job creation, low inflation, record home ownership, and continuing strong consumer spending, and their attempt to portray the administration as being insensitive on racial and civil liberty issues), enough of the electorate was able to see through the haze and make up their own minds. Certainly, this was helped by the rise of the Internet bloggers, who could correct an inaccuracy with lightening speed and get it out into the mainstream news right away. For sophisticated news consumers—the opinion leaders, with widespread influence—this had a material impact on the outcome.

The second big reason was the same line one hears in every ad for financial services: 'Past returns are no guarantee of future performance.' Simply because something happened a certain way in the past has no bearing on whether the same thing will necessarily happen again in the future. For example, the Republicans made significant gains in the 2002 mid—term elections, including regaining control of the Senate, in spite of the historical pattern of the incumbent party losing seats in off—year races. No past occurrence—not John Kerry never having lost a debate, not his reputation as a 'great closer,' not the stock market being down for the year, not even the Redskins losing their last pre—election game—had any bearing whatsoever on the outcome of Bush vs. Kerry, 2004.

Perhaps the real indicator that this election would shatter all preconceived notions took place the week earlier, when the Red Sox accomplished the impossible and reversed the Curse of the Bambino. Surely, that amazing accomplishment served notice that all bets were off. The ramifications of The Red Sox Effect are just totally unpredictable.