Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Returning to our normally scheduled programming, today I wanted to point out a little-noted feature of the political convention schedule: the Democrats are going first.

Not a big deal, you might think. Somebody has to go first. But let's think about it from a game-theoretical perspective.

We already know who the presidential nominees are (barring a meteor strike), but each of them has one big decision to make, that is traditionally announced at the conventions -- their vice presidential choice. And the Dems have to go first.

This puts the Obama campaign at a disadvantage. McCain gets to make his veep choice knowing who Obama picked. Obama has to choose without knowing who McCain will pick.

It's not the hugest disadvantage, perhaps, but it is something. Most notably, in an election that is already pushing demographic boundaries, McCain gets to decide whether to pick a woman after learning whether Obama picked a woman. Similarly, McCain gets to decide whether to pick someone young, southern, with executive experience, with private sector experience, and so on, after learning what Obama did. Probably McCain will have a master list of possible veeps that is keyed to possible Obama veeps.

This isn't the first time the Dems get the short end of the convention schedule. In 2004, you may recall, the convention schedule was so inconvenient for the Democrats that Senator Kerry considered not formally accepting the nomination at the Democratic convention. The problem was that the Democratic convention was five weeks earlier than the Republican one, and that meant that Kerry had to live on his limited public financing for five weeks longer than President Bush. That's probably not what did him in, but it didn't help.

Democrats: think strategically! It's important to choose the right convention date.

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