Politics
8:58 am
Sun October 28, 2012

The 'Truths' Of Politics Not Quite So True

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

If you've been following campaign news, you've probably heard a lot about the supposed truths of politics. These are the hard and fast rules pundits and politicians have gleaned over the years.

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: No one has ever won the presidency without carrying their home state...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: No Democratic presidential candidate has ever won the presidency without carrying some Southern states.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: No Republican has ever won the presidency without carrying Ohio.

MARTIN: This is just a small sample of claims we hear every election, and many pundits like to emphasize their definitive nature. And that annoys Randall Munroe.

RANDALL MUNROE: Because we've only had 56 presidential elections but there almost an unlimited number of historical variables you could look at.

MARTIN: Monroe draws a popular Web comic called XKCD, and he decided to poke some fun at this kind of political analysis. So he's written a list of would-be rules for every presidential election, like the election of 1796 when this was true.

MUNROE: No one without false teeth has ever become president.

MARTIN: But then John Adams broke the denture barrier. And Munroe goes on.

MUNROE: Until 1884, candidates named James were undefeated.

MARTIN: Which was once true of all the major party nominees. And then there's a rule that might make our own Will Shortz proud.

MUNROE: In 1996, it would have been just as true to say no Democratic incumbent without combat experience has beaten someone whose first name is worth more in Scrabble.

MARTIN: But like some pundits, Munroe had to issue a few corrections after he put up his rules. So President Barack Obama's campaign might take this truism with a grain of salt.

MUNROE: No nominee whose first name contains a K has ever lost.

MARTIN: And, of course, every rule is a rule until the moment it's not.

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MARTIN: You're listening to NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.