Many of us politics junkies follow elections with fascination. The current US presidential election is no exception. In fact, due to social media and the Internet it is probably the most closely followed and watched election in history.
The first debate (of three) between US President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt (what kind of name is that?) Romney illustrates neatly the election strategy that the Obama campaign is using against the Romney campaign. It is fairly well known that President Obama is a very skilled poker player in contrast to Mitt Romney whose card playing activity is probably highly constrained by his Mormon religion.
Unlike the majority of commentators, I see the first debate as a superb tactical win by Obama based on poker playing principles. Here is why.
1. One of the basic tactics in poker is to make your opponent ‘show his hand‘. This can be done in various ways such as figuring out their ‘tell’, studying how they play and raise the stakes. This is the beginning of the game.
2. A good tactic is to let an opponent grow in the confidence that they are playing well and winning. This fosters ‘over confidence’, lapses in concentration and mistakes that a good player will note but ignore initially.
3. If a player is being staked by others who are watching (ie.super-Pacs), over confidence inspired by small wins initially will cause these backers to be less cautious about committing more funds to the game thus raising the stakes higher and higher so that any eventual loss will be devastating. This is what will happen with the Romney campaign if he loses. Also these funds are tied up and cannot be diverted to Senate races which could have happened if stake holders abandon Romney at this stage.
4. If ordinary Democratic voters (many of whom are disillusioned) feel that Obama is running away with it at this stage then they won’t bother to campaign as hard or turn out for the election. If they feel the game is slipping away they will panic and work harder believing that a Romney presidency would be a disaster. It will also reduce the expectancy on Obama as some sort of miracle worker.
I expect the next two debates will follow a pattern based on a poker playing strategy and I shall watch with fascination as the stakes are upped and the demeanour of each of the players changes. It seems clear now that a horrible fate awaits the loser of this epic contest.
I know on whom I shall be putting my money and it won’t be an each way bet either.