Playing the Odds with Candidates’ Health

A somewhat interesting, though morbid, story from the AP earlier this week by Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar reviewed actuarial data to estimate the odds Barack Obama or John McCain would finish a term in office.  Actuarial data has been a valid tool used in medical studies for decades and still provide the basis for many principles in medicine.

This Atlanta company that specializes in individual life insurance quotes estimates that John McCain would have a 24.44% chance of dieing in office compared to 5.76% for Obama.  Ah, but what about disability?  They crunched the numbers on this one too.  Obama is expected to have another 21.9 healthy years compared to McCain’s 8.4.  This report did not account for unforeseen reasons for finishing the first term such as accident/injury or resignation/impeachment.

Candidates’ ages has been a realtively ignored subject ever since Ronald Reagan’s famous 1984 debate line, ”I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”  Given the vice-presidential choices in this election cycle, it certainly seems to be not only fair-game, but a critical piece of information.  As George Will succinctly wrote, “the man who would be the oldest to embark on a first presidential term has chosen as his possible successor a person of negligible experience.”

Last week a Quinnipiac poll crunched another set of numbers in the four battleground states of Wisconsin, Michigan, Colorado, and Minnesota.  While Sarah Palin had slightly higher favoribility ratings in these four states (40-43% compared to 34-40% for Joe Biden), when people were asked, “If it became necessary, who would you rather see become president of the United States, Sarah Palin or Joe Biden?” the results flipped:

  • Colorado:    42% (Palin)        49%   (Biden)
  • Michigan:    42%                    47%
  • Minnesota:  41%                    50%
  • Wisconsin:  42%                    46%

Based on this data it looks like voters will need to decide whether or not they are willing to “roll the dice” with McCain’s health and whether or not they are willing to risk a President Palin.

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About The Country Doc

Practicing full spectrum family medicine and teaching the next generation of physicians from the heart of logging and farming country in Elma, Washington.
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One Response to Playing the Odds with Candidates’ Health

  1. Dizzy Dezzi says:

    One thing that comes to my mind is that many people believed that Reagan had Alzheimer’s while he served as President.  Granted, there are a lot of pharmacological solutions to diseases that would have debilitated senior citizens in the past, but this is not a case of whether or not McCain is capable of running Walmart, but our entire country.  The thought of a McCain presidency is bad enough but the idea that a Palin presidency could follow mid-term, is enough for me to ask, without reservation: How good is your health, Senator McCain and how about you put our fears to rest and release your records, reassure us that you really aren’t a health risk to this country…