the rubio/cruz chicken game

In game theory, the “chicken game” involves two people, a clock and a deadline. The first person to blink loses the game. But if the players reach  deadline before anyone blinks, they both die. If they both blink, they get to tie. The GOP race has now entered the chicken game phase.

Currently, the major issue is that by consistently getting about 30%+ of the Republican vote, Trump wins states so long as the remaining two major contenders, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, keep splitting the anti-Trump vote. If either drops out, Trump wins. The first to drop allows the other to win second place and be the front runner in a future nomination contest.

Anecdotally, neither seems to be looking into dropping. Cruz is the sort of person who alienates people as he wins. Thus, if he drops out, he’s unlikely to be tapped by party leaders for a second run. Rubio is the remaining establishment choice. If he drops and lets Cruz surge to a strong second place, another person will be picked to be the establishment guy in the next cycle. So both want to stay in as long as possible.

Add your predictions in the comments.

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Written by fabiorojas

February 23, 2016 at 12:01 am

4 Responses

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  1. The chicken game extends to the voters, but instead of dropping out, their version of “swerving” is to vote for their second choice because they think he’s more electable. The outcome of this chicken game will determine the outcome of the candidates’ chicken game. Chances are, Cruz supporters will defect to Rubio when they decide that they have to compromise with their second choice if they don’t want a Democrat, or worse, Trump, to win the general election. Then Cruz will have to drop out because he’s consistently coming in third.

    Liked by 1 person


    February 23, 2016 at 4:33 am

  2. Nested chicken games? Sounds about right. But that assumes strategic voters. If people are expressive, 30% of the GOP will just keep voting Trump indefinitely.



    February 23, 2016 at 7:06 pm

  3. Strangely, the NY Times claims that Rubio and Kasich are the chicken game contenders:



    February 24, 2016 at 10:13 pm

  4. It is difficult to model this as a game of chicken, because as others have noted, there are more than 2 players.


    michael webster

    March 12, 2016 at 8:56 pm

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