The Veepstakes Revisited: Using the Solution Desirability Matrix to Understand Why Romney Chose Paul Ryan

Minitab Blog Editor 15 August, 2012

In my blog post from about 3 weeks ago, I used the Solution Desirability Matrix in Companion by Minitab to simulate how Mitt Romney might choose his VP candidate. This past weekend, Mitt Romney ultimately chose Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin U.S. Representative. In this blog, I’ll take a look at how the previous analysis fared and see what we can learn from it.

At the time of my initial analysis, there were about 20 potential candidates and I included the top 12 in the matrix. The top 5 were:

  1. Tim Pawlenty
  2. Rob Portman
  3. Pat Toomey
  4. Paul Ryan
  5. Bobby Jindal

Paul Ryan came in at #4, and I’m actually pretty happy with that given the size of the field and the amount of unknowns. He was right up there with the top 2 consensus picks of that time. Also, at the time I wrote the blog, Paul Ryan wasn’t getting much buzz at all. In fact, I commented on my surprise that he ranked so highly. Fortunately, the Solution Desirability Matrix ignored my preconceived notions and it ranked Ryan as high as it did based on the assessment of all the criteria for all the candidates.

So, why did Romney choose Paul Ryan over, say, Tim Pawlenty or Rob Portman? Well, I think it goes back to his criteria and how they likely changed. A couple of weeks ago, Romney was having a tough time. He was being criticized for his tenure at Bain, withholding his tax returns, dancing horses, and gaffes during his trip abroad. Whether you agree with these criticisms or not, they were starting to take a political toll. He wanted to change the conversation.

In the previous post, I wrote this about the safe choice criterion: “If the polls change before he announces his VP candidate, so might this variable. For now, bland is in!” My theory is that Romney didn’t like his new trajectory, so he changed this criterion to “Game Changer.”  Very late in the game there was increased chatter about the need to pick a riskier running mate. Let's rerun the analysis with this change.

It’s unusual to use the Solution Desirability Matrix after a decision has been made, but I want to illustrate how flexible this tool is in meeting your changing needs. Plus, I think it’ll illuminate Romney’s thought process.

For the analysis, I have 8 criteria. Seven of those criteria, and the scores for each candidate, remain unchanged from before. I’m only changing that one last criterion of “Game Changer.” For example, Paul Ryan still gets the exact same low score for baggage and same high scores for experience, leadership, battleground state, etc. as the first analysis. However, he gets a boost for being a game changer. On the other hand, Rob Portman gets a lower score for being a game changer.

Solution Desirability Matrix

Here's how the revised Solution Desirability Matrix ranked the 12 potential VP candidates:

Quality Companion's Solution Desirability Matrix for VP candidates

Quality Companion's Pareto Chart for VP candidates

Paul Ryan rises to the top of this new analysis.

Of course, it’s easy to pick the winner after the race--but this analysis shows how easy it is to adjust to changing times with the Solution Desirability Matrix.  Keep in mind that I didn’t tinker with the numbers to make the results match reality. I just put in good-faith estimates for each candidate for a single criterion, and the results match what actually happened. I think that is pretty powerful, and it helps us understand the decision.

Here’s one more interesting tidbit. According to this site, Romney called Tim Pawlenty to tell him that he had picked Ryan. Pawlenty was the only candidate who got the early call.  Was he going to be the original “safe choice” only to be turned aside when Romney changed his criteria? Romney isn’t saying why he called. However, that scenario fits with the original matrix analysis that put Pawlenty in the #1 spot.

Of course, here we’re trying to figure out how Mitt Romney made his decision. However, a team normally uses this tool to help make a decision where collectively they are intimately aware of all the details. This would often occur in a Lean or Six Sigma quality improvement project. But the tool is so flexible that you can use it for a wide variety of situations and in changing conditions.

How and where do you think you could apply it?