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links for 2010-09-29

New MPR/Humphrey Poll

This poll has Dayton 11 points up on Emmer and has Horner sitting at 16%. (38-27-16). This leaves 19% undecided and gives Dayton a 98+% pWP (political Win Probability). This matches closely the pWP total of the Strib poll (unadjusted for methodology). So, I would say it’s likely Dayton has gotten a bit of a bump (from what, I don’t know, but all the commentary is focused on Horner). However, I would also say it’s also likely both the Strib and the Humphrey Institute practice poor methodology in their polls.

links for 2010-09-28

Book Review: Getting a Job in Politics

And Keeping it, by Ben Wetmore

Mr. Wetmore is a longtime veteran of the public policy world as both an activist, campaign worker and nonprofit manager. There are few people with better, more practical advice on how to get and keep a job in politics; he’s the only one of these few who has written a book worth reading on the subject. The book is a pleasant read, Mr. Wetmore’s anecdotes are entertaining and illustrative of the topics covered. If you’re looking to find a way to make a differece, and make a living, in the political world, this is the place to start.

From the Notebook

My Favorite Bookshelf

Image by Rachel Ford James via Flickr

-Been a rough month, so there ain’t much in the notebook to report except some book reviews.

The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway. I’ll admit it, I don’t like Hemingway. When I first read “The Old Man and the Sea” I thought it was a parody or satire or a joke of some kind. This book was as unpleasant to read. But there is some truth in the book, it is not considered a great book for nothing. The description Hemingway gave of fishing in streams in the mountains of Spain was really beautiful. All men have Lady Ashleys in their lives. Everyone tries to find meaning in something. There are a few Hemingway books I need to read, but I’m still not looking forward to them, even if there is some truth in them.

The Road to Serfdom, F.A. Hayek. This is one of those must-reads for politicos and economics enthusiasts. Hayek spells out many of his most famous arguments here, including his ideas about spontaneous order.

Lincoln’s Yarns and Stories, Alexander Kelly. Via Dailylit, this is a fun collection of anecdotes relating to Abraham Lincoln. This is far from a comprehensive biography, but it’s a good place to start.

Term Limits, Vince Flynn. This is Flynn’s first book. It’s not his best, and it’s rather long and the story grinds to a halt in some spots. But, I still like it. This is Flynn’s worst book and it’s still good. The resolution of the story at the end of the book is, well, not very believable. However, read it. You’ll like it.

-Twenty-nine years ago today, the Supreme Court deemed my existence as being worthy of legal protection, about nine months from whence it began.

links for 2010-09-27

Introducing Political Win Probability

Politics, like baseball, has a lot of readily available data that is typically used incorrectly. Like polls. When a polls says “Candidate A leads Candidate B by three points, plus or minus five points”, what does this really mean?

I’ve tackled this issue before. In those posts I point out that any poll is simply reporting the probability distributions of two pieces of data. From these distributions we can gain insight into the minds of the voters over a certain period of time. We can also find out the probability one candidate will beat another, if the election were held in the present.

Using the WPA model, borrowed from sabremetrics (check fangraphs), I decided to create a way to visualize the real information found in polls, win probability, without the “margin of error” confusions.

This graph (data approximated, but based on available polls) shows Mark Dayton‘s moving Win Probability over the course of this election:

(The Y-Axis represents the probability Dayton wins, the X-Axis corresponds to the approximate date of the poll, by month.)

As can clearly be seen, Dayton enjoyed a very high Win Probability in July and August, just before the state primary date. At this time, all three DFL gubernatorial candidates were running ads opposing Emmer and some astroturf groups were also running anti-Emmer ads.

Emmer did not respond to those ads, waiting until after the primary before starting his strategic media campaign.

The result was an instantaneous change in the election dynamic. The election quickly went from a guaranteed DFL win to a toss-up that leans DFL.

Graphs like this will help politicos see how strategic elements change a campaign, what different events do to campaigns, the quality and predictive power of different polling institutions and the quality of a campaign’s GOTV effort (GOTV=Get Out The Vote).

I can even see pWPA (political Win Probability Added) stats for all the different players, tactics and strategies used during the course of an election.


-There is another element used in baseball’s Win Probability stat that I’d like to incorporate into this, and that is a leverage index. Unfortunately, I’m not entirely sure how to do it that isn’t post hoc. Obviously, elections are much more leveraged the closer to an election. For the presidential elections, the debates are another source of high leverage. It is very clear from the above graph that summertime is very low-leverage, with most voters not caring or paying attention to details, as small changes in strategy produce huge changes in pWPA.

-This graphic is a bit more complicated when there is more than one candidate with a chance to win. I’m not sure how to best put data like that into a graph. Luckily, these races are so rare it’s basically unnecessary.

– I was working on this post before the latest Strib/Minnesota Poll came out showing Emmer about four standard deviations from Dayton’s total. I think there methods are clearly mistaken (Mitch Berg has a post on their methods) just because it puts the probability of a Dayton win near 100%, and this in anomalous compared to several recent polls and there’s no event or change in strategy to explain the movement. After doing some adjustments to the numbers (adding 5.5% to the GOP total, adjusting down Horner’s total to 13% and splitting the “other” tally, I get a rough Win Probability for Dayton at 75%, which is much more realistic).

– I really, really, really hope nobody else has done this. I did a Google search and didn’t find anything, so I’m claiming it as my own (despite the fact WPA has been used in baseball for decades).

links for 2010-09-26

links for 2010-09-25

links for 2010-09-24