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Personal Update

I’ll be taking a bit of a break after the election. My pWP stat did great, it was over 94% accurate in predicting the races where I was keeping track, and that’s a higher percentage than the model itself would expect. The model only failed to be predictive in races where there wasn’t regular polling (North Dakota). I’m hoping to write a long and detailed analysis of the 2012 election and codify all the lessons I learned in using pWP to create a guide for future elections. But I’m going to start a new job here very soon, so I may not get to any of that at all. There will be a few posts on here, from time to time, but for now I have some other big projects to get to. I’m still working on the final draft of a novel, which should keep me plenty busy. Thanks everyone for your interest in my pWP stat, I hope my Republican friends learn to embrace polling as another tool in winning future elections.


Economic Myths Debunked Debunked VI

Before we begin, I want everyone to take a good look at this graph, which took some creative effort with a printer and scanner (because I don’t have money to spend on image editing software):

Ignoring the low quality, can you see a relationship between the two lines presented above? Is the relationship highly correlated? Does one line move with the other? Are the lines inversely related? Does one move up as the other moves down? Something to think about, we’ll get back to this in a moment.

Our last myth from Mother Jones is, in their words, a supermyth.

Myth 6: If you Unshackle the Rich they’ll Rev Up the Economy

Think of this as the supermyth—the one underlying so many other fallacies. But here’s a pesky fact neither corporate America nor the GOP establishment is trumpeting: After-tax corporate profits are currently at an all-time high. The problem businesses face isn’t lack of cash but rather a lack of confidence that consumer demand will pick up in the future. So they’re not expanding or hiring at the rate they should be.

Finally, some agreement (ignoring the hubris it takes to suggest one knows how fast all businesses in the US should be expanding or how many people they should be hiring). Yes, large companies that didn’t go bankrupt after the crash are doing well, and they’re sitting on a lot of money. And yes, a lack of confidence in the future is a legitimate explanation. There’s always a lot of uncertainty when it comes to future events. I would say there is even more uncertainty for businesses right now when you couple the U.S. debt crisis with the European debt crisis with everything else that has been going wrong since the financial world caught fire in 2008. So it’s understandable that businesses who survived a huge economic downturn would be gunshy.

But you know what? We’re missing something from this discussion. With a lot of labor available at a huge discount, startups should be providing the competitive impetus for new growth. But where are the startups? They should be exploiting the gun-shy and conservative strategies of existing businesses. They’re nowhere to be seen. Why is this so? Has something changed? Is it harder to create a new business in America? Is it riskier to hire someone? Is it more expensive to hire someone? Have we created a stable and secure environment for businesses? What is different now than in the past?

I’ll leave it to the reader to answer those questions.

Back to the graph. This is one of those things I found hilarious about this post from Mother Jones. In each myth, they give some ‘proof’ in the form of a graphic to make their point. What amazed me was the disconnect between the graphics and the myths. Look again at the graph I started the post with. Those lines come from the following graphic from the MJ post:

If you look at the two graphs overlayed, it shows that, at least for a while, as profits went up, unemployment actually goes down. Then vice versa. The relationship is somewhat inverse, but it’s not a perfect relationship. Right now, unemployment still struggles to drop while profits are good. But it appears what these MJ bloggers are trying to say is that unemployment is up, somehow because of high profits? or that there is no relationship? I don’t get it. You can see the inverse relationship in the overlay. This relationship only changes once the Dems come into power.

And guess what, that’s the real point the libs aren’t getting. They’re the ones standing in the way of development. They are creating uncertainty. They are the ones making life difficult for the job makers. It’s bewildering how they dance around the truth. The current liberal paradigm is aligned against businesses, either existing or potential, and until there is a change in paradigm or leadership, there is no hope of things getting better.

I’ll end the rant there. I’m not trying to be partisan; politics aside, if people got out of the propaganda business and decided instead on seeking truth, maybe we’d find some.

Conservative Canon Update

I know, it’s like I haven’t done anything with this for two years.

Anyway, there is a great documentary (in three parts) on the rise of Thatcherism in the UK. It is excellent and should be viewed by all conservatives. (There are several lessons the Tories learned that we have yet to learn, and missteps they made that we are in risk of making.)

Tory! Tory! Tory! is available online for free, either on YouTube or on the BBC website.

Rasmussen Poll

The latest Rasmussen poll in the MN Gov race has Dayton up by two points on Emmer; 38-40-15 (Horner is the fifteen). This is a 65% pWP (political Win Probability) for Dayton and it closely matches a previous Rasmussen poll and the average pWP for Dayton so far in this campaign. What gets me is Horner’s 15%, which I think is too high. Rasmussen says it will likely stay that high, at least 10% of the vote will be Horner’s. That’s good news, if true, for Emmer. If undecideds and a surprise conservative turnout break for him, he could easily close the gap on election day. Right now this race depends entirely on GOTV.

Re: Horner

Tom Horner Facebook Ad - 05/18/10

Image by DavidErickson via Flickr

Was just thinking about how the current strategy of the local leftymedia and maybe of the Dayton campaign (the ads focused on Horner are from the Alliance for a Better Minnesota, and they get $ from another umbrella group that got a lot of $ from Dayton’s exwife and several other Dayton family members) regarding Tom Horner are trying to make him look more “Republican.” In theory the strategy is good, it should attract GOP votes to Horner and bring liberal votes to Dayton.

Maybe it will work. However, I think the strategy is a wrong one. It gives Tom Horner a lot of free press and increases his nameID. The best strategy regarding IP candidates, from the DFL perspective, is to simply ignore them. If anything, I would produce a campaign calling the IP “DFL-Lite” and try to win back wishy-washy but generally liberally minded people back to the DFL.

What should Emmer do? Nothing. Horner is simply not taking votes away from Emmer that he hasn’t already lost (Arne Carlson Republicans and those who won’t vote Emmer because of the DUI stuff). Would I have Emmer answer the DUI ads? Maybe. But probably not. Focusing on economic issues (taxes/business) is the best and simplest strategy.

Great Expectations

Republican campaign poster from 1896 attacking...

Image via Wikipedia

There is an air of invincibility among the GOP faithful, and it’s not entirely displaced. Polls have the GOP picking up around 47 seats in the house and winning 7 or 8 seats in the Senate. The GOP will pickup at least 10 Governorships to the Dems‘ 3 and there are still 8 tossups. It looks as if nothing could be better for the Republicans.

But I think there is good reason to temper expectations.

The primary reason is that, no matter what the national trends are, there is still a real person in each district that a Republican has to beat. This person has already won at least one election in their district. If it is the typical Democrat in a swing district who beat a GOP incumbent in either 2006 or 2008, they are fairly conservative, a military veteran, pro-gun, socially conservative, voted against Obamacare, and has otherwise separated himself/herself from the Obama admin. They are probably sitting on a lot of cash and are prepared to make their election about personalities rather than allow it to be a referendum on Obama.

Don’t misunderstand, 2010 will still be a Republican year. But I don’t think it will be the slam dunk everyone thinks. Here are some other reasons I think the Dems will be tough to dislodge this year:

The “Enthusiasm Gap” will disappear. Yes, it is true that your average Democrat is not as likely to vote this year as your average Republican. However, I’ve already seen polls in Minnesota showing this trend has disappeared, and I would wager it is true nationwide. As November approaches, interest will pickup and regular voters will find their way to the polls.

– Registered Voters still prefer the Dems in generic ballot polls. It is important to look at polls for both Registered Voters (RV) and Likely Voters (LV)/ LV prefer the GOP but RV still prefer the Dems. If the voter turnout doesn’t go the way we all expect, these minor differences will result in several lost congressional seats.

The GOP doesn’t have the GOTV infrastructure the Dems do. 2006 and 2008 weren’t accidents. An unpopular foreign war and a tanking economy were the primary causes of the Dem takeover of government, but new GOTV tools favor the Dems. Socialnetworking and online media were really perfected by the Dems in 06/08 and the GOP hasn’t caught up. Not to mention the unions’ ability to get people to the polls. This is an area the GOP needs to invest in, and I’m not seeing it (but I am on the outside, so I don’t know for sure).

Bad GOP Candidates. Yeah. O’Donnell in Delaware, Angle in Nevada, Emmer in Minnesota, Palladino in New York. Because of the teaparty crowd there is a strict ideological expectation that will take a toll on the results for the GOP in November. Races that should be tossups are going to the Dems; races that should be GOP pickups are tossups. The relentless pursuit of ideology will cost the GOP at least two senate seats.

 I could be wrong.

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.

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).

Principle or Party?

Protestors at the Philadelphia Tea Party on Ap...

Image via Wikipedia


The Tea Party movement has claimed victory over several GOP mainstays, including Rick Lazio in New york and Mike Castle in Delaware. Castle I don’t care that much about, but it sure would be nice to have that seat in GOP hands. 

What I do care about is the fact this new movement cares more about holding strictly to certain principles over the political realities of different districts. 

All one has to do look to the opposition party and see the value in choosing candidates that can win in tough districts. The Democrats, in 2006 and 2008, sported scores of conservative or moderate candidates, most of whom were military vets, most of whom were pro-gun, many of whom were pro-life, and a few who were fiscal hawks. Basically, they ran anti-war Republicans who would vote Democrat for speaker, and otherwise not be especially strong in their bread and butter liberal issues. 

And look what the consequences were: the Democrats were able to spend a trillion bucks they didn’t have; pass, despite ridiculously strong and loud opposition from everywhere, a large healthcare bill; and reform the financial industry. 

None of these things had anything to do with the primary issue in 2006: the Iraq War. And the primary 2008 issue, the economy, has seen almost no growth since Obama took office. 

No matter what you think of the Democrats, you have to appreciate the fact they’ve accomplished some substantial legislative victories, and they’ve done so on the backs of dozens of conservative and moderate Democrats new to the legislature, circa 2006 or 2008. The legislative agenda is built by the political party in power, not by the ideological stalwarts in the minority. 

Conservative pundits, riding high this election, are proud of the fact the Tea Party types are cleansing the party of less-than-ideological candidates. However, there is more than this election to think about. 

Even if Christine O’Donnell wins this year in Delaware, she will lose re-election (and I say this with confidence). Even if Sharon Angle wins in Nevada, it will be a tough bid for her in 2016. The same for Tom Emmer in 2014. 

By going with the more conservative candidates now, we are sacrificing seats and legislative agendas in the future. 

This is above and beyond the fact the GOP is, probably, already giving away seats this election cycle. 

Rick Lazio’s loss in New York is especially painful, and I do hope he stays on the ballot for November (he’s endorsed by the NY Conservative Party, and they need a certain number of votes to preserve their ballot access). Lazio was a good candidate, with experience in statewide races, who would have been a tough opponent. Lazio would have forced money into the NY gubernatorial race that can now escape to other districts. So going with the more conservative candidate in New York will hurt other conservatives elsewhere. 

Rigid adherence to a political ideology has to be seen as a mental disease. There’s nothing wrong with having an ideology, a preferred way of looking at the world, but religiously holding to those principles is idolatry. Conservatism is not a dogmatic philosophy. It’s not a philosophy at all. It is a loose assortment of traditions, principles, philosophies and empirical truths; all of which are, at their core, pragmatic. 

Rush Limbaugh, in a broadcast I listened to recently, tried to do away with William F. Buckley’s rule (Buckley said to vote for the most conservative candidate who can win the general election in a primary) by saying this rule requires clairvoyance. 

But it doesn’t. We have tools, generally effective, that can tell us the likelihood a candidate can win an election in a given year in a given region. They’re called polls. And those polls show the GOP making things hard on themselves by picking bad candidates. 

In short, electability has to be part of the discussion whenever choosing a candidate. Even, or I would say especially, in years where conservatism is riding high. 

Without principles, a party has no meaning. Without a party, principles never get instituted. A political movement must understand this or face extinction.