Briefly, On The Search For Explanations

Pi (1998) — Number Theory vs. Numerology

I have always been drawn to this scene; I find its argument appealing, especially the idea that people looking for patterns will always find them. There is something particularly human about this persistent insistence to find the things we want to be there, whether or not they actually are.

So now I pivot, from a movie and a thought to Dean “The UnSkewed Polls Guy” Chambers. He was the man who decided to fix every poll he found that just didn’t look right. How did he manage this? By presuming the world that he wanted to exist. If the numbers said there were more Democrats supporting Barack Obama than Republicans supporting Mitt Romney, he just assumed more Republicans until the numbers looked like he wanted them to. It just didn’t matter that pollster after pollster was finding more Democrats than Republicans.

And now, another pivot, from Chambers to the conservative movement writ-large. It’s not entirely unbelievable that some people engaged in this sort of thing. Almost all of us are susceptible to seeing what we want to see and not what is. What’s more shocking though is realizing that this behavior wasn’t just Dean Chambers or some collection of his kooky supporters; it seems to have involved almost the entire conservative movement. Between the bad predictions (Newt Gingrich, Michael Barone, George Will, and, Dick Morris) and the enthusiastic embrace of Chambers’s skewed ideas, the conservative movement seemed so confident that all it had to do was show up on November 6th.

Most bogglingly, it seems to have involved Romney’s campaign. Here’s news of his planned fireworks celebration. Here’s his transition website. Here’s Romney’s refusal to write a concession speech. Was the idea simply to project confidence to his supporters or was it that they actually believed what they were saying publicly?

Consider the last few weeks of the campaign. The charitable view of the campaign’s alleged “expansion” into Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Minnesota was that he was expanding his map in an attempt to find avenues to victory should he not get Ohio. But given Romney’s apparent confidence in his own dominant performance, it seems just as likely that he believed the ongoing lie about how well his campaign was doing. Maybe he really believed that Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Minnesota were in play. Maybe he really believed that he was on the precipice of a crushing victory that would dash liberal dreams.

Now that we’re firmly – and mercifully – past the election, we’re seeing the conservative movement again go on the hunt for an explanation that fits within its worldview. Which explains the laundry list of reasons trotted out to explain Romney’s crushing defeat: that it was Hurricane Sandy, that it was Chris Christie, that it was voter-supression, that it was a lack of conservatism, that it was media bias and, most perniciously*, that it was that the people who voted for Obama just weren’t proper Americans.

Each of those explanation exclude the possibility that Obama’s campaign beat their Romney’s campaign fairly and squarely**. It’s precisely the same thinking that went into the embrace of Dean Chamber’s unskewing. It couldn’t be then and it can’t be now that America would voluntarily return Obama to the White House. It couldn’t be then and it can’t be now that America would prefer Obama. There has to be something else. There must be.***

*Perniciously is a great word, one which I’m using to be polite.

**Even though we all know that “fairly and squarely” is being exceptionally gracious to the state level Republican politicians who did everything imaginable to suppress the vote, from Rick Scott’s idiotic voter purges, to Pennsylvania’s bizarre voter-ID law, to longer voting lines in Democratic strongholds.

***This interview is just insanely bonkerspants. I thought I’d throw it in.

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151 thoughts on “Briefly, On The Search For Explanations

  1. Republicans suppressed the vote through traditional methods like un-registering voters and closing polling places. Obama was far more evil. He used … sarcasm. Dramatic irony, metaphor, bathos, puns, parody, litotes and… satire. He was vicious.

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  2. “Most bogglingly, it seems to have involved Romney’s campaign.”

    They did exactly what Chambers did. See here: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-250_162-57547239/adviser-romney-shellshocked-by-loss/?pageNum=2&tag=page

    “[the Romney campaign] believed the public/media polls were skewed – they thought those polls oversampled Democrats and didn’t reflect Republican enthusiasm. They based their own internal polls on turnout levels more favorable to Romney. That was a grave miscalculation, as they would see on election night.”

    That is simply amazing.

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    • Actually, they probably correctly read the oversampling of Democrats, as Obama lost 13% of his 2008 supporters. In 2008 Obama was polling at 52.1%. One minus 13% is 87%, and if Obama was only retaining 87% of his 2008 supporters, whos put him at 52.1% in 2008 polling, he should’ve been showing up at around 45% in the pre-2012 polls – assuming an equal predicted turnout for Romney. But Romney wasn’t showing at 55%, so how to explain the missing responses? If Romney supporters were being undersampled then he really probably was somewhere well above 50%, and we should see it on 6th. As it happened, there’s probably a reason the last Massachusett’s governor to win the White House was Sam Adams. Nobody trusts them.

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      • Obama lost 13% of his 2008 supporters.

        Repeating stupid taking points just makes you look stupid. That’s kind of the point of Sam’s post. Turnout being down overall does not mean “Obama lost 13% of his 2008 supporters” and has nothing to do with stapling proportions.

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        • Obama lost supporters. It’s not that they hadn’t realized they’d scheduled a dental appointment or anything. In Ohio, the KEY battleground state of 2012, Obama received 253,435 fewer votes in 2012 than he did in 2008. Since every Democrat in Ohio knew their vote was critical to beating Romney, why would they not vote?

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          • Ohio is not finished counting yet. It still needs to count provisional ballots, of which Ohio has a lot – about 150,000 in 2008 alone – and which typically go heavily Democratic.

            In addition, lower turnout amongst one’s supporters doesn’t mean that the politician lost those supporters; it means that those supporters just aren’t as enthusiastic as they were last time around to warrant going out to the polls.

            Your 13% number is also totally off-base given the huge number of ballots left to be counted in a good number of states, including California.

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          • You mean Romney only needs to pick up 66% of the provisional ballots to retake Ohio? Because that’s what you are saying, that Ohio still hasn’t counted 4 to 5% of its votes.

            California is only short in processing an extra volume of mail-in ballots turned in at the last minute. San Francisco is catching up on a couple ten-thousand, and they’re projected not to find 10 million in a filing cabinet. And the number of Obama voters dropped significantly in all the key battleground states (about 9% in Ohio). All we can no is that they showed no support, otherwise we could equally posit that they all strongly supported Romney but just got tied up at the dentist.

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          • Yeah, fewer people voted for Obama this go round. But even fewer voter for Romney. And hence Romney lost by a large electoral vote difference. And, in the end, that’s all that matters. The rest is just window dressing that makes folks like you feel better.

            So, what is the right wing cri de couer? Neener, Neener, Neener! You won but not by as much as you could have. So it doesn’t count.

            Pretty pathetic.

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            • Indeed.

              Also, in general, fewer people vote in non-swing states when they believe the outcome to be certain. 2008 may have been an exception to that rule just because of the excitement of voting for Obama (and Palin, too, sort of), the inspiring orator and soon-to-be first black president. In 2012, many Obama supporters in big population places like California and NY and NJ and Mass, and even Texas and Mass likely didn’t go out and vote, but they would have if they had viewed their state’s electoral votes as in question. So, yes, the excitement of voting for the first black president, or the amazing young orator had worn off and that drove turnout down a bit. But they are still Obama voters.

              Also, how do you think Obama’s approval rating will fair in 2014 when the economy is booming and unemployment is down?

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        • C’mon, Mike. You don’t need to insult the fellow. Obama did lose more votes from 2008 than the GOP did, which was anticipated. But the real question of this election is indeed the GOP turnout model, which had it overperformed [possible] rather than underperformed [unanticipated], might have turned this thing.

          This doesn’t have to be an adversarial inquiry. [Few do.]

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          • “That makes you look stupid” isn’t an insult, since it implies that the appearance is misleading. Obama certainly did worse this time, but comparing total vote numbers (as opposed to proportions) is an idiotic way to demonstrate that, and it says nothing about over- or under-sampling.

            Reductio: suppose Obama had gotten 55% of the vote, for a total of 66.4 million. Would anyone talk about how he’d lost support? Of course not, but it’s still 3 million less than he got last time.

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            • It’s not necessary, Mike. We have too much of that shit already and you know that’s so.

              BTW, the 13% figure comes from a WaPo poll last week. I’d say 10% is a realistic figure and it was also realistic to think/hope that Romney would have more appeal across the board than McCain.

              There’s a lot more info did sort through, and again, there’s just no need to be adversarial about this.

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            • Okay, compare it to Bush in 2000 and 2004. Bush got 11.4 million more votes in 2004 than he did in 2000. Obama got about 9 milion less votes in 2012 than in 2008. In fact, despite about a 7% population increase since then, Bush’s 2004 tally would still have soundly beaten Obama, who only got about 1.8 million more votes than John Kerry.

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              • Observing that his turnout dropped 13.5% in Oregon and New Mexico, just to pick two examples that were definitely not struck by Sandy, and only dropped 11.5% in New Jersey, that state that was hardest hit, I hypothesize it was down because a lot of Obama 2008 voters weren’t going to walk to the polls for him.

                New York’s Obama turnout did drop more than that, down 19.4%, but that’s understandable considering that people voted for him in 2008 because he claimed he’d keep the sea-levels from rising, and right before election day 2012 New Yorkers were in their apartments – standing knee-deep in seawater.

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                  • Give up. It’s very important to him that Obama didn’t really win. I mean, he technically won, but not in a true sense. Not in a Republican sense.

                    And that’s why no matter how sane Erik Erikkson sounds right now, the GOP ain’t gonna change yet. Because instead of learning from a loss, the GOP’s base is deciding that either Obama cheated, didn’t really win, or it’s all Romney’s fault for not bringing up Libya enough, because another right-wing conspiracy about Obama would TOTALLY HAVE WORKED THIS TIME.

                    I’ve decided Benghazi is the new “Hillary had Foster killed”.

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                    • Yeah, this shows that Obama is on the way down. And the liberal-socialist insanity with him

                      Never mind that Obama’s approval numbers are on the way up. And as the economy improves, they’ll continue to go up.

                      Never mind that the electorate is becoming more friendly to liberal views on social issues: gay marriage, a pathway to citizenship, amnesty for illegal immigants in certain cases, drug policy and recreational drug use, abortion, etc. It used to be a winning strategy in the U.S to pander to the right on these issues, but the electorate demographics and time has changed and will continue to change that.

                      Never mind that Obama has high personal favorability numbers and they are staying high.

                      No, a winning strategy is more conservatism. Stay the course. Full speed ahead. (I hope to God that is how conservatives roll. Personally, I expect them to give up the Mexican bashing as politically untenable even in the short term, but nothing else for awhile. They’ll give up on gay marriage and drug and crime stuff in 10 years.)

                      America: “I’ve got a fever. And the only prescription is more Ayn Rand and Jerry Falwell.”

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      • Um, the unskewed poll guys — and you, I might add, said the turnout percentages were wrong. As in what percentage of the vote would be made up by Democrats, by Republicans, and by Independents.

        You said it was WRONG and Dean said it was wrong, and he unskewed the polls based on making the voting electorage more Republican.

        He was wrong, the pollsters were right. Exit polls and results matched up EXACTLY with the turnout models predicted by everyone but Gallup.

        I know you’re an unhappy conservative right now, but you’re being part of the GOP’s problem — not it’s solution. Heck, even the unskewed poll guy flat out said “I was wrong” and decided he’d just been..hoping..and changed the numbers to the ones he wanted.

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    • That kind of harkens back to the 2nd debate where Romney got so caught up on the phrase “act of terrorism” because the right wing media machine had been repeating it over and over again.

      Did he have a good point to make? Who knows, because his campaign was lazy and just parroted what they read – and made him look like an ass.

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      • True dat, Tod. It was a sophistic argument and a cheap point even if Romney had carried it. And a wasted opportunity on the Libya cock-up, to go to parsing words rather than go to the meat of the matter.

        You shouldn’t throw your chips at every pot, only the ones you intend to win.

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        • Again, excellent example of the sort of reasoning that’s gonna keep screwing the Republican party.

          “OH MY GOD IF ONLY ROMNEY HAD SPENT MORE TIME HARPING ON LIBYA!”

          Yes Tom, that would have worked. Just like if he’d spent more time harping on Obama’s college grades or Birth Certificate.

          The vast majority of voters had no interest in buying into yet ANOTHER right-wing conspiracy theory. Maybe the GOP should stop crying wolf so much.

          But then, Libya wasn’t meant for the public. It was red meat to the base, a bit of idiocy designed to appeal to people who lived in the same bubble as you and George, flatly denying modern polling because it didn’t come out the way you wanted.

          Which you’re STILL doing. Obama won, and where are you and George? Sulking that he didn’t “really” win according to whatever made up new metric you could clasp onto.

          You’re part of the GOP’s problem Tom! Accept some basic reality and become part of the solution. I for one would welcome BOTH parties being part of the real world.

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          • Chill, brother. I was agreeing w/Tod that Romney blew the debating point. And if Obama could win re-election with this economy, Libya wasn’t going to swing it either.

            I have no “if only” for Romney. I thought he was a good not great candidate and ran a principled campaign. Any votes he might have gained by stepping up the attack he’d have lost for being too nasty.

            It is what it is.

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            • Because principled campaigns run whisper campaigns called “birth certificates…” and “communism” and half the other claptrap folks have been throwing around these past few days.
              (you can’t blame the birth certificates on mccain).

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  3. I’m I skeptical about the idea that Romney really didn’t write a concession speech. Saying so seems like fairly standard politicial-speak: you act like you’re confident of winning, no matter how bad things look, up until the moment you actually lose.

    Although his did seem pretty short (though I haven’t actually compared it to earlier ones); it was basically “thanks to my family and my staff and volunteers, I’m outta here”.

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    • Well, I could see it either way, and after all the campaigning he did were he spoke off the cuff at length, winging a simple concession speech in the event he lost probably wouldn’t seem like a particular hard task. But of course even if a candidate does have one written, they probably don’t advertise it before the polls close unless the outcome is such a foregone conclusion that they were talking about how “we fought the good fight, and stood up for our values” long before election day.

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        • I thought Romney’s concession was good, but McCain’s was truly awesome.

          McCain had that kind old man, wistfully looking back on what might have been, but patriotically looking ahead in hope. You truly felt that this marked the end for him, and endings for old men are very sad and powerful. He turned the empathy his audience had for him to turn the audience to mend fences with Obama. Not sure anyone could’ve done better than that McCain speach, in terms of pure rhetoric. (I also thought McCain’s convention speach was powerful, and that McCain is an underated speaker, though he often seemed to not care about his speeches, just going through the motions. Romney was a pretty bad speaker for a presidential candidate, but a feisty debater. His concession was probably his best speech, which isn’t saying much.)

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    • Kat,
      He really didn’t.
      He really, really thought he was going to win.
      That was a real victory party they were holding (at $75 a pop, with food on top), not a somber in mourning McCain style Party.

      look at this tumblr: white people mourning Romney.
      Hillarity.

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      • What we’re hearing from the Romney campaign now does support the idea that they really thought they were going to win – not might win (which I could understand) – but really, seriously thought this one was definitely going their way.

        It’s amazing to me, and really indicates that, contra people who thought he’d govern sensibly if he was elected, he would have been a terrible president. It takes a level of groupthink and confirmation bias equal to the Bush administration to look at the polls in this election and not even imagine you might lose. It’s very, very poor management for an executive.

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        • He was a CEO.
          What do people tell CEOs?
          Whatever the CEO wants to hear.

          I mentioned around here that Romney had grown up and worked surrounded by yes-men, and that the grifter never did a lick of work in his life (other than show up and say “I’m Mitt Romney, sell me your company”).

          Lotta folks disagreed with me on exactly how “priviledged” he was. Well, when the rubber meets the road, we see whose psych profiles win out.

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  4. When did magical feelings become a winning electoral strategery? Oh yeah, it never did. That the party with the “tactically superior” track record used it should be a wake up call. Sadly, it will only result in quadrupling down.
    Clap louder only works with Tinkerbell.

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  5. Nor do I find it particularly surprising that Romney made plans for the eventuality of victory; I’d expect any candidate who wasn’t pretty much sure they’d be crushed to do so, so they could get a running start if they did win.

    It was out of step with reality to believe Romney could get a landslide, but he had decent cause for at least planning ahead as though he had a shot.

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  6. For about a year, I worked for a Grand Panjandrum who consulted with technical commodities traders. Here was his scam, in a nutshell:

    We assembled all the historical market trading data we could and put it into an enormous database. This allowed us to build trading models which would iterate over this dataset. Some markets trend up and down rapidly, precious metals markets, cases in point. Some markets operate on reasonably cyclical patterns. We evolved models to suit markets, setting them to crawl through the data, night after night, scoring the models in the morning.

    So far, so good. But here’s where the post-hoc fallacy begins. This gonif would tell a trader he could work out a trading model based on that trader’s wins and losses. So we’d take the trader’s book and plot all the points along the timeline, his entrances and exits from the market. Some won, some lost, obviously. What characterised the wins and losses? It was like reading Tarot cards or astrology. We’d build models around his wins, trying to avoid his losses and of course it wasn’t hard to convince the schlemiehl of the validity of our New ‘n Improved Model. For which he’d pay a lot of money.

    I cornered my boss one day and said I couldn’t continue to play this game of predicting the past. He got upset, said I didn’t appreciate the validity of what we were doing. I patiently tried to explain a post-hoc fallacy, he rolled his eyes at me. I quit, on the spot.

    There are no explanations from the past. There are only post-mortems. Romney failed because he and his crew of madmen presented an undisciplined message. Don’t get into a market without a risk stop and a profit stop. Don’t put forth a political position one day and change it the next.

    At a larger level, the GOP refuses to see the passage of time. They’re still fighting the battles of the past. The country’s moved on. Sensible people despise the GOP’s positions on same sex marriage, abortion, science, economic policy, the list goes on and on and none of it is particularly Conservative in any meaningful sense of that word. Nobody’s larger than the market. The GOP will evolve or it will die and be replaced, as they replaced the Whigs in their turn.

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    • A lot of people don’t understand that if you use enough variables, you can match a given curve with an infinite number of incorrect functions.

      Brent_crude = 0.2*Wheaties_price – log(hemlines) + 2.3*Redskins_margin^NBC_monday_night_share/Dark_Side_of_the_Moon_sales + …

      Finding a remotely plausible function from past data just makes it easier to fool yourself, because you’re still just sifting through the universe of possible functions for those that won’t be rejected yet, but the matches all feel like mysterious insight.

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      • We know that, George. The question is, “Is that’s what is happening here?”

        That requires analysis. Probably a good idea to hold off on all that until the numbers are done being counted.

        Note:

        Given that Sandy probably had a impact on turnout, even the raw numbers themselves are less useful than a county-by-county comparison. If the election results more or less track 2008 in 9 voting districts out of 10, and that last 10% is down *and* they’re all ones impacted by the storm, you have a plausible explanation right there.

        That’s oversimplifying, of course; undoubtedly each voting district will be slightly different from 2008, and some can be explained by some theories and some by others (the changes in districts via various gerrymandering/un-gerrymandering attempts comes into play here and makes the whole thing rather a bit complicated).

        At the end of the day, I expect that there will be a turnout difference for Obama, sure. I expect that there won’t be as much of a turnout difference for the GOP. The end result of that can quite possibly be explained by the “guy who is out of office may have a bit more in the way of activity than the one that is already there”.

        At the end of the day, a few weeks from now, I think the data will support that Obama actually retained an astonishing amount of his 2008 support, given the current state of the economy.

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        • As I just mentioned up-thread, Bush got 11.4 million more votes in 2004 than he did in 2000. Making a quick table of second term elections.

          Eisenhower gained 1.5 million votes in 1956
          Nixon gained 15.4 million votes in 1972
          Reagain gained 10.5 million votes in 1984
          Clinton gained 2.5 million votes in 1996
          Bush gained 11.4 million votes in 2004
          Obama lost 9 million votes in 2012

          Apparently that’s never happened since WW-II with the incumbent still winning.

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          • with the incumbent still winning.

            Are you trying to figure out how this is different from previous races where the incumbent won, or are you trying to figure out how this is different from previous races?

            Because I suspect eliminating “the incumbent lost” from your analysis is going to give you a skewed perspective of how second term elections generally go, statistically speaking. And what you want to compare this to is “how second term elections generally go, statistically speaking” if you want the picture of how this fits in the grand scheme of things.

            In any event, wait for the final tallies before you dig too deep into numbers. There’s plenty of time.

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          • There’s not much else to look at. “Incumbent lost” gets you down to Carter and George HW Bush, as Kennedy, Johnson, and Ford didn’t run twice.

            But for the sake of completeness let me did that data up, too.

            Carter lost 5.35 million votes in his second run.
            George HW Bush lost 9.78 million votes in his second run (likely to Perot).

            So Obama is certainly the second-worst post-war re-election performance of any sitting President, and much closer to worst than to third worst. Absent a major third party spoiler he’d clearly be the worst, by almost a factor of two, but nobody showed up to vote for his opponent, either, possibly because his opponent agreed with him on issue after issue, so he actually won.

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            • And yet…he still won.

              It’s obviously chapping your hide. I’m just wondering, though — what’s the point of this? He won. He won the electoral college by a very, very large margin. He won the popular vote.

              What are you trying to prove? Actually, scratch that — who are you trying to prove it to?

              Ya gotta move past denial, George. Obama won. Easily. The Democrats picked up House and Senate seats, despite a Senate picture that practically screamed no-brainer GOP pickups. Your party got smoked. Trashed. Thrashed. Beaten soundly.

              Accept it. Until you do, you’re part of the GOP’s problem, not it’s solution.

              Whining about how Obama’s win was somehow..not a win, or not really a win, or not an example of a real win, or shouldn’t be construed as anyone liking him or approving of his agenda is just…pathetic. Makes you look bad, look petty.

              Sour grapes, George. Get past it. Help your party be relevant. Help them win next time. But you can’t do that sulking about how Obama’s win totally wasn’t really a win. That’s self-delusion.

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              • Actually, this gets rather interesting. I kept digging back to find an incumbent who got less votes in his re-election bid than when he was first electted and still won the race. There are only two. George Washington, who ran unopposed both times, so people didn’t even bother voting, and Calvin Coolidge, whose re-election bid gave him only 420,304 fewer votes in what was a three-way race, which was still only a drop-off of 2.6%. In all other cases the incumbent lost.

                If you ignore Washington running unopposed both times, Obama’s vote drop is the worst performance in absolute and percentage terms than any other second-term President in US history, only one of whom survived any drop in votes – due to a three-way race where all candidates got more than 15% of the vote.

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                  • Also, too: there have been exactly 15 Presidents elected to consecutive terms. 15. This is an extraordinarily small sample size. Yet of those 15, 3 – 20 percent – have seen reduced vote totals.

                    Let’s then add in the fact that US population growth is currently the slowest it’s been since the Great Depression. Let’s then add in the fact that for the bulk of this country’s history, it was adding completely new states every couple of elections.

                    Drawing broad historical conclusions by comparing raw popular vote totals from different elections is simply not possible. Differences between raw popular vote totals are almost completely meaningless and valueless statistics.

                    Mind you, this is true even before we start looking at the specific context of Obama’s initial election and re-election.

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                • Correction. Coolidge never ran twice (it was late when I was crunching numbers), so Obama is the only Preisdent in US history to lose support and still win re-election.

                  Two still lost after gaining support, Martin Van Buren and Grover Cleveland.

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            • My point is that Democrats were perfectly willing to let Obama lose, based on how many turned out to vote for him. If Romney had done even slightly better among Republicans than McCain, who was a very, very weak candidate, Obama would’ve lost this one. That doesn’t change the outcome, but it does speak to the level of support Obama actually has even from his own party, which is only slightly more support than Romney had, and neither had nearly as much support as was expressed in 2004 or 2008.

              As to the electoral college, it is an amplifier, sort of a noise filter, turning victories like Nixon ’72 and Reagan ’84 into total walkovers where their opponents only win about a dozen or so EV’s. It’s possible to have a comlete shutout in the electoral college by beating your opponent by only about 60 votes – nationally, because all you need to do is beat him by one vote in each state, plus a few extra for the couple of states that split their EV’s. And of course you can win the popular vote commandingly and still lose the election.

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              • You really need to cite the basis for your claim that Romney did worse amongst Republicans than McCain. If it’s just the raw vote totals, then we’re back to “there’s millions of votes left to be counted.”. Indeed, in just the last few hours, that 9 million lost vote figure you keep citing is now down to about 8 million, and the 2.3 mill in figure you cited for Romney vs McCain is now down to 1.7 million.

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                • Looking at the exit poll data, though, I see that McCain got 90 percent of the GOP vote. Romney got 93. McCain lost independents by 8 points, Romney won them by five. Republicans were 32 percent of the electorate in 2008. This year, they were….32 percent of the electorate. In 2008, independents were 29 percent of the electorate. In 2012, they were….29 percent of the electorate.

                  Democrats, as is typically the case in presidential elections, made up the plurality of voters in each election. The difference is that this year Obama got 92 percent of the Dem vote, and only got 89 percent of it in 2008.

                  In other words, Romney made it close because he did better than McCain with both Reublocans and Independents but ultimately lost largely because Democrats were more loyal than they had been in 2008. So this notion that Romney was a weaker candidate than McCain is total hooey.

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                  • Now that was some darned persuasive figgerin’, MarkT.

                    McCain lost independents by 8 points, Romney won them by five

                    The puzzlement: This indicates that Romney was a good candidate where McCain was admittedly roadkill. The GOP, with lower registration than the Dems, simply cannot win w/o carrying the independents.

                    [McCain = roadkill]

                    Romney was expected to get every McCain voter to the polls, plus the ones who sat out Roadkill2008, surely a higher raw vote total. Then add in the higher share of the Independents. But as you note, whatever Dems might have defected from Obama, they were more than made up for [+3%] by new voters or 2008 abstainers.

                    The Case of the Missing Caucasoids remains open, however. You may be right that the honky shortfall may be due merely to late reporting. We shall see. McCain got ~60 million votes. By how much Romney should have reasonably topped that should be the question here.

                    I hope this analysis satisfies Mr. Turner as well: it’s my best shot at figgering this election out for my own edification—I pass it along, colleague-like, to the both of you to make of what you will.

                    Obama won: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his victory was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Romney signed it. And Romney’s name was good upon ‘Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to.

                    Obama won all right.

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                    • To be clear, I’m not saying here whether I think there was a net decline in white voter turnout- I suspect we’ll find that there was. I’m just saying that it’s not likely to be the case that Romney failed to get as many votes in total as McCain.

                      Regarding the white vote, if there is a shortfall, it should not be dismissed out of hand that the shortfall may have come primarily or even almost entirely from Obama’s 2008 white supporters. Obama did four points worse with white voters this year than he did in 2008. Check my math on this, please, but if about one in 10 whites who voted for Obama in 2008 just stayed home, you would be able to explain all or nearly all of the likely decline in Obama’s vote total, as well as the four point decline in Obama’s support amongst whites in this election, and probably one or two other things that are eluding me right now.

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                    • I can’t seem to find breakdowns for 18-29 whites — I do see Obama won the 18-29 segment with 60% fo the vote.

                      I’d be quite interested to see the regional cross-tabs as well. For all the talk of Obama losing the white vote, he won it in the NE, did well (with 10 or 15 points) in the mid-west and West, and got utterly crushed in the south.

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                    • Isn’t the more likely explanation that the independents who supported Obama in 08 just stayed home? As has been shown many a time, most independents are anything but independent. To assume that the independents who stayed home would have voted the same as the independents who went to the polls is a very dubious assumption. The term “independent” tells us nothing about the ideological inclination of the voter, and includes no shortage of Tea Party conservatives and OWS liberals, as well as “moderates.”

                      If we look at numbers by ideology, though, we see that “moderates” still supported Obama by a 56 – 41 margin this year after going 60 percent for him in 08. Notably, “moderates” made up 3 percent less of the electorate this year than in 08, suggesting that the decline in Obama’s support from moderates came primarily as a result of moderates who supported him in 08 staying home,

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                    • That’d have more truck if the same polls that said “independents favor Romney” didn’t more-or-less successfully predict the balance of turnout.

                      Seems to me the far more likely explanation is that voters who called themselves Republican last cycle called themselves Independent this cycle while still voting Republican, managing to (a) increasing the D/R differential, (b) increase Romney’s performance among self-described independents, and (c) not give the election to Romney.

                      And here’s another thing I want to throw out there: It wasn’t just Romney that had a bad night. Senatorial candidates from North Dakota and Montana shouldn’t require coattails to win. Besides which, Romney did well in both states (McCain won Montana by 2.5%, Romney by 13% – in North Dakota McCain won by 7% and Romney by almost 20%), but they both sent Democrats to the senate. Somehow, with all of the Democratic seats up for re-election, the GOP managed to *lose* two seats.

                      It wasn’t a bad night for Romney, it was a bad night for Republicans. Even where Romney did well.

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                    • The number of people identifying Republican increased quite dramatically over 2008, so I doubt many would’ve gone from Republican to independent or it would’ve left a major shortfall in the number of self-identified Republicans, instead of an increase.

                      The analysis I saw was that most of the independents heavily favored the Republicans, but that those were also unlikely to vote. That comes from polling data but probably not exit polls – which obviously can’t measure people who aren’t there. I’m sure we’ll get a better handle on this group in the days ahead, but one interesting take was that Obama’s strategy of demoralizing potential Romney voters with a deluge of attack ads seems to have worked. People are much less likely to vote for someone when they have a reason not to feel good about it.

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                    • George, if the polls were reporting large numbers of people who favored Romney but did not vote, the poll numbers would have been very off-base. The main reason that the polls were as accurate as they were is precisely because they were able to predict who would go out and vote. The primary knock against the polls – the reason they were supposed to be inaccurate – is that they were alleged to be under-sampling Republicans. Too few Republicans. Lots of independents supporting Romney. I think these two things are related, as likely as not. It seems unlikely to me that the polls would have such bad inputs (counting a bunch of people who weren’t going to go vote) and yet accurate outputs.

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                    • ….but one interesting take was that Obama’s strategy of demoralizing potential Romney voters with a deluge of attack ads seems to have worked. People are much less likely to vote for someone when they have a reason not to feel good about it.

                      This would be the Karl Rove interpretation. Karl Rove–the guy who spent hundreds of millions to lose big time and is now actively covering his fat ass and trying to come up with some kind of explanation to placate the billionaires who coughed up money because of Karl’s alleged political expertise.

                      This interpretation is complete hogwash. Both sides ran negative ads. Lots of them. I saw several pretty brutal anti-Obama ads here in North Carolina, especially in the last days of the campaign and very few positive ads that told me why I might want to consider voting for Romney. Perhaps if Romney weren’t such a chameleon, he would have had a better chance. But that’s the fault of Rove and other strategists who thought Romney could win on the strength of being the anti-Obama.

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          • Here’s another way of looking at the facts.

            Obama’s number of votes was driven down by the worst recession/depression since the 30’s. Obama would’ve lost, but the public so liked him, his social policies, and his preferred economic policies to fix the recession over his opponenent, that he STILL won the election.

            That analysis shouldn’t offer much hope for conservatives, if it’s true, because it shows that Obama was likely to defeat Romney even in the worst imaginable circumstances, and thus Obama-like candidates will be likely to be beat Romney-like candidates even in the worst circumstances.

            There is no doubt that McCain did worse than Romney against Obama. But that doesn’t mean there is some sort of trend line showing a conservative gain in the country, McCain did especially badly because the uber-stink of Bush’s foreign policy. In the absence of that, Obama would’ve gotten fewer votes -though likely would win, anyway- and maybe his current victory would be bigger.

            The size of the victory depends on lots of things. Most of them irrelevant to determining trendlines in politics.

            Expect Obama to leave office loved more than Reagan or Clinton when the Obama boom happens.

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            • Obama boom? Obama doesn’t even have a plan for that. He’s projecting low growth rates. His economic team just said that we’re probably entering another recession (they of course waited till Nov 8th to release that little nugget).

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              • Oops. I’d misread the blurb. It’s just a bunch of economists CNBC talked to. CNBC story

                Sorry about the false alarm. Still, the predictions look pretty grim.

                Strategas earlier this week said it expects a recession early in 2013, and University of Maryland economist Peter Morici said that “the President and Congress will not be able to raise taxes — be those on the wealthiest of the wealthy or anyone else — and cut spending without risking a second recession, deeper and more painful than the Great Recession.”

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              • 4 years dude.

                The economy will recover in that time. From bust to boom.

                Obama wasn’t responsible for the bust, but he took the blame with lots of voters. He won’t really be responsible for the inevitable boom eiter, but he’ll get the credit.

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                • Sazbot, I hope you invest your entire life’s savings in the market. Then you can count on the unfunded gov’t supporting you. Meanwhile over 45 companies have announced layoffs with more to come. Sounds like they did just as they were /ordered/ to by this administration and keep mum until after the election. Yup, Bronco Bama is an economic genius. You should borrow as much as you can too and add it to your investment, prices are only going down so you can buy on the cheap. LOL

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                  • I am a teacher so I am too worthless to society to have any real money to invest. (Should’ve gone into investment banking to make a real difference for society.)

                    I am confident markets will improve, however, not because Obama is an economic genius. (He is more of a beating-the-Republicans genius, IMO.) Summers and Krugman and Delong and (bless his soul) Keynes are the geniuses, or at least the nearest approximations in economics. And they seem optimistic about the economy as long as we don’t enter the death spiral of austerity-too-soon and especially so if we add a bit more stimulus. (Wait for the boom and then cut spending and raise taxes to prevent the boom from becoming a bubble, while also balancing the budget. Pretty simple.)

                    The market is largely immune to presidential power or presidential economic genius, IMO. Sure, the stimulus and the bailout had an impact in putting a floor down on the crash. (More stimulus would have had us booming already.) Long term QE from the Fed will make a gradual difference, too. UE is creeping down even with QE coming late and too little stimulus. If gov’t hiring returns to Clinton-Bush-Reagan levels, UE problems would be nearly solved.

                    In 3 or 4 years, the economy will not still be hurting from 2008 (unless we commit austerity-suicide a la Greece and Spain) and will be booming. The only question is the size of the boom.

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                    • If the economy is “immune” to presidential influence, why does your side of the fence STILL blame W for the meltdown? I mean, he /did/ try and fail to slow down Fannie and Freddie (the proximate cause of the meltdown) and was stopped by the Democrats like Barney Frank and Dodd as is well known to anyone with an IQ over 40. Nope the narrative goes like this, when a Republican is in charge all economic failures belong to him and all economic success does NOT belong to him and when a Democrat is in charge the reverse holds true. For instance Bush had 80 months of uninterrupted economic growth for which he got NO credit but the last four months were all on him. I understand the narrative, I don’t have to agree with it, but I clearly understand it.

                      If you’re so certain in your economic “geniuses” I suggest you buy buy buy. That is if you’re actually employed. Meanwhile the biggest day trader I know and rabid Obama fan and supporter has shorted the hell out of the market. He doesn’t have a shred of cognitive dissonance about it, nor any guilt about what he’s doing. Bronco Bama is good for /his/ business and that’s all he cares about. His ratiocinations haven’t progressed to the point where he realizes that his paper gains will be in worthless paper even if realized.

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                    • I blame Wall Street collectively for the bust.

                      I blame Bush for driving a whole in the deficit with unnecessary tax cuts and the once in a half-century disaster that was the Iraq War.

                      I suppose Bush could’ve pushed for Wall Street reform, so maybe he is partly responsible, but not that much.

                      My side is whoever agrees with me. Some people blame Bush for causing the crash, but that is nonsensical. Bush crashed the budget and failed to pass policies that would help healthcare costs, infrastructure building, etc. So he was an awful president who drove the government into a ditch with deregulation and stupid tax cuts, but the crash was on Wall Street.

                      Bush is such a bad president he isn’t even mentioned or allowed at the damn convention. An awful, disgusting failure of a conservative and a neocon.

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                    • Morat,
                      That coal company’s right. Of course,t hat coal company pollutes way out of what’s legal, and has been grandfathered through ALL versions of the Clean Air Act. Sons of bitches killed a ton of people these last thirty years. I’ll be glad when the cheaters go.

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              • He is somewhat responsible for the bust, having won the legal case that forced banks to lend to minority homeowners who couldn’t possibly keep up with the payments, and resulting in changes in federal policy. Off his 100+ clients, I think all but a couple went under.

                But we don’t blame him for that. The problem is that the economy was projected to recover by now even by Obama. It’s hardly budged.

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                • Uh oh, more vaguely racist conspiracies. I assume you mean this:

                  http://news.investors.com/ibd-editorials/061512-615028-fingerprints-of-obama-on-subprime-foreclosure-crisis.htm?p=full

                  So Obama worked for a firm that prosecuted lawsuits to stop banks from racist discrimination in lending practices. (Heaven help us if he had been a lawyer actually defending criminals!)

                  Therefore Obama partially caused the financial collapse. (Which you imply was caused by those black folks bein dumb and irresponsible. Will they ever learn?)

                  Oy.

                  You are racist and I hope you go back to Redstate or the Daily Caller or whatever.

                  I strongly enourage everyone to ignore you forever.

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                • That’s simply not true. Here’s how it worked in reality.

                  Redlining, the practice of rejecting mortgage loan applications based on ZIP code, was once standard practice. It was a self-reinforcing cycle. The banks themselves pushed for the elimination of redlining because they had a new scheme in place where they could bundle such mortgages and sell them in bulk, thus allowing the banks to capture revenue immediately. This emerged in the wake of the repeal of Glass-Steagall, tearing down the wall separating investment banks from retail banks.

                  Bush pushed for just such loans in 2002. If you didn’t know that, you do now. So don’t push this brand of hooey on the good folks around here any more.

                  At a personal level, I had a hand in rejiggering Citigroup’s loan issuance policy rulesets. I’ve been doing AI for a long time, pretty much since it began, George. I was told to pull that ruleset into two pieces: one was policy, the other a pricing tree. Where loans had once been rejected, the rulesets I built would take the differential of the rejection and route that application higher into the pricing tree. Got bad credit? No problem. Instead of a loan offer at G%, Citi will offer that loan at G+9%.

                  The blame lies foursquare on the people who orchestrated such policies, knowing full well those loans were bad. They wrote crappy loans so they could bundle them into CDOs and nobody paid too much attention to the lower tranches where those loans resided.

                  I grow increasingly sick of repeating these stories. I was like Forrest Gump in the Crash of 2008, right there, coding up those rules and pricing trees. When I pulled out of the parking lot at Citi in St Peters MO in early 2006, I looked in the rear view mirror, fully expecting that office building to implode at any moment. I knew what was coming. My mortgage was long-since paid, but I knew what would happen to all those poor saps still watching Flip This House.

                  The little do-gooder banks that still clung to their mortgages, they were stupid, too. They were completely ruined and nobody’s going to replace them.

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                  • Likewise, my husband designed risk management software for an asset management company that bought up a lot of CDOs. They knew full well what was going to happen once the bubble burst and were able to manage their portfolio in such a way as to minimize their losses compared to similar companies.

                    The whole “banks were forced to lend to unworthy minorities” myth has been debunked numerous times, yet keeps popping up in reality-denying right wing circles. It drives me crazy.

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                    • The worst part of it was that they were discriminating, flatly, based on skin color, and got sued to betsy because of it (NC ran a sting op on the whole mess).
                      But now we gotta blame the Feds (John Fucking McCain? Ryan-the-Keynesian? No, let’s go blame the democrats, who were trying to put a few paltry reins on the runaway horse).

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  7. Here is a reason that is just as plausible as any of the excrement being pimped over the past couple of days: They thought the 3/5ths rule was still in place.

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  8. I remember John Steward saying his job — being a comedian — would be more difficult with Obama in office.

    So if you view FOX as entertainment instead of a serious news organization, perhaps this was all a Steward-inspired set-up, taking advantage of the epistemic closure they already knew existed in Conservative circles. Because they’re job is easier with Obama in office.

    That’s my grand conspiracy theory of the election, and I’m sticking to it.

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      • This sounds mean, I think, and the failure to close my html tag doesn’t help. I mean it’s annoying because there’s already a term for it, “closed mindedness,” and “epistemic closure” just comes off as a pretentious way of saying “closed mindedness.” Plus, there’s already a meaning for “epistemic closure” that has nothing to do with closed mindedness (it is, oddly, about expanding one’s knowledge, though in a limited and formal sense). On top of that, it’s much more ambiguous than “closed minded”: “closure” has multiple meanings, including an established one in psychology, and the use of “epistemic” makes the literal meaning “knowledge closure,” which is an odd construction (“cognitive closure” might be better, even if it’s still just a condescending way of saying “closed minded,” plus it also has a preexisting, unrelated meaning).

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        • well, it’s a useful cliche for the tribalism exhibited by Republicans. Valley of the Blind springs to mind.

          But it’s not meant as ‘closed minded,’ as I recall when Julian Sanchez’s post on it, he meant closed information loops; only accepting the information that confirmed the existing bias. And while there are lots of folk who are closed minded, the adoption of literally denying knowledge by a major political party is a rather novel event, deserving of a memorable name, no matter how obscure.

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        • When I first heard such a thing, it was “epistemic trap”, as in a lobster trap. Easy to get into, the lobster is heading in the direction of the bait. But it’s harder to get out of — not impossible, mind you. The entry hole would serve just as well as an exit.

          It’s the “closure” part which seems a bit much. It’s more than closed-mindedness, though that’s one aspect of what’s meant. All sorts of fallacies arise from the problem: the Glittering Generality, all sorts of post-hoc fallacies, question begging, fallacies of composition and the like. A person can change his mind, abandon prior conclusions, revisit the evidence, admit fallacious thinking. In short, people can learn. Eating my own words from time to time has proven to be a nutritious meal.

          Closure is its own problem. A closure, in programming, is a tacit admission the only time a block of code will execute is when it’s operating in a specific context. Debts must eventually be paid. Doesn’t mean a deficit is always a bad thing, but running deficits without thinking through the problem of repayment is not wise.

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  9. I don’t get the constant harping in these comments about Obama winning with fewer votes than last time (at least at the moment, since millions of west coast votes still need to be counted). That like bragging after your team lost to the Kurt Warner led “Greatest Show On Turf” St. Louis Rams 20 – 6, because you held their normally prolific offense to a pedestrian 20 points. You still lost by 14 points, dude.

    Is this supposed to make Romney’s loss look better?

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    • Yes. It’s also a means of delegitimizing Obama’s win. I think that’s in part what all the poll denialism and charges of voter fraud before the election were meant to do–lay a groundwork for why Obama didn’t really “win” the election. The Republican alternate reality bubble has yet to bust.

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    • Canadian conservatives speak from experience. Harper spent approximately the last decade endeavouring to convince Canadian’s he’s not actually a jerk* and to muzzle any members of his party who were on the extreme right and inclined to say dumb things. (He’s gotten a reputation for a fairly dictatorial party-leadership style, but part of that is about ensuring that if any of his caucus have views similar to Akin’s, they keep it severely to themselves.) It shouldn’t be as long a process in the US as in Canada, as conservatism is more fundamentally distrusted here.

      *For the record, he is. But he managed to repress his ability to act like one for a few weeks in the spring of 2011, to great advantage.

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  10. Oh for God’s sake. Look, George, TVD, wardsmith, Density Duck and anyone else tempted to indulge in a major sulk: OBAMA WON.

    All this silly parsing of percentages and pigmentations – “But when you really examine the exit polls for all districts where the incumbent state senator is left-handed with a growing bald spot, then you can easily see that every black voter who liked Thai cooking and who had an Irish-Danish grandmother born on a farm east of the Ohio River actually voted for Romney!!!!! – is meaningless in the face of the Electoral College vote. He won.
    Suck on it, he won. Eventually you’ll get to like the taste.

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    • it’s fairly ridic, but i remember 2004. i lived in a part of brooklyn with “we say no to the bush agenda” banners in every third window. i remember the salty ham tears, the thick conspiracies laid out in painstakingly insane detail, the denouncements of half the country, the hopeful mutterings in bars about presidential assassinations, the general malaise of watching the path of the true hand of god once again having been thwarted by karl rove and white people and all sorts of diabolical stuff.

      desperately absurd conservative twister games aside, you guys should be careful you don’t give yourselves tendonitis with all the backpatting – one day again the tears will flow for you. :)

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      • It’s not tendonitis to point out that George’s and TVD’s impressions of Karl Rove are simply ridiculous. When someone has been making predictions about election results that turn out to be spectacularly wrong, then they’d better be prepared to take their lumps. (See again: Karl Rove, who apparently has inspired some major Republican donors to start asking what happened to all that SuperPAC money that got raised based on “realistic” Team Red projections.)

        Also: I am not one of “you guys”, I’m a Canadian conservative – who prefers that politicians not be batsh*t insane when they’re running to head up the country right beside mine and which has nuclear weapons.

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        • my apologies for lumping you in with the artisanal cheese bloggeurs. but consider it a general comment.

          crazy unhinged nonsense going on, sure. some serious reality-denying should probably calm down routines abound. but that’s what happens in the aftermath of an election, because people are crazy and narratives need to be THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT ELECTION IN HISTORY in order to keep people motivated. anxiety is the pin # to the atm of the nation’s animal spirits. plus, the internet just totally tosses gasoline on the fire that is awareness of the inner lives of others.

          and one day it will be the other way, and things will be reversed, but not different.

          that said, i can think of many synonyms for romney – a ridiculously slippery weasel, craven 2nd generation spawn of satan, etc – but batfish insane is not one of them. someone like santorum…that’s a bit closer to dangerously unhinged lunatic (along with meanspirited bigoted jackass, and so on).

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    • In 2004 Bush gained 10.4 million votes over his 2000 tally. Obama lost almost the same amount. The Republican problem was that their voters were afraid to appear racist because the only way they could tell the two candidates apart was by color.

      “Which northern liberal big-government health-care-mandating high-finance candidate with a weak foreign policy are y ou leaning to, Bob?”

      ‘I can’t decide. I think maybe the black one.”

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