Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Day After

Maybe We Should Just Run Lightman Next Election?
In the Fox TV show Lie To Me the fictional Dr. Cal Lightman (Tim Roth) is a scientist who is an expert at discerning lies. His team is hired to uncover falsehoods in crisis situations. Maybe--do you think the Republican party could hire him?

Last Night's Election
Last night we all watched something totally predictable play out: Obama won almost all of his swing states by about a 1-2% margin. Anyone paying attention to the election could have predicted this. The polls were (almost: not Rasmussen) in agreement. The average of the polls was, as has been historically the case, very accurate. The quants from Nate Silver to Dr. Sam Wang called it ... on the money.

Why was it a surprise?

He'd Be Able To Tell You
Here's Michael Barone, a senior political analyst who, we are told, has forgotten more about polling and elections than most pundits ever knew. This is him  writing in the National Review two days ago (he calls the election 335 EV for Romney):
Ohio (18). The anti-Romney auto-bailout ads have Obama running well enough among blue-collar voters for him to lead most polls. But many polls anticipate a more Democratic electorate than in 2008. Early voting tells another story, and so does the registration decline in Cleveland’s Cuyahoga County. In 2004, intensity among rural, small-town, and evangelical voters, undetected by political reporters who don’t mix in such circles, produced a narrow Bush victory. I see that happening again. Romney.
Pennsylvania (20). Everyone would have picked Obama two weeks ago. I think higher turnout in pro-coal western Pennsylvania and higher Republican percentages in the Philadelphia suburbs could produce a surprise. The Romney team evidently thinks so too. Their investment in TV time is too expensive to be a mere feint, and as this is written, Romney is planning a Sunday event in Bucks County outside Philly. Wobbling on my limb, Romney.
Wisconsin (ten). Recent polling is discouraging for Republicans. But Governor Scott Walker handily survived the recall effort in June with a great organizational push. Democrats depend heavily on margins in inner-city Milwaukee (population down) and the Madison university community. But early voting is down in university towns in other states. The Obama campaign is prepared to turn out a big student vote, but you don’t see many Obama signs on campuses. Romney.
And so on. Needless to say, people who believed him got pretty humiliated last night. If Barone "forgot more about elections than most pundits know" apparently he kept on forgetting. Yard signs? The idea that Romney's mega-funded machine couldn't be a feint in PA? That every consistent poll in OH was wrong? That's wisdom? Really?

Don't Actually Lie To Him: It Doesn't Go Well
The conservative blogs were almost entirely complicit in creating a story that Romney wasn't just up--that he was way, way up. The "high-information" electorate, which reads these blogs absorbed this message unquestioningly. Here is a major conservative blog's (HotAir) reader survey:
Uh ... Yeah? High Information Voters?
Romney is more likely to win Florida than North Carolina? He's around 80-90% likely to win Ohio? Where are they getting this stuff? Probably here. The link, of course, is to Unskewed Presumably they will now issue an Unskewed site which maintains the alternate Romney-won universe.

If you read the comments on conservative blogs you'll see a fair amount of buyer's remorse--people who felt that they were misled by the blogs (one writer compared himself to Charlie Brown, the blog to Lucy, and the Election Win to the football). They are right to: compare Karl Rove's prediction (a modest 285 Romney-Win) to the every-bit-as-Right-Wing Election Projection's final call:
President Obama, 303-235
The final Election Projection is posted, and the numbers are not what this conservative Republican had hoped they would be. President Obama is projected to fall a bit short of his convincing victory four years ago but still comfortably win re-election. Mitt Romney is projected to win all the states John McCain won in 2008 and pick up Indiana, North Carolina, Florida and Nebraska's CD-2. In the popular vote, after trailing for several days in late October and early November, the President has moved back in the projected lead by half a point there as well.
The writing wasn't just "on the wall"--it was all over the wall--both sides. If Rove's projections are no better than mine (and if the Blogging Ceasar's are, in fact, better than both of ours) why the hell are people--especially thought leaders like Ace from Ace of Spades, Ed Morrsey, and Allahpundit--listening to Rove and Barone and not to Election Projection? What possible reason could that be?

But What If You Want To Be Lied To?
As the election results trickled in painfully last night I think it was, really, pretty clear: no one wants to hear the truth. We all think we do--but the reality is we don't or, rather, the vocal, asshole all-fired-up base doesn't. Maybe there really are "concern trolls" who go on message boards and post false-flag posts claiming to be partisan and friendly but being "concerned" about the election. Maybe--but these guys are mostly indistinguishable from anyone looking at the real data and going: "Romney's going to lose. PA must be a head-fake. The internals couldn't be that different."

And yet brain-trust guys like Jay Cost don't just fall for the lie that PA is about to turn red--they intellectually defend it. Here's the last Morning Jay from before the election:
Romney can’t be down in Ohio by 3, tied in Florida, Virginia, and Colorado, yet still be running neck and neck with the president nationwide. You literally cannot find the votes for the GOP, unless you assume that California is a toss-up and New York is set to go Republican for the first time in thirty years.
Final point: I wonder if Romney has caught Team Obama flat-footed. For months the Obama campaign has bet that the map would basically look like it did in 2008, then after the debates there was a definite shift. Now, the president is left fighting not in the 2008 battlegrounds, but in the 2004 battlegrounds,which included Pennsylvania. I do not think the president’s campaign was fully prepared for this, and I bet he wishes he could have all the money poured into North Carolina back, to redirect it into Pennsylvania.
Yeah, Jay: I bet that's what Obama was thinking last night. All the polling showed it hard blue and the assumption was that ALL the polling models were wrong. How'd that work out? PA was a pretty early call last night, wasn't it?

The fact of the matter is that the thought-machine of the GOP has destabilized. While there are some voices that make a kind of sense (I'm counting David Frum's "I'm Voting Mitt Because Even Though I Like Obama Care" and Justin Green's "Give Them Power So They'll HAVE To Be Responsible With It" as kind of making sense) most simply don't.

Instead the entire machine--from thought leaders to right-wing media (here is the PJ Media page for predictions--there 9 Romney-wins--many by land-slide, and 4 I-Don't-Knows. To his credit, Victor Davis Handson predicted Romney by only 1 EV) down to the bloggers, down to the thousands or tens of thousands of readers and viewers. Fox News and Limbaugh Listeners (his take on Nate Silver through the link) are complicit in this. GOP political thought has become a sales-pitch telling people what they want to hear. Rasmussen knows this: their polls showed a tie (actually +1 Romney) when Obama was up about 2pts in the national vote. Apparently there's economic value in having pro-republican polls.

I'm betting Fox News knows it too. I'd say Nate Silver knows it--except, you know, he was right. Again. So why aren't people on the right paying more attention to him?

Oh, right:
Just Make It A Good One

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