Friday, June 27, 2008


An addition on why the LA Times poll is rubbish

As Frank Newport of Gallup points out "As is always the case, there are some slight differences in the way the polls are conducted. The Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll asks a "right direction/wrong direction" question before the ballot. Our Gallup Poll Daily tracking asks a registered voter screen before the ballot. The Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll includes the phrase "or would you vote for a candidate from some other party?" Our Gallup poll does not include this phrase. It is unclear how the order of these questions may affect the polling results."

And as Nate Silver points out

"That's a pretty big no-no in my book. Question order definitely matters -- the later you ask a question, the more it's going to be influenced by the implicit messaging triggered by previous questions. In this case, an overwhelming majority of Americans think the country is on the wrong track, and most of them also associate that with the incumbent Republican administration. So it isn't surprising that a Republican presidential candidate performs worse if you ask about presidential preference immediately afterward, or that Republican party ID was lower in this survey."

Bottom Line:

The race is closer to 5 points.... Which speaks to either Obama's inability to be a "commander in chief" or McCain's strong brand....

My guess is that it is the prior (hopefully I will post on that as there is an excellent column by Charlie Cook which is how Obama could end blowing McCain out of the water....

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Not everyday do I agree with a Republican Polling firm... but they are spot on here

If you pay attention to the news, you may have seen two national polls that have come out in the past week showing the glorious Senator from Illinois building a 15+ point lead over the illustrious Senator from Arizona.

I find both polls to be complete and utter hogwash. The race is closer to around five points (or tied if you believe the Gallup tracking poll).

The fact of the matter is Newsweek polls are among some of the worst put out by national news organizations (Washington Post/ABC News and the NBC News polls are usually the best). And in this particular case, the LA Times also sucks the noggin.

I remember in 2004 George W. Bush was the benefactor of poor polling done by the Gallup organization showing him up by double digits when Rasmussen tracking (which I think is among the best). Frank Newport of Gallup had to defend the company against bias...

This year, the Gallup tracking polling has been pretty right on... its results have matched closely those of Rasmussen...

But the Newsweek and LA Times poll have picked up the mantle....

Read here:

A preview:

"The first major concern is that leaves 12% of the survey’s sample unaccounted for. Having double digits don’t know or refused on party ID is a quite unusual finding. Furthermore, since the LA Times does not release other demographics like age and ethnicity, it becomes very difficult for an independent observer to verify whether a survey is methodologically flawed or simply an outlier in public opinion trends."

Now, you may ask why this is important?

"The key for the campaign is to make sure that when the media is reporting on survey results, that they look beyond the horse race but also look at the survey’s methodology and demographics. We are now seeing polls, like the L.A. Times and Newsweek surveys, which are getting heavy coverage in the press, even though they clearly showed unusual results on party identification, as well as other demographics like age, in the case of the Newsweek survey."

If people get an idea that the race is a blowout, a bandwagon effect begins to occur. That is people start voicing their support for who they think the winner will be. Nobody likes to vote for a loser.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


FISA and Obama

I'm not a policy wonk... I have opinions on FISA, but I cannot tell you its details in and out...

That said, I must admit that I will view Obama's actions on the bill with great interest. The bill in its current form represents some form of compromise, although most liberal bloggers and many congressmen argue that the legislation "not only sanctions warrantless wiretapping, but also grants retroactive immunity to the telecom companies that were complicit in Bush's illegal spying program" (

The risks in opposing such legislation are quite obvious, McCain can call out Obama for not acting to protect Americans against terrorists (a position I'm not in a position to call correct or incorrect). And in case you didn't know, McCain would absolutely love to have that debate (see Charlie Black's comments). In fact, according to many polls, including the Gallup tracking poll (, terrorism is the ONLY issue where McCain holds an edge (a substantial one at that at 19 points). Obama could be opening the door to attacks in an election that is his to lose by most accounts.

One has to have the feeling that in any other election year prior to this, Obama would vote for the "compromise".

The risks in not blocking the FISA bill are in my opinion not as obvious. First, in viewing the liberal blogs (whether they be Daily Kos or MyDD), liberals want absolutely NOTHING to do with this legislation. Take a look at this post on DKos "Which are worse, the provisions included in the new FISA Amendments Act or the ones that aren't there but should be?" ( DKos could have been called ObamaKos after Edwards dropped out of the primary..... By not opposing the legislation, Obama risks a fractured blogosphere (fundraising anyone?). Second, the not so obvious point, Obama is seen as a unconventional politician (a view I don't and have never shared). He was against the Iraq War before it was cool. He doesn't take money from lobbyists. What type of new politician would "grants retroactive immunity to the telecom companies that were complicit in Bush's illegal spying program"?

That said, in the end, my guess is that Obama will vote for the bill for the most part.... and that is the RIGHT move.

Look, liberals want to get back in the White House so bad that they would have voted for Lieberman... okay maybe not that much, but you get the point. If you lose a couple of leftists on the borders at this point it doesn't matter that much... Obama's lead is large enough in enough states that he doesn't need to rock the boat with the electorate at large. Furthermore, Obama has cemented his hold on the mantle as the change candidate... what is the 72 year old longtime politician John McCain going to claim that throne? Haha, yea right.

Besides, as this diary on DKos points out ... "Up until now, I haven't gotten that worked up about FISA, in particular the retroactive immunity. Yes, it's bad. Very bad. Parts of the new FISA legislation are even worse that the immunity clause, in particular the extension from the 72 hours, to one week, of wire tappin' prior to going to the FISA court, as well as the seeming expansion from "foreign" to more domestic sources. It is a bad bill and should be defeated, although I say again, I'm not tremendously worked up about it."

At the end of the day, the choice for Obama is obvious.... vote for the bill.

Friday, June 20, 2008


The McCain problem.... simply put

You want to know what McCain's problem? Just take a look at a recent poll... his favorables are higher than his unfavorables, but he still trails Obama. Even in the Newsweek poll where McCain is trailing by 16 points ( (a poll that is garbage as most Newsweek polls are), McCain still manages to have a favorability rating of positive 12 (12% more of people like him then don't). The problem for him is that Obama rating is an astounding +36! But look at other polling, Rasmussen ( has his favorables higher than Obama's, and he still trails!!!!

This puts McCain is a very difficult position.... it doesn't matter how much people like him because the election doesn't seem to be about McCain at all. It has and will always be about Obama. As many people have pointed out, Obama was able to ultimately succeed in the primary because he was able not so much prove Hillary to be incompetent, but more that he was able to prove himself to be. The same is holding true in the general election. As long as people have a favorable view of him, he will lead. As long as over 50% of people have a favorable opinion of him, he will win.

So how the devil does Obama lose?

Well the answer is quite simple... his favorables fall below 50%. If Obama isn't seen as competent, he will lose... and by default McCain will win.

If this script seems familiar, it should..... It's in a way the Kerry strategy of 2004. When people pulled the lever, marked the ballot, or used a computer machine that you hoped would register a vote for John Kerry, they weren't doing so in favor of Kerry but against Bush ( Of course, it didn't help in the end that most people didn't like Kerry, but in the end it was that they didn't hate Bush. But let's bring it back a second.... why didn't people like Kerry? Though God knows many confounding variables exist, the numbers of "which candidate attacked unfairly" and which candidate got the ultimate share of the vote were nearly identical. In other words, Kerry pretty much took himself out of the running because he needed Bush to drop in favorability..... and thus ran negative ads, which made Bush seem more "Presidential" (perhaps?).

This lesson and the facts put McCain a precarious position... how the devil can you bring Obama down without pulling yourself down too?

I don't know the answer. But what I can tell you is that McCain is dead to right if both candidates are viewed with the same favorable ratings....

You can articulate policy differences all you want.... but unless Obama is seen as "distant", "out of touch", "unlikable", etc. this election is adios.

P.S. If you think I'm nuts comparing Obama to Bush, check out today's "The Note" with Rick Klein: .


New Hampshire....

My adopted home state of New Hampshire is probably the first or second most powerful political state in the nation. Both it and Iowa hold the first contests in the nation during the primary season, and both are tossup states in the general election. They were two of the only three states to change sides between the 2000 and 2004 election (New Mexico was the other). It is a state with a ton of Independent voters (in 2004, Independents made up 44% of voters according to the exit polls). In 2004, Kerry carried these voters 56% to 42%... and thus the state by less than 10,000 votes. In 2000, Gore carried Independents by only a 47% to 43% margin... with Nader carrying 7%. Bush won New Hampshire by less than 7,000 votes and thus the election.

In 2006, New Hampshire saw its Democratic governor reelected by about 50%, both Republican congressmen outed, and the state legislature flipped from Republican to Democrat for the first time in a very long time. The state allows civil unions for same sex couples. A movement is abound to allow for a state and income tax (as opposed to property taxes now in place).

And now a new Rasmussen polls has Obama by 11% (, according to the poll "Among voters not affiliated with either major political party, Obama leads McCain 50% to 35%." I don't have to tell you that number is probably a death knell if it held. He also picks off 18% of Republicans, which is double what Kerry picked up. Buoyed by what looks to be a successful attempt by Jeanne Shaheen to knock off Republican incumbent Senator John Sununu (every poll has her up), one must think that Obama looks golden.

Let me be the contrarian here.

John McCain is an extremely unique position to win in November. Why?

Well first, McCain has be running for Governor of New Hampshire since 2000. He used the state to jump start an insurgent campaign for President in 2000 (a state he won by 19% with the help of Independent voters). When he looked dead to right in 2008, he retreated to New Hampshire and won a contentious primary against Mitt Romney. The voters know him... and my guess is that their opinion about him are probably stable.

His favorables in the state are nearly equal to Obama's at around 60%. But, the poll offers more interesting information. By more than 2 to 1, Off-Shore drilling (or "deep sea oil exploration") is favored. By a plurality (40 to 30%), New Hampshire voters like free trade. This directly contradicts national numbers with 56% wanting a reworking of NAFTA. And 48% as compared to 30% of voters believe the national government should NOT nationalize the oil industry.

McCain's only chance to compete in the state is make these differences known. More than that, he has got to make Obama unacceptable.... as I mentioned before, I don't believe that McCain's favorables are going to move... but Obama's very well might (in fact his favorables have moved from survey to survey).

In other words, McCain should go negative.

He has got to pick up the a good 10% of Independent voters and make sure Obama does not and cannot pick off his base.

If he doesn't, he is dead in the state.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Be Weary... Be Weary.

Ohio.... '08.

Two polls out this week have Senator Obama with what I would call a significant lead: 6 and 11 points. Both polls are done by reputable firms (Quinnipiac and Public Policy Polling respectively). But today, another poll is out from another reputable firm (Rasmussen), and this time McCain is up one....

What does this mean? It means hold on tight. It means this race isn't over... 5 months to go.

Obama has the edge, but McCain can strike.

Monday, June 16, 2008


If Obama wins state A, he will win state B and McCain same way

Let's face it, if Obama lost the state of California, he wouldn't win Texas..... an extreme example I know, but it's the truth.

Here are some helpful standards to keep an eye on (based on demographics and poll data).....

If Obama wins North Carolina, it means he has won Virginia. Same for Georgia and Virginia.

If Obama has won Wisconsin, it means he has won Iowa (some might argue the reverse, but Obama looks much stronger in the latter than the former).

If Obama has won Nevada, it means he has won Nevada.

If Obama has won Arkansas (very small chance), it means has won Missouri (which itself is reliant on a win in Wisconsin).

If McCain manages to pull out one of Maine's congressional districts, it means he has won New Hampshire.

If McCain wins Pennsylvania, it means he has won Ohio (and thus the election).

If you notice, fewer McCain states are on the board.... you might take this as a sign that I think McCain has a lower chance at winning.... well he does, but that isn't the reasoning.

It's simply that at this point, it looks like Obama will be on the move in more states than McCain.

Further, the two most important states in this election... Michigan and Colorado are what I view independent of other states. In other words, I could see either candidate winning both Nevada and New Mexico and not Colorado. Further, I could see either candidate winning Ohio and not Michigan...

If I were to make an educated estimate.... Obama at this point would probably win with somewhere around 295 electoral votes... depending mostly on Michigan, Ohio, New Mexico, Nevada, Virginia, and New Hampshire being the biggest tossups.

Friday, June 13, 2008


Tim Russert RIP (1950-2008)

I'm not going to say much because so much has and will be said. All I will say is that he knew things others didn't. He was always on top of his game. I was a fan of Governor Richardson in the beginning of this campaign... Russert rip Richardson to bits. It was the same fate many other politicians met. It was always hard but fair.

I wish all journalists were as profound and intellectually honest as he was.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


What the devil is going on in North Carolina?

A state that for the longest time during the primary season seemed to be Obamanation... then Wright hit and we held the phone only to see Obama triumph. Now, in the general election, we have a state that is shaping up to be as interesting if not more so than New Hampshire (a Gubernatorial, Senatorial, and Presidential race).

The Senate race is between incumbent Liz Dole and challenger Kay Hagan. Hagan came out of her primary in a surprisingly strong position... but Dole has run some positive ads in the state and her lead in a recent Rasmussen poll has increased to double digits ( Truth be told is that Dole will most likely win when it comes down to it... favorable ratings too high in what can at least be deemed as a leaning conservative state.

The Governors race is between Dem Bev Perdue and Repub Patrick McCrory. Polls are very tight.... but recent polls suggest that Perdue (the Lt. Gov) is the slight favorite.

But to what I want to get to... the Presidential race. A Rasmussen Poll ( has McCain up by 2 (45-43) with other (that being Libertarian Bob Barr) gaining six percent. Around this same time in 2000, Bush led by about 5 to 7 points ( He ended up winning by about 12 points. So, we'll McCain probably win the state.... yes.

But we shouldn't be so quick to dismiss Obama. The state has a significant (nearly a quarter) African American population, which is sure to come out to vote. Two, Obama's favorables and unfavorables are both around 50%. Obama's merely going to have to win those who view him favorably. This is especially true with Barr (who will in the end probably win 2-4 points) in the race. In other words, Obama must only get to about 48%. Three the state knows Obama due to the primary. He runs in a much better position than Kerry did in terms of neighbor angle (I know you). Four, its a Democratic year.

The demographics favor McCain (the baseline regression at Fivethirtyeight has him favored to win by more than 7%)... but hey, as I always say.... politics ain't stagnant.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


What exactly do SA guide reviews tell us?

Full disclosure: I was not in the specific class I speak of... and its a very specific case of a certain type of review. I feel most reviews are very helpful.

But without further or do.....

Like any other Dartmouth student, I often rely on Student Assembly Reviews to guide me through selecting courses. I often read a lot into other students' comments. I'm unhappy when courses that look interesting to me are not reviewed... and I'm kinda even more upset when the reviews are lacking substance (you know the ones that say "great class" and that's all).

But I'm beginning to learn something, I should have learned much earlier.... student assembly reviews are extraordinarily biased (as the SA says so)... towards the positive and negative. Let's face it, most people are not like me (who reviews every course with zeal.... and probably too many words). Most only will review if they had a great or awful experience.

A bad grade is not something that most people find to be disturbing. It's not something that will make someone go online and write a review about. Bad reviews usually come from courses where too much work is assigned, but most often are from classes where professors have no clue what they are doing ("awful lecturer").

Good reviews, on the other hand, can come from great classes.... or just ones where it is easy to get a good grade (let's face it... if you get a good grade, you will probably think the class is better.... it's difficult to separate the two). They can also come from easy classes.

To me, this is a somewhat disaster waiting to happen. What happens if you get a course where the teacher puts together good lectures, doesn't have a ton of work, but the class is very difficult? Well you get a ton of good reviews that don't reflect the difficulty of the class.

I do of course talk from personal experience. When a class is relatively easy for me, I say so. When a class is hard, I also say so. Unfortunately, many people didn't write reviews for the latter saying it was difficult despite a pretty low median grade. I know the class was difficult for many people with a low median grade. I don't believe the class was filled with a bunch of slackers. Yet, the reviews rarely reflected the difficulty of the class (basically saying, "if you just try hard, you'll do well"). Of course, these reviews are coming from the kids who did well (full disclosure, I'm guilty of this).

My personal favorite are the reviews from a certain class taught this spring... Everything about the reviews are glowing... They basically say "read the questions carefully and everything will be fine". Not a single thing about how hard the course is except to say that those reports are overblown...

The median for the spring semester was a B-.... which for those unfamiliar with Dartmouth is nearly unheard of... even in the sciences.

The reason? Not a lot of work, nice prof, good lecturer.... but of course, the class seems very difficult... which doesn't come out in the reviews.

I guess I can say its lucky that the median grade is posted with the class. But even so, something tells me that the comments play a very large part.


McCain's comments on Today, could be a perfect example of....

how the media frames an issue.

Here's the clip .

In it McCain says basically that when the troops come home is not that important but rather the amount of casualties suffered by the troops in Iraq. He compares it to South Korea where we have had troops for over 50 years with few casualties.

Democrats ( are jumping on McCain for saying that it doesn't matter how long the troops stay... saying the real enemy is in Afghanistan and that bringing home the troops is important.

McCain of course fires back saying that "The fact that Sen. McCain opposes a timeline for withdrawal and is principally concerned about the safety of American troops and the security of Iraq is pretty much "dog bites man."

How the media covers this story will play a major role in which side is truly seen...

Or maybe they are one of the same coin.

Monday, June 09, 2008


Okay, Nate Silver... I can't tell.....

You know you got a problem when you're an analyst... and people cannot tell the difference between your partisan opinion and "expert" opinion. I for one cannot tell whether Silver is hoping for Obama to cruise to a general election victory or he honestly in his "expert" opinion believes it will (

In this post, he moves from talking about a post-Hillary Obama bounce... to talking about a "bounce" that lasts throughout the campaign season. The fact of the matter is that a candidate who leads in June won't necessarily lead in November... even when the dynamics favor the candidate (see 1988 and Dukakis). Granted, this year is especially poison for the GOP (for God sake... they are talking about defending Saxby Chambliss seat in Georgia that has no business of being in play). Given, what I perceive to be a major jump.... with no statistical evidence to speak of..... I beg the question "can someone who is openly partisan operate a website that is not?"

The mainstream media's experts try to remain as non-partisan as possible (at least openly) for a reason. It is so that you believe its coverage is even handed and can be trusted.

I have no question of Silver's innate and mathematical abilities to predict elections. It has been proven... and his website (in its number form) remains a powerful tool. But I often wonder.... does this guy have the necessary skills to make a prediction about something that is five months down the line?

Sunday, June 08, 2008


270 to Win....

This article by Stu Rothenberg is pretty straight on.... I'll say Florida will not be a state to flip to Obama... and Wisconsin is not going to flip to McCain. The rest are fair... and in play.

His analysis on Obama winning the popular vote and losing the electoral college also seems pretty straight on.

Obama will probably win Iowa and Colorado... he would only be 2 electoral votes away if he held the Kerry states... he currently polls well in both of those states.... but he also trails in Michigan....

I think Obama can "blow out" McCain (Virginia, Ohio, and carrying the southwest besides Arizona...)....

But personally, if a candidate wins both Michigan and Colorado, I think that candidate will probably win the whole thing...

More to come later.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008


Well let's see... I'm not dead and don't have down syndrome

"A mass study found that deaths of children fathered by over-45s occurred at almost twice the rate of those fathered by men aged between 25 and 30.

Scientists believe that children of older fathers are more likely to suffer particular congenital defects as well as autism, schizophrenia and epilepsy. The study was the first of its kind of such magnitude in the West, and researchers believe the findings are linked to the declining quality of sperm as men age. "

Well let's see... my father was above 45 when he fathered me... I'm nearly 20... I'm not dead. I don't have autism, schizophrenia, or epilepsy.....

Studies like these are very interesting, but in the end I think this tells the story "A total of 100,000 children born between 1980 and 1996 were examined, of whom 830 have so far died before they reached 18, the majority when they were less than a year old."

830? Was this children who died with fathers above 45 or total fathers. In either case, the number is minute... less than 1%..... this is like saying that I'm double the risk for a heart attack, when the original risk was 1% and the new risk is 2%. It's nearly meaningless in my opinion.

Talk about hazardous data... jeez louise.


South Dakota- American Research Group against Fivethirtyeight

Okay here's the deal. The only pollster to poll Montana and South Dakota in the past week has been ARG. They say Clinton by 26 in South Dakota and Obama by 4 in Montana. Fivethirtyeight using regression says Obama by 5 in South Dakota and 18 in Montana.

Personally, I think ARG is on crack and needs to see a doctor immediately. Clinton's campaign says they will lose big in Montana and will lose by single digits in South Dakota.

If ARG is ever right.... well then I will issue a personal apology.... further, I would say Obama has got MAJOR, MAJOR problems. But it won't happen.... perhaps Clinton will win SD, but it will be more like a point or two than 26.... I don't even know where that number came from.

I mean look at the other primaries and caucuses around the region... Idaho, North Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota... in the caucuses in those states big Obama wins... in the primaries (which were beauty contests) close races. Nothing suggests based on demographics (of which fivethirtyeight is mostly based) that SD is any different.

Montana, I'll just let slide because at least ARG is saying Obama will win....


Just a quick little post on Jim Clyburn

Jim Clyburn (House Dem Whip) on April 25th:

On Clinton supporters, "But they're hell-bound to make it impossible for Obama to win."

Today, he endorsed Obama.

Was it ever really in doubt?

Personally, I think the Congressman is a genius. He held out appearing to be not picking sides.... allowing himself to be seen as neutral... when in fact it was known probably back as far as the SC contest 5 months ago that he would be endorsing Obama.

From January 11, 2008:

"ASHINGTON — Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the highest-ranking African-American in Congress, said he was rethinking his neutral stance in his state’s presidential primary out of disappointment at comments by Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton that he saw as diminishing the historic role of civil rights activists."

Yea, true neutral.

My problem with Fox News has always been not so much that its conservative as much as they try to appear as being neutral. If I see an apple, I'll call it an apple. Clyburn was always for Obama and to say otherwise was/is a joke. Why didn't he just endorse earlier? I guess he wanted to make sure all the voters were heard. But does the Congressman honestly believe that voters aren't smart enough to realize what is going on?

Sunday, June 01, 2008


Do primary wounds heal?

I think we can all agree that this primary has NOT been the nastiest race any of us have ever seen. Its not the ugliest primary I have ever seen. For me, the honor goes to the 2001 NYC Democratic Mayoral Primary (Freddy Ferrer and Mark Green). All that said, I honestly don't know if the wounds from this primary will heal. Usually they do, but I gotta tell you there are some pissed off Clinton supporters. These are women and old folks.

I'm just going to post some numbers from the exit polls that were taken from states Pennsylvania and on.

1/3 of Democratic primary voters would be unsatisfied if Obama was the nominee. Only 3% of primary electorate in Penn was Republican.

1/3 of Democratic primary voters would be unsatisfied if Obama was the nominee. 10% of the electorate in Indiana was Republican.

North Carolina-
3/10 of Democratic primary voters would be unsatisfied if Obama was the nominee. 5% of the primary electorate in NC was Republican.

West Virginia-
6/11 of Democratic primary voters would be unsatisfied if Obama was the nominee. 4% of the primary electorate in WV was Republican.

6/11 of Democratic primary voters would be unsatisfied if Obama was the nominee. 6% of the electorate in Kentucky was Republican.

1/5 of Democratic primary voters would be unsatisfied if Obama was the nominee. 3% of the primary electorate in Oregon was Republican.

To give a little context-
Clinton won PA by 9%, IN by about 1.5%, WV by 40% and KY by 35%. Obama won NC by 14% and OR by 16%.

In southern/border states, Clinton voters are a lot less likely to go Obama's way than in northern states. Amount of Republicans in a contest seems to have little impact on the amount of voters not being satisfied with Obama.

A similar division was seen during the 2000 Republican primary between Bush and McCain. And I don't need to remind you who won in November... or at least won the Electoral College.... or at least won the votes that were counted in Florida.

That said, Bush has an extra two months to heal primary wounds.... and also led over Gore in pretty much every poll... both at this time and when the primary ended in early March. Obama's lead over McCain in national polls is averaged at less than a point. Further, Obama's lead in the electoral college is tenuous.

My point is that while its probable that we will see a rally around the leader... and Republicans are pretty unpopular right now... I don't think this election is anywhere near a slam dunk.

Obama will have to fight for every vote... but I wouldn't expect any different.

A note... I could be announcing later in the week that I will be working for a campaign...

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