Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Wrong Man Won

Despite the media hype, there are a lot of people who believe that the wrong man won the election on Tuesday. At least 55 million people voted so. This does not mean that President-elect Obama's victory is not genuine, but it reminds us that for all his sneering at the job done by President Bush, Barack the Beginner will be hard-pressed to do as well, much less keep all the promises he made in order to win the office. Take a look at the map, especially by county - Obama won the big cities and the coasts, but there's a lot of America that did not want him and whose support he needs if he is to be effective.

This is not a slap at Obama, however. One reason the Bush Administration was less than effective at times, was that the same conditions existed in his terms. Almost sixty million voters wanted Kerry in 2004, and in 2000 the popular vote went for Gore. In those elections there were a lot of Americans who thought Bush was the wrong man. Look at Clinton, his 1992 election brought less support than Bush took in 2000, and Clinton's 1996 re-election was weaker than Bush's 2004 campaign, never making a clear majority either time, so the 'we did not want him' theme is even stronger in the Clinton years. Even in the Reagan years, folks sometimes forget that tens of millions of Americans voted for Carter, then Mondale. If the 'Great Communicator' could not sell his case to everyone, then no one could. It's culture as much as politics, and personal ethics as much as public policy.

Barack Obama is about to find out that the real test is just beginning. It was one thing to run as a fresh face and a popular image; it's something else to get the results he promised. Even with a democrat-controlled House and Senate, Obama may find out that his policies and proposals still run into obstacles (a lot of folks forget that Clinton's Healthcare plan of 1993 was shot down by a democrat-run Congress). This happens because Congressmen and Senators do listen to their constituents, and an angry public is a powerful force.


Joe Yangtree said...

Continuing our discussion from threads where it was cut off...

Issue #1:
DJ has cut off comments on that Wizbang after too many people called him on his multiple errors, logical flaws, and self-forgiving rhetoric. Eric and mantis already did a good job of bringing up points that I was going to make myself. DJ, being the accountable person that he is, decided to post a non-responsive reply, accusing mantis of lying without providing any evidence, claiming vindication, and having the last word. He did nothing to address the arguments mantis and Eric made, especially the one about using old polls for comparison (see Issue 2).

Issue #2:
First, the election results. At this time, President-elect Obama has won 52% of the popular vote, while Senator McCain has received 46% of the popular vote. Against that, let's look at what the polls were saying on October 21...
After the election, DJ, arguing that his analysis should be considered correct, takes polls from two weeks before the election. Of course, the actual polls taken just before the election had converged to a 7.6% advantage for Obama, withing 1% of the actual margin. Naturally, there was more uncertainty and variance 2 weeks before the election. DJ completely ignores this fact. If his analysis about how the polls had systematic flaws was correct, then those flaws should have still been there on election day.

Issue #3:
A portion of this article is devoted to the premise that "turnout this year was down, not up. Down by more than five million votes from 2004. Somebody did not bother to vote this year." I questioned this premise, since DJ was comparing the final tallies of 2004 (123,535,883) with the current, unfinished tallies from this election. At the time, the spread was 5 million votes, as DJ said. According to DJ's CNN link, the current total for McCain and Obama, as of 11/8, stands at 122,852,251 with 99 percent of precincts reporting, so there are still some more votes yet to count. However, this still leaves out two things. First, the CNN site just has Obama and McCain vote tallies. If you add the votes for other candidates, the total is over 1 million votes higher. The total for just Bush and Kerry was 121,069,054. The other thing is that there are still absentee ballots that haven't been counted yet. Even if a precinct has reported, these can still be added to the final total. Here is an independent and much more detailed analysis of what is left outstanding. While it does seem very unlikely that the total will reach the 130 million that was being reported the morning after the electon, 125 million certainly seems within reach. There are already more total votes than in 2008, so at least numerically, this article’s premise on that point is not correct.

Issue #4:
If you mean the 2006 article, Joe, that was opinion, not analysis. If you are claiming that I predicted a McCain victory from poll analysis, you are claiming something other than what I said.
I was speaking of the 2006 article and your reiteration of the claim here. I didn't mention poll analysis, so I'm not sure how DJ got that idea. As he says, this was a prediction based on opinion. However, he had very specific reasons that he believed this would happen. He believed that Republicans in general will put the country ahead of everything else, and the voters know this. Did McCain lose because Republicans don't put the country first or because the voters didn't realize it?
Of course he also believed that the Democrats would nominate a Senator, and the Republicans wouldn't. He further challenged another commenter:
Show me where I specifically predicted a McCain win, Crusty. Link and specific quote.but cut off comments on that thread before he could be answered. Unless he want's to claim that McCain was not the Republican nominee, I believe that has been adequately answered.

Issue #5:
Let's get down to Historical Weighting, the basis for much of DJ's analysis over the past few weeks. Specifically, we'll turn to his Turners article. Most polls had several states solidly Obama and several solidly McCain, with fewer swing states. We'll use FiveThirtyEight for comparison. They had CA,CT,DC,DE,HI,IA,IL,MA,MD,ME,MI,NJ,NY,OR,RI,VT,WA,WI as "Safe Obama"; CO,MN,NH,NM,NV,PA,VA as "Likely Obama"; OH as "Lean Obama"; FL,IN,MO,NC as TossUp; GA,MT,ND as "Lean McCain"; AZ,LA,SC,SD as "Likely McCain"; and AK,AL,AR,ID,KS,KY, MS, NE,OK,TN,TX,UT,WV,WY as "Safe McCain". The election went almost perfectly this way. Their percentage for popular vote was also almost exactly correct. In DJ's article, historical weighting produced the following bizzare schisms with reality.
It showed CO a "lock" (75.0%) for McCain, as opposed to "Likely Obama".
It showed FL a "lock" (70.6%) for McCain, as opposed to "Tossup".
It showed IN a "lock" (80.9%) for McCain, as opposed to "Tossup".
It showed NH a "lock" (75.5%) for McCain, as opposed to "Likely Obama"
It showed OH a "lock" (71.7%) for McCain, as opposed to "Lean Obama"
It showed VA a "lock" (79.4%) for McCain, as opposed to "Likely Obama"
It showed ME a "toss-up" (51.6%) for Obama as opposed to "Safe Obama"
It showed MI a "toss-up"(53.3%) for McCain as opposed to "Safe Obama"
It showed PA a "toss-up"(51.5%) for Obama as opposed to "Likely Obama"
It showed WI a "toss-up"(52.3%) for Obama as opposed to "Safe Obama"
It showed OR a "toss-up" (50.2%) for Obama as opposed to "Safe Obama"
5 of DJ’s 6 toss-ups were double-digit wins for Obama. Only NC was an actual toss-up. Additionally, 6 or DJ’s 17 locks for McCain went to Obama. This analysis was quite far from reality, much farther than the national and state polls at that point.

Issue #6:
Chicago is getting really, really interesting. Yeah, it's strange that McCain should be close at all in Illinois, but there's some blue-collar backlash that turned Indiana around and has started moving some Illinois opinion. Like other states, I think the movement is temporary; Obama will no more lose Illinois than McCain will lose North Carolina, but I just report what the numbers show, and weird they are..."

Of course, the actual numbers showed no such thing. Illinois was never in question for Obama. North Carolina was very close, and did go to Obama.

Issue #7:
The closest thing to a prediction based on your historical norm statistical analysis that I could find was:
I will not call it definitive, but in my opinion if the demographic weighting is corrected the popular vote becomes Obama 46.9%, McCain 46.6%, but with McCain taking the electoral vote 278-260. When the shadow effect is applied, the electoral numbers change to 147-71 McCain, with 320 to be decided. The message is clear then, that the race remains to be decided.

If DJ was right, then McCain, who finished with 46% and 163 electoral votes barely got anything after that. Meanwhile Obama went from 47% to 53% and claimed around 300 Electoral Votes. That happened in one week. Is it easier to believe that almost all the undecided voters broke for Obama or that DJ’s analysis was very inaccurate? While he does not call this definitive, that’s just enough to give him bragging rights in the unlikely event he was right, but deniability if he was wrong.

Joe Yangtree said...

A slightly more complete and considerably more permanent analysis is at my blog. Feel free to delete these (completely your choice and right), but they're only going to get longer if you do.