Like most people I guess, the two people in this world who had the largest impact on me were my parents. Considering how large they loom in my memories and in my heart, it is hard for me to comprehend that my Mom has been gone from this Vale of Tears for almost a third of a century, and my Dad for just over a quarter of a century. I look at myself now and I recognize that most of what I am is an amalgam of their qualities that I received, either through genetics or what they taught me when I was growing up. Intellectually probably my debt to my mother is greater. She was the reader of the family, and I received from her a love of verbal sparring, logic and an endless thirst for knowledge. Politically I received more of my inheritance from my father. My Mom was inclined to the liberal side of the ledger, although the Democrats lost her vote when abortion became an issue.
My Dad, and go here to read about him, came from a long line of Republicans, probably dating back to the Civil War. My branch of the McClareys never had much money, but we usually voted Republican. My Dad had no great fondness for the Republican party, having a low opinion of almost all politicians whatever they called themselves, but he had certain beliefs and instincts that led him to vote for Republicans. Always something of a rebel, too much Irish blood in his veins not to be, he always thanked the Union steward in his plant who handed out voter guides because it was handy for him to know who his Union endorsed so he could vote the opposite way, he disliked most things big: Big Business, Big Unions and, especially, Big Government. It is from my father, back in the early sixties, that I first heard the Libertarian, “Their ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” Dad taught me that everything in this world has a price tag, and nothing is free but the grace of God.
While not being fond of the rich, he once succinctly defined feminism as “Games for rich women.”, he had nothing but scorn for those who sought to live off the government. The salaries that Union bosses got used to drive him up the wall. The dishonesty of television commercials would sometimes elicit a derisive snort from my laconic father. Any sort of sham or pretense produced a strongly negative reaction from my father who was a naturally honest man. The idea that government could solve problems, outside of perhaps winning wars, he regarded as a simple lie. When Walter Cronkite used to say at the end of his news broadcast on CBS, “Well that’s the way it is.”, my father’s rolled eyes gave his assessment of how much he accepted that contention.
In regard to the 2016 elections, other than knowing that he would sooner have lost a right arm than vote for Hillary Clinton, I only know one thing for sure about Dad and his reaction to the elections: he would have loved how the confident prediction of almost all pollsters that Hillary would win came tumbling down. Dad hated polls. He hated that anyone thought that they could predict an election before the votes were counted. That seemed wrong to him. When it comes to making predictions on elections, obviously I have not followed in my father’s footsteps, but in his belief that it is human hubris to pretend certainty when massive amounts of people are involved in making up their minds, I do agree with him. So, here’s to you Dad! I am sure you privately shook your head about your eldest son and how he seemed to pay little attention when you spoke, or argued with you, but I was actually paying close attention, and the older I get the more I appreciate the instruction I received from you and Mom. May my kids say the same a quarter or a third of a century from now about me and their mother, especially when their thoughts, as mine are now, turn to family and absent loved ones at Thanksgiving.
The polls are tightening and Trump seems to have momentum. The Washington Post tracker poll is down to six, Clinton advantage, from twelve over the weekend. The Fox poll, released last night, is down to a three point Clinton advantage from six last week.
The Los Angeles tracker today has Trump up one. The IDB tracker has Clinton up by one today and Rasmussen has Clinton up by one today.
My gut reaction is that currently this is probably a three point race, Clinton advantage, plus or minus one either way. I think a two point race is a danger zone for Clinton, as the greater enthusiasm of the pro-Trump/anti-Clinton voters might overcome such a gap. We shall see.
Pat Caddell, who first came to prominence as Jimmy Carter’s pollster, looks at current polls and finds that something does not add up:
“All of the tracking polls keep holding at Trump being ahead,” he continued. “And then all of these other polls that are one-off polls, or whatever … I don’t know how they’re doing some of these university polls. You just put the name of some university and apparently it becomes credible, whether they know what they’re doing, or not.
Caddell was pointing out the discrepancy between the different types of polls. “But in any event, polling is all over the place…. Something isn’t adding up,” said Caddell.
“Something is going to happen here, I just sense it,” he concluded. Either “Hillary will glide into the White House, or we’re headed for one of the greatest shocks in American politics. I think it’s a very close call. I think the shock potential is enormous.”
Go here to read the rest. Today IDB/TIPP showed Trump two points ahead. ABC/Washington Post showed Clinton twelve points ahead. I cannot recall disparity of that magnitude in polls this late in the race for President.
A current post at leftist Huffington Post brings their readership the bad news that in one week the Reuters Ipsos poll has shown Clinton’s lead tumble to five points from twelve points, and in a poll listing all four candidates, including the Libertarians and the Greens, Clinton’s lead drops to three points. (A Gravis Marketing Poll released yesterday shows Clinton’s lead dropping from five points to one point in a two way race.)
The hilarious thing with the Huffington Post piece is the edit at the end which includes this for their readers:
Editor’s Note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims-1.6 billion members of an entire religion from entering the US.
Go here to read it. The Huffington Post editors obviously think their readers are so stupid they will be unable to sort the white hats from the black hats without help.
The choices this year are appalling for President, but this election is fascinating. The LA Times Tracking Poll which showed Clinton breaking away now has Clinton leading by one point. Go here to view it. You see the cycles in this race clearly enough from their chart of the race. I hypothesize that when one candidate starts to rise they reach a point where the public begins to be alarmed and then the other candidate goes back up. Lesser of two evils is a cliché, but it is very much the choice in this year of grace.
I have been amused at the focus of the media on polls, since polls prior to Labor Day tend not to mean much. Americans simply do not tend to focus on a Presidential election until we get to September, and often not until late September or early October. However, polls are useful now for their direction rather than their topline numbers. After the Republican and Democrat conventions both Trump and Clinton got bounces, Clinton having a bit more of a bounce which is typical usually for Democrats. Thus we have had rafts of stories making predictions based on these bounces, most of them written by either highly partisan, almost always in a Democrat direction, or highly ignorant reporters. Looking at the most recent polls we see Rasmussen showing a three point race, Reuters showing a 5 point race and Bloomberg showing a 4 point race. (I am using the polls with the Libertarians and Greens included, since they are on almost all state ballots.) The Los Angeles Times tracker poll which has consistently shown a much closer race than any other poll, had it on Thursday as a one point race. Continue reading
We are beginning to see a bounce for Trump post the Republican Convention. CNN shows Trump with a ten point swing with Trump now leading 48-45. That 48 could be ominous for Clinton since that is probably a sign of solidifying Republican support for Trump. Morning Consult shows Trump leading by four, 44-40. In the CNN poll if the Greens and the Libertarians are included, Trump is ahead by five. Nate Silver at 538 now is predicting a Trump win at 56.7%.
Presumably Clinton will have a convention bounce, but this has to be disheartening for her. Many pundits were predicting no bounce for Trump from his convention, and Hillary has outspent Trump something like fifteen to one, only to find herself going into her convention behind.
CNN gave us a fine example of why the polls this year are largely worthless. The poll shows a tied national race at 49-49. This is a 3 point improvement for Romney over the last national poll they took. Then you dig into the internals of the poll. They sampled 41% Democrats and 30% Republicans. Yep, in a year when almost all the evidence points to a parity in party turnout or a slight Republican advantage, the best they could manage after giving Obama an eleven point advantage was a tie for the Southside Messiah!
The Czar at Gormogons has a straight forward explanation as to why most of the polls this year are showing a huge oversampling of Dems:
Gallup today was Romney 51-Obama 45. Polls come and polls go, but this one is significant for several reasons:
1. 50% and up-It is the first time that Romney has gone above 50% in the Gallup tracker.
2. Surge Not a Bounce– Initially it was thought that Romney got a bounce from the first debate. Bounces fade. What this poll demonstrates is that Romney for the past two weeks has been enjoying a surge.
3. Incumbent Forty Blues-It is electoral death normally for an incumbent to be under 50% in a Presidential race this late in the election season, due to the fact that most undecided voters break for the challenger. Obama in the mid-forties is looking at a ceiling for his support well under 50%.
4. October Winner-The candidate ahead in mid-October has almost always gone on to win. The only exception I can think of is Reagan in 1980, and Democrat blather to the contrary Obama isn’t Reagan.
5. One More Debate-The events that can have a major impact on the election are running out. Just one more debate and that is on foreign policy, probably not the President’s favorite subject in these Benghazi haunted days. Continue reading
Intrade is an online trading platform where participants actually place (legal) bets on the outcomes of certain events. For close to a decade political pundits have been using it as a reference to predict election outcomes. Indeed it seems to have a good record, correctly predicting the outcomes of the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections, and getting all but two states correct in 2008. Currently, Intrade gives Barack Obama a 62.4% chance to win re-election.
So is Intrade a valuable resource that can be relied upon to accurately predict election outcomes? Not in the least.
This Business Insider article sums up several of the problems with Intrade, and hits upon the point that has bugged me the most about it, namely that all it does is distill current conventional wisdom. Take, for example, that 62.4% number above. Sure that looks good for Obama, but over a week ago that number was well over 80%. In other words, as Obama’s poll numbers moved down so did confidence by Intrade investors. As Joe Weisenthal put in when discussing the Republican primary:
So why ignore InTrade? Well, basically, because all it does is distill conventional wisdom. Seriously, what good is it to know that on InTrade Mitt Romney is far ahead, and that Hermain Cain doesn’t have a chance? All you have to do is read any DC-based political pundit, and they’ll tell you the exact same thing.
And when the conventional wisdom changes, so does the market.
Rick Perry is down in the dumps on InTrade now, but back in August — when everyone was talking about how he was the frontrunner — he was the frontrunner on InTrade as well.
Weisenthal then tracks Perry’s chances on InTrade, and notes how they basically just mirror Perry’s poll numbers.
Even the 2004 and 2008 results aren’t that impressive in retrospect. When people woke up on election day 2008, did anybody really doubt that Barack Obama would win, other than people who clung to fleeting hopes of a miracle McCain victory? And in 2004, Bush’s chances were just over 50% – meaning that the market as a collective was leaning the same way as most polls which, with a few exceptions, generally gave Bush a slight edge. In fact, if you look at Intrade activity on election day itself, Bush’s chances plummeted as early exit poll leaks suggested a Kerry victory, and then rose again as actual election results came in and a Bush victory became more apparent. In other words, Intrade just reflected the polls. And while the state predictions seem impressive, again, how many states were truly up for grabs? Intrade was therefore no more useful a guide than any reasonably informed individual with access to polling data.
Some fans of Intrade like to point out that participants literally have to put their money where their mouth is. I don’t really see how this makes the platform any more valuable as an index. Bookies all over the country would be the ones fearing having their legs broken if money induced wiser gambling behavior – and Intrade is, in essence, simply a gambling platform.
Long story short, Intrade offers no more insight into how the election will play out than some cranky guy writing on a blog who can look at the Real Clear Politics average of polls (which has Romney up by 1.3 percent, incidentally). So then why do pundits insist on citing it, and why do people continue to think it has any meaningful predictive value?
The latest Pew poll shows Romney up four points among likely voters, 49-45. This poll was taken October 4- October 7 after Romney’s debate win:
Mitt Romney no longer trails Barack Obama in the Pew Research Center’s presidential election polling. By about three-to-one, voters say Romney did a better job than Obama in the Oct. 3 debate, and the Republican is now better regarded on most personal dimensions and on most issues than he was in September. Romney is seen as the candidate who has new ideas and is viewed as better able than Obama to improve the jobs situation and reduce the budget deficit.
Fully 66% of registered voters say Romney did the better job in last Wednesday’s debate, compared with just 20% who say Obama did better. A majority (64%) of voters who watched the debate describe it as mostly informative; just 26% say it was mostly confusing.
In turn, Romney has drawn even with Obama in the presidential race among registered voters (46% to 46%) after trailing by nine points (42% to 51%) in September. Among likely voters, Romney holds a slight 49% to 45% edge over Obama. He trailed by eight points among likely voters last month. Continue reading