Thursday Reads: The Battle for the Senate

us-senate

Good Morning!!

On Tuesday, I wrote about the epic battle between political poll analysts Nate Silver and Sam Wang to predict which party will control the Senate after the Midterm elections in November. Actually, it’s a fairly one-sided battle. Silver’s statistical model predicts that Republicans will take over the Senate, and Wang thinks Democrats will hold onto their narrow majority. As Daniel Altman pointed out at The Daily Beast, Silver has much more to lose if Wang turns out to be right.

[Silver has] been attacking Wang relentlessly, calling his methodology  “wrong” and Wang himself “deceptive.” Silver could simply wait for the election results to come in and compare his forecasts’ accuracy with Wang’s across all the Senate races. Instead, he’s doing everything possible to discredit Wang before Election Day.

Here’s my guess at the reasons why. First, Silver fears Wang. In 2012, Wang’s model did a better job predicting the presidential election. Wang called not only Obama’s electoral college total of 332 votes, which Silver matched, but he also nailed the popular vote almost perfectly. Wang’s model also picked the winner in every single Senate race in 2012. It’s not good for business if Silver keeps coming up second-best.

But more importantly, Wang is the only one predicting Democrats will win. This represents a huge risk for Silver. If every forecaster had Republicans taking the Senate, then they’d all be either right or wrong in November; no one would have a better headline the next morning than Silver….If the Democrats hold the Senate, then Wang will stand alone; Silver will just be another one of the many who got it wrong.

It goes without saying that I am rooting for underdog Sam Wang.

On Tuesday, I also discussed the two close races that I’m most familiar with–Louisiana, because of Dakinikat’s reports, and New Hampshire, where former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown is carpetbagging in hopes of getting his job back. Today, I want to take a look at the latest “expert” prognostications about which races are the most likely to decide whether Democrats or Republicans will be in the majority in 2015.

fox-news-wallpaper

The most recent poll results come from {gag} Fox News.

Fox News Polls: Senate battleground races trending GOP, Roberts up in Kansas.

New Fox News battleground polls show a Republican trend in the fight for the U.S. Senate.The GOP candidates — helped by anti-Barack Obama sentiment and strong support from male voters — lead in all five states: Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas and Kentucky.

The races, however, are still far from settled. None of the Senate candidates has a lead outside the poll’s margin of sampling error. And none of the front-runners hit the important marker of 50 percent support from their electorate.

Read the results for specific races at the link. But here’s an interesting reaction to the Fox poll results from analyst Harry Enten at Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight blog, Senate Update: Don’t Go Crazy.

At about 6 p.m. Wednesday, a collective Democratic spit-take splattered computer screens around the country (at least that’s what I imagined happened). Fox News released new polls showing Republican candidates ahead by 4 percentage points in Alaska, 6 percentage points in Colorado, 5 percentage points in Kansas and 4 percentage points in Kentucky.

The polls look like a disaster for Democrats.

They’re not.

FiveThirtyEight’s Senate forecast has Republican chances of taking back the Senate at 56.4 percent — basically unchanged from the 56.5 percent we showed Tuesday.

Enten explains how the FiveThirtyEight model adjusts the Fox results for Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, and Kentucky. On Kansas, Enten says he needs more data. It looks like Pat Roberts is gaining on challenger Greg Orman, but he can’t be sure yet. And here’s some possible good news for Democrats:

Democrats got good news in Georgia, where Michelle Nunn’s chances of winning rose from 26 percent to 30 percent. Nunn’s odds inched up because she was down only 1 percentage point to Republican David Perdue (46 percent to 45 percent) in a new SurveyUSA poll. For the first time, the FiveThirtyEight model forecasts Perdue to capture less than 50 percent of the vote (49.9 percent).

As in Louisiana, if neither candidate gets more than 50%, there will have to be a runoff election.

Geeky Prof. John Sides, George Washington University

Geeky Prof. John Sides, George Washington University

At The Washington Post, Dana Millbank touts the Post’s Election Lab (headed by John Sides of George Washington University) and weighs in on the Silver-Wang controversy, Predicting the Senate election down to the decimal point. Here’s Millbank’s summary of Side’s current predictions:

We know, for example, with 98 percent certainty that Sen. Kay Hagan, an embattled Democrat, will win reelection in North Carolina next month. We are even more certain — 99 percent — that Sen. Mitch McConnell, a vulnerable Republican, will keep his seat in Kentucky. And we are darn near sure — 91 percent, to be specific — that Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) will lose.

Throw all of these into our election model, add eye of newt and toe of frog, stir counterclockwise and — voila! — we can project with 84 percent confidence that Republicans will control the Senate next year.

Really? Millbank also summarizes competing predictions:

As of Tuesday afternoon, Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight, which turned the academic discipline of computer models into a media game, gives Republicans a 57.6 percent chance of taking the Senate. (Decimal points are particularly compelling.) The New York Times’s model goes with 61 percent, DailyKos 66 percent, Huffington Post 54 percent and PredictWise 73 percent. The Princeton Election Consortium gives a 54 percent advantage to Democrats.

Millbank seems gobsmacked that Sam Wang has the gall to predict a Democratic victory in the Senate. But he also appears to favor old-timey political prognosticators like Charlie Cook and Stuart Rothenberg. Let’s take a look at what they are saying.

Charlie Cook: Senate’s Future Likely Hinges on These Three Races: The Senate most plausibly turns on the survival of Alaska’s Begich, Colorado’s Udall, and the outcome of the open contest in Iowa between Braley and Ernst.

The number of seats in play is either 11 or 12, depending on whether or not you believe that the contest in Minnesota between Democratic incumbent Al Franken and GOP challenger Mike McFadden has tightened up. We have begun to see some polls that show the race now in mid-to-high single digits; it could just be that Republicans are coming home, thus producing the normal closure you often see, or it could be that it is in fact growing more competitive.

Three Democratic open seats are goners: Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia. Democrats’ three most endangered incumbents still are in extremely challenging races. However, all of them—Mark Begich in Alaska, Mark Pryor in Arkansas, and Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu—are still absolutely alive and in the hunt for victory. The hope and prayer for Democrats is that one of these incumbents will survive, which would mean that Republicans would have to then win at least one seat in a “purple” or “light blue” state. Of these three races, Pryor’s challenge looks to be the toughest and least promising for Democrats. Landrieu’s is far from hopeless, but it would grow much more difficult if, as expected, the race moves to a Dec. 6 runoff with GOP Rep. Bill Cassidy. If there is a survivor in this trio, it is most likely to be Begich, though his race is extremely close and his chances of winning at this point are no better than a coin flip. The analogy for these three is that even Olympic swimmers have a tough time if the undertow is too bad, and that might well be the case here.

Read more of Cook’s analysis at the National Journal link above.

Charlie Cook and Stuart Rothenberg

Charlie Cook and Stuart Rothenberg

Stuart Rothenberg: What If I’m Wrong About GOP Flipping at Least 7 Seats?

A few weeks ago I wrote Senate Republicans would gain at least seven seats, even though the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call race ratings showed a likely Republican gain of five to eight seats.

That expectation was based on national survey results that showed the president extremely is unpopular and voters are unhappy with the direction of the country, as well as state polling that showed Democratic incumbents well below the critical 50 percent threshold in ballot tests against their GOP opponents.

Is Rothenberg ready to start hedging his bets on a Republication takeover?

Democrats still may be able to localize elections in a few states — the most likely prospects are North Carolina and Alaska, which were carried by Romney, and two swing states won by Obama, Iowa and Colorado. Doing so would inoculate the Democratic nominees (three incumbents and one open seat hopeful) from Obama’s near-toxic political standing.

Democrats certainly have lowered the boom on North Carolina’s Thom Tillis, Alaska’s Dan Sullivan, Iowa’s Joni Ernst and Colorado’s Cory Gardner, and it isn’t unreasonable to believe they can hold all four seats by discrediting the GOP nominees.

I have been assuming a 2014 electorate that looks more like the last midterm electorate than either of the past two presidential electorates. The 2010 electorate was much older and whiter than the 2008 and 2012 electorates, and there is no reason to believe that Democrats won’t suffer again from this year’s midterm electorate.

But Democrats are making an effort to register African-American voters in a number of states, mobilize Democratic voters in Alaska’s remote villages, and turn out both younger voters and reliable Democratic voters who in the past sat out midterm elections. If they can change the electorate, they can change their chances of holding on to a handful of states that I am expecting them to lose.

GOTV

As Dakinikat wrote on Monday, getting out the votes for Democrats is all-important!

It’s also interesting that Nate Silver may also be wondering if he could be wrong this time. On Monday, he told Real Clear Politics, “I’m Not Sure My Magic Will Work This Election.”

Election prognosticator Nate Silver seemed unsure of his ability to predict races when he appeared on the Monday broadcast of Fusion TV’s “Midterm Mayhem.”

“I’m not sure my magic will work in this election,” Silver said. “It’s a very close election nationally and in a number of states.”

“We’re certainly not clairvoyant. It’s a close election this year,” he added.

Hmmmmm . . .

And at FiveThirtyEight, Carl Bialik recently wrote: Pollsters Predict Greater Polling Error In Midterm Elections.

We asked pollsters if they expected more or less error in Senate election polls — the difference between what the latest pre-election polls show and actual vote margins — this year than two years ago. Ten said they expected a higher average error, while just five predicted lower error.

No one cited low response rates as a reason to expect poll error. Perhaps that’s because pollsters have managed to maintain strong national-election records despite declining response rates.

Instead, the top reason cited was the difficulty of forecasting turnout in midterm elections, without a presidential race to bring voters to the polls. And the crucial midterms are in states that don’t usually have close races. “The key Senate battlegrounds this year are also places like Alaska, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, etc., where most of the public pollsters don’t have a ton of experience,” one pollster said. “It’s not the Ohios and Pennsylvanias and Floridas of the world that we’re all used to polling a lot.”

Some also cited an increase in unproven polling techniques by pollsters. “Many are attempting to use Internet surveys with untested methodologies to determine likely voters,” said Darrel Rowland, the Columbus Dispatch’s public affairs editor, who conducts the newspaper’s Dispatch Poll. “As often happens to pioneers, there could be some grim results.”

Again, Senate control is going to hinge on voter turnout.  And of course there is always the possibility of last-minute surprises.

gotv2014

A few more links to check out:

The Economist, The Battle for the Senate: An Interactive Guide.

U.S. News, Top 10 Senate Races of 2014.

BBC News, US mid-term elections: Six Senate races to watch.

USA Today, Senate control may be undecided for weeks after election.

David Wiegel at Bloomberg Politics, Why the GOP Wants You to Think There’ll Be an Immigration Deal if They Win.

Huffington Post, As South Dakota Race Breaks Open, Bizarre Turn Of Events Could Save Senate For Democrats.

Mark Halperin at Bloomberg Politics, Exclusive: Senate Democrats Flooding South Dakota Airwaves.

Bloomberg Politics, These 10 States Are Getting Slammed With Campaign Ads.

Please share your thoughts and links on any topic in the comment thread and have an enjoyable Thursday.


Election Day Mid-Morning Open Thread: Polls

There are good signs for President Obama in the latest national polls, and among the poll aggregators. Two of the most recent national polls show Obama at 50% and leading by 3 percentage points.

The final Pew Poll from Nov. 4 had Obama at 50% and Romney at 47% nationally, and The WSJ/ABC News Poll found the same result yesterday.

At HuffPo, Mark Blumenthal has the latest aggregated results from Pollster showing a likely Obama win. Here are the latest national polls.

And the latest Ohio polls.

You’ll find lots more info and charts at the HuffPo link.

Nate Silver put up a late post at 1:42 this morning: Late Poll Gains for Obama Leave Romney With Longer Odds

Mitt Romney has always had difficulty drawing a winning Electoral College hand. Even during his best period of polling, in the week or two after the first presidential debate in Denver, he never quite pulled ahead in the polling averages in Ohio and other states that would allow him to secure 270 electoral votes.

But the most recent set of polls suggest another problem for Mr. Romney, whose momentum in the polls stalled out in mid-October. Instead, it is President Obama who is making gains.

Among 12 national polls published on Monday, Mr. Obama led by an average of 1.6 percentage points. Perhaps more important is the trend in the surveys. On average, Mr. Obama gained 1.5 percentage points from the prior edition of the same polls, improving his standing in nine of the surveys while losing ground in just one.

Right now, Silver estimates Obama’s chances of winning at 91.6% and projects he’ll win 315 electoral votes. Romney’s chances of winning are only 8.4% and he is projected to win 223 electoral votes.

Finally, here’s Sam Wang’s latest post: Presidential prediction 2012 (Election Eve) He is also predicting an Obama win.

Have you voted yet? Were the polls crowded? If you’re in a swing state, or in touch with people in swing states, what are you hearing?


Nate’s Numbers: the numbers converge

I’ve spent all my professional life drenched in numbers and statistics so Nate Silver’s numbers fascinate me. It’s probably the same reason they drive Republicans and pundits to distraction. Unraveling trend is easier with numbers than hateful, wishful thinking motivated by political piety. So, Karl Rove got on TV–probably trying to save what’s left of his credibility–saying that Romentum was stopped by Sandy. Romentum was a bit of canard and it turns out so is Sandy. Silver tries to discern the possible factors behind the recent numbers and looks at the Sandy Factor.  That’s a relatively simple task for any one with a database and a background in trend analysis.

When the hurricane made landfall in New Jersey on Oct. 29, Mr. Obama’s chances of winning re-election were 73 percent in the FiveThirtyEight forecast. Since then, his chances have risen to 86 percent, close to his highs on the year.

But, while the storm and the response to it may account for some of Mr. Obama’s gains, it assuredly does not reflect the whole of the story.

Mr. Obama had already been rebounding in the polls, slowly but steadily, from his lows in early October — in contrast to a common narrative in the news media that contended, without much evidence, that Mr. Romney still had the momentum in the race.

Moreover, there are any number of alternatives to explain Mr. Obama’s gains before and after the storm hit.

  • Mr. Obama was adjudicated the winner of the second and third presidential debates in surveys of voters who watched them.
  • The past month has brought a series of encouraging economic news, including strong jobs reports in October and last Friday.
  • The bounce in the polls that Mr. Romney received after the Denver debate may have been destined to fade in part, as polling bounces often do following political events like national conventions.
  • Democrats have an edge in early voting based on states that provide hard data about which party’s voters have turned out to cast ballots. Some voters who were originally rejected by the likely voter models that surveys apply may now be included if they say that they have already voted.
  • Both Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney have been running lots of advertisements, which could have some effect, especially in the swing states.
  • Mr. Obama’s voter-targeting operation may in fact be stronger than Mr. Romney’s and may have begun to show up in the polls.
  • Mr. Obama’s approval rating is at 49 or 50 percent in many surveys, a threshold that would ordinarily predict a narrow re-election for an incumbent.
  • Some elections “break” toward one or another candidate at the end as undecided voters tune in and begin to evaluate their decision.

Each of these hypotheses could merit its own article. But the point is that the causes for Mr. Obama’s gain in the polls are overdetermined, meaning that there are lot of variables that might have contributed to the one result.

If I had told you in January that Mr. Obama’s approval rating would have risen close to 50 percent by November, and that the unemployment rate would have dropped below 8 percent, you likely would have inferred that Mr. Obama was a favorite for re-election, with or without a hurricane and what was judged to be a strong response to it.

Whatever the causal factors, Nate’s numbers look good for the President.  Sam Wang–a Princeton number kruncher–says it not only looks like the President will hold his office but that the US Senate might see a Democratic Pick up of two.  This is an important firewall for those of us that care about things like Supreme Court appointments and getting rid of the filibuster silliness that has allowed the Republicans to basically thwart governing.  Dems may pick up Nebraska and Pennsylvania.

Rather than responding to the analysis, the Republicans continue to attack Nate Silver the man.  You may recall this Krugman piece last week about The War on Objectivity.

Brad DeLong points me to this National Review attack on Nate Silver, which I think of as illustrating an important aspect of what’s really happening in America.

For those new to this, Nate is a sports statistician turned political statistician, who has been maintaining a model that takes lots and lots of polling data — most of it at the state level, which is where the presidency gets decided — and converts it into election odds. Like others doing similar exercises — Drew LinzerSam Wang, and Pollster — Nate’s model continued to show an Obama edge even after Denver, and has shown that edge widening over the past couple of weeks.

This could be wrong, obviously. And we’ll find out on Election Day. But the methodology has been very clear, and all the election modelers have been faithful to their models, letting the numbers fall where they may.

Yet the right — and we’re not talking about the fringe here, we’re talking about mainstream commentators and publications — has been screaming “bias”! They know, just know, that Nate must be cooking the books. How do they know this? Well, his results look good for Obama, so it must be a cheat. Never mind the fact that Nate tells us all exactly how he does it, and that he hasn’t changed the formula at all.

This is, of course, reminiscent of the attack on the Bureau of Labor Statistics — not to mention the attacks on climate science and much more. On the right, apparently, there is no such thing as an objective calculation. Everything must have a political motive.

This is really scary. It means that if these people triumph, science — or any kind of scholarship — will become impossible. Everything must pass a political test; if it isn’t what the right wants to hear, the messenger is subjected to a smear campaign.

Any kind of scholarship has become challenging under Republican fanaticism as witnessed by the attacks on evolution, climate change, and the economic analysis that shows there is no such thing as an economic benefit created by low marginal tax rates for the rich.  Just ask scientists trying to get grants to study things like stem cell research. Fox gets people to believe anything.  Science causes them to retreat to their medieval churches and scream about intervention by celestial beings.  (So, if gawd caused Sandy to take out NJ and NY because of Gay Rights, does this mean gawd caused Sandy to give Obama momentum?  Ask Grand Inquisitor Pat Robertson about that one.)

Yes, Nate’s numbers took another upward tick this morning.  He also believes that Obama will take the popular vote which should be dismaying to all those journalists that keep wanting to turn this into a white knuckle election.

Silver also added to Obama’s likely number of electoral votes on Monday. He now sees the president winning 307.2 to 230.8 for Mitt Romney, a tiny tick higher than he saw the race on Sunday.

He also sees Obama capturing the popular vote, taking 50.6 percent to Romney’s 48.5.

Rachel Maddow insists the Republicans see the numbers and actually believe that their man Mittster is a goner.  The blame game has already begun.  Haley Barbor blames Sandy.  Lindsey Graham is actually looking at numbers and notices that that demographics are not in their favor.

QUOTE OF THE DAY:  ”If I hear anybody say it was because Romney wasn’t conservative enough I’m going to go nuts. We’re not losing 95% of African-Americans and two-thirds of Hispanics and voters under 30 because we’re not being hard-ass enough.”

– Politico quotes Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), saying that demographics would be the only reason for a hypothetical Mitt Romney loss Tuesday.

Yeah, the blame game has begun and the election isn’t even over. Funny he should bring up Hispanic and black voters. Latino Decisions found that Hispanics support President Obama in historic numbers — 73 percent. They believe that’s enough to carry President Obama to victory in four swing states and ultimately to win re-election. Those four swing states are  Nevada, Colorado, Virginia, and Florida.

This is closer to the truth.  Republican policy statements as expressed by “severely conservative” Mitt have driven off the young, hispanics, blacks, and women.   I had MSNBC on mute most of the weekend when they were following the candidates around.  All you have to do is look at the people used as back drops for candidates’ speeches to realize who really is on the losing side of US demographics.  This is part of the numbers game.  You can’t build momentum or fantasize a trend based on capturing an ever decreasing slice of the American Pie.

Which brings me to the post election deconstruction that should occur in the Republican party.  When will the actually give up on the Southern Strategy?  We’ve seen more race baiting in this election that I’ve frequently wondered if the ghost of George Wallace is running the Romney campaign.  We’ve seen attacks on women’s rights that make me wonder if Republicans know that women got the right to vote. We’ve seen support of policies that are based on show us your papers that remind me of old NAZI movies.  You can’t attack and demonize the majority of the electorate and expect the numbers to come in for you.  You also can’t build policy on attacking scientific models and theories.  The Republican party has definitely shown that its plan for America is to try to recreate the past no matter what the cost.

All I can say is go Nate go!  Win one for Ada Lovelace and the country.  There are easy ways to figure out which events contribute to trend and what’s just random.  People should pay more attention to Nate Silver and a lot less attention to the likes of Karl Rove and Haley Barbour.  Nate Silver bet Joe Scarborough $2000 that his analysis was right saying “Occam’s Razor: Pundits are useless”.   That’s something I completely grok.

“I think I get a lot of grief because I frustrate narratives that are told by pundits and journalists that don’t have a lot of grounding in objective reality,”


Saturday Reads: Polls, Ro-mentum, and Forced Mating

Good Morning!

I should be at my mom’s house by now, but I had to stop for another night because I drove right into one of the three monster storms that are expected to crash into each other somewhere along the east coast. At least I got out of the Boston area, where I might have ended up without power for days. But I’m kind of wondering if I’ll still have a home to go back to. Anyway, I drove into a downpour in Ohio. At times it was raining so hard I could barely see, and it was also very foggy. I finally gave up and stopped for the night in Sandusky, Ohio. How weird is that? I hope tomorrow’s weather will be better.

I’ve got some links to get you started today–please forgive me if some of them are old news to you.

I’m going to start out with the latest on the polls. Even though the corporate media is still pushing the story that Romney’s winning, the real statistic nerds are saying that Romney basically got about a 4-5 point bump after the Denver debate, but that has dissipated and now the polls are favoring Obama again. Truthfully Obama never really lost his leads in the swing states he needs to win, but either lots of the media types are rooting for Romney (e.g., Joe Scarborough, Dancin’ Dave Gregory, Jim Vandehei) or they just want to make things seem close for career purposes.

Here’s the latest from Nate Silver: The State of the States

Thursday was a busy day for the polls, with some bright spots for each candidate. But it made clear that Barack Obama maintains a narrow lead in the polling averages in states that would get him to 270 electoral votes. Mr. Obama also remains roughly tied in the polls in two other states, Colorado and Virginia, that could serve as second lines of defense for him if he were to lose a state like Ohio.

On the national level, of course, the race is still basically tied; but Obama has a baseline of 237 electoral votes. He only needs to pick up a couple of swing states like Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, or Nevada to get to 270. Silver says it doesn’t look like Obama actually got a bump from the third debate–it’s more likely that the numbers are just regressing to the mean. Whatever the cause, Obama is leading in electoral votes

Last night, Silver’s model predicted that Obama will win 295 electoral votes and has a 74 percent chance of winning the election.

Lately I’ve been finding Sam Wang’s blog even more fun to read than Silver’s. On Tuesday Wang had a post on “Ro-mentum,” meaning the mainstream media’s latest narrative that Romney has the big mo and is probably going to win the election. Wang summed up that post as follows:

What is apparent is that the large plunge after Debate #1 came to a stop last week, right around the time of the VP debate. After that and Debate #2, Obama made some recovery. Now we are at a plateau, in which Obama is slightly – but decisively – ahead….

Today, the race is quite close. However, note this. In terms of the Electoral College, President Obama has been ahead on every single day of the campaign, without exception.

I would then give the following verdict: Indeed the race is close, but it seems stable. For the last week, there is no evidence that conditions have been moving toward Romney. There is always the chance that I may have to eat my words – but that will require movement that is not yet apparent in polls.

The popular vote is a different story. I estimate an approximately 25% chance that the popular vote and the electoral vote will go in opposite directions – a “Bush v. Gore scenario”. I regard this as a serious risk, since it would engender prolonged bitterness.

In summary: Ro-mentum!

Yesterday, Wang wrote a follow-up post in which he hilariously mocked David Brooks’ attempts to make sense of all the polls and falling for Ro-mentum.

It was fun to learn of David Brooks’s addiction to polling data. He spends countless hours on them, looking at aggregators, examining individual polls, and sniffing poll internals. From all of this, what has he learned?

1. Today, President Obama would be a bit more likely to win.
2. There seems to be a whiff of momentum toward Mitt Romney.
(Emphasis mine.)

I am having a sad. All of that effort, and his two conclusions still have two major errors. Evidently he does not read the Princeton Election Consortium. Let us dissect this.

You should go read the whole thing, but basically, on point one if the election were held today Obama would have at least a 90% chance of winning; and on point two Brooks has fallen for the media narrative of Ro-mentum.

Today Wang found another Ro-mentum victim. Ro-mentum watch: John Dickerson, CBS/Slate. John Dickerson (son of Nancy Dickerson) is the quintessential Villager, and I can’t stand him–so I really enjoyed this one.

This is like shooting fish in a barrel. The latest, from John Dickerson at Slate:

It’s a fool’s game to guess whose momentum is greater. But Romney is peaking at just the right moment.

Ah, yes. The Great Election of October 13, 2012. I remember it well.

Wait a minute.

The subject of “political momentum” is a favorite among political pundits. I will guess that John Dickerson and David Brooks (“David Brooks – now with Ro-mentum!“, October 25) might not have found high school calculus to be their favorite subject. I wonder how they did in it.

And John Dickerson responded, completely missing the point.

The funniest thing about Dickerson’s Slate article is that it was a description of a speech Romney made in Defiance, Ohio on Thursday night in which Romney said something absolutely shocking that Dickerson didn’t even pick up on.

During the speech Romney set off a panic in Northwestern Ohio by announcing–based on some internet rumor that he read on a right wing blog–that Chrysler was planning to close the local Jeep plant and outsource all the jobs to China. From the Detroit News:

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney told a rally in northern Ohio on Thursday night that Chrysler was considering moving production of its Jeep vehicles to China, apparently reacting to incorrect reports circulating online.

“I saw a story today that one of the great manufacturers in this state Jeep — now owned by the Italians — is thinking of moving all production to China,” Romney said at a rally in Defiance, Ohio, home to a General Motors powertrain plant. “I will fight for every good job in America. I’m going to fight to make sure trade is fair, and if it’s fair America will win.”

Romney was apparently responding to reports Thursday on right-leaning blogs that misinterpreted a recent Bloomberg News story earlier this week that said Chrysler, owned by Italian automaker Fiat SpA, is thinking of building Jeeps in China for sale in the Chinese market

People in Defiance and nearby Toledo and other surrounding cities and towns were so freaked out that they started calling Chrysler and the company had to rush out and correct Mr. Mittmentum.

“Let’s set the record straight: Jeep has no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China. It’s simply reviewing the opportunities to return Jeep output to China for the world’s largest auto market. U.S. Jeep assembly lines will continue to stay in operation.”

How irresponsible can you get? Can you imagine if Romney were president? We’d have a major crisis once a week or so.

TPM has an interesting piece up on polls: Live Polls Show Obama With Bigger Leads In Ohio.

Surveys of the Buckeye State have been all over the board in recent weeks as the election draws near. While most show President Obama with the lead, the size of it depends on whether the pollster was using human beings or robots to do the interviewing.

TPM compared the two methods and found that polls conducted by a live interviewer, the method widely considered to be the gold standard, have shown the President with larger leads than polls conducted by automated calls, which are prohibited from contacting people through cell phones. Since early September, live polls have shown Obama with an average lead of 4.5 percentage points in Ohio while his average lead in robo-polls has been less than 2.

Ohio has been the most polled state of the presidential campaign since the national conventions, edging both Florida and Virginia for that distinction. The 44 polls conducted there since the conclusion of the Democratic National Convention on Sept. 6 include 22 done by automated calling, 16 performed by live phone interviews, five conducted online and one based on mail-in responses.

Check out the chart at the link.

Just a couple more recommended reads for you.

Alternet has a must read piece on the horrors the government covered up during the BP oil gusher. Coverup No More: Shocking Photos and Emails of Dead Wildlife from Gulf of Mexico Spill Emerge

Some two and a half years after the BP oil spill, Greenpeace has obtained emails and photos from a U.S. government agency that reveal the extent to which the government tried to shield the public from the wildlife casualties of the spill.

Alternet links to their source article at the Guardian: US downplayed effect of Deepwater oil spill on whales, emails reveal.

Read only if you have a strong stomach.

Garance Franke-Ruta of The Atlantic has a piece on the Republican rape and abortion obsession that provides a historical take that fits with terrific post Dakinikat wrote on the subject yesterday.  It’s titled Richard Mourdock, Mitt Romney and the GOP Defense of Coerced Mating.

Both Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have enthusiastically endorsed Mourdock, and have stood by him even after he claimed that if a women becomes pregnant through rape, “god” must have willed that zygote to be conceived and therefore a the raped girl or woman must carry and bear the child, no matter how that affects her life. Franke-Ruta writes about the history of forced marriage and makes the argument that other feminists have made–that sexual violence is a means for keeping women under control.

Coerced and not entirely voluntary mating have occurred throughout human history. I had a friend many years ago whose mother was a prize of war in a national conflict; it made for complicated family dynamics. But one sees rape, forced marriage and war go hand in hand throughout the ages, including our own; it is another form of conquest to create the next generation in your image from the bodies of the conquered. Violating women is a way of subjugating a population — sowing fear among the women, blocking the men from access to the future, and rupturing and weakening all the social bonds that made up the society that fought and lost. But for this to work there must also be children of rape. “If one group wants to control another they often do it by impregnating women of the other community because they see it as a way of destroying the opposing community,” former head of the Gender Unit at Amnesty International Gita Sahgal has explained. Women must learn to love the image of their conquerors written in the faces of the children they suckle, and to despise themselves, and their weakness. If captives come to identify with those who hold them, it is only a tale as old as our ability to survive by orienting our beings around whoever has power over us.

This is one reason Missouri Republican U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin’s mid-August comments that “if it’s a legitimate rape the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down” set off such a firestorm — his beliefs showed deep biological and historical ignorance about the way rape-created pregnancies have been used to transform and dominate whole populations. But in his denial of the possibility of rape-created pregnancy he was acknowledging the truth that would erupt again into public view with Mourdock’s remarks: Post-rape pregnancies are where blanket anti-abortion views become de facto support for coercive mating and the legally sanctioned denial of agency to women not only on the question of whether to have a child, but who the child’s father should be.

Outside of the context of war, rape historically has been something more akin to a property crime than a crime against women per se — the injured party was the husband or father to whom the woman belonged, and recompense for the crime was made to him for the injury to his standing and damage to the marital or social value of the woman. It was also an honor crime, and in large parts of the world rape continues to be seen as one for which women bear primary responsibility. As such being raped is viewed as a female sexual transgression that creates a justification or even obligation for male relatives and community members to shun the assaulted, or, rarely, even avenge familial honor by killing victims.

I hope you’ll read the whole post–it’s very powerful.

Now what are you reading and blogging about today?


Monday Afternoon Coffee Break

Afternoon Coffee Break, by Merle Keller

I’m having trouble focusing enough to write a real post, so I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve been reading this afternoon. I’ll begin with some very good news from Reuters: Shot Pakistani girl can recover, UK doctors say

A Pakistani schoolgirl shot in the head by the Taliban has every chance of making a “good recovery”, British doctors said on Monday as 14-year-old Malala Yousufzai arrived at a hospital in central England for treatment of her severe wounds.

Yousufzai, who was shot for advocating education for girls, was flown from Pakistan to receive specialist treatment at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital at a unit expert in dealing with complex trauma cases that has treated hundreds of soldiers wounded in Afghanistan.

“Doctors…believe she has a chance of making a good recovery on every level,” said Dr Dave Rosser, the hospital’s medical director, adding that her treatment and rehabilitation could take months.

The article says the doctors haven’t actually evaluated Malala yet; but they are nevertheless confidence she can recover because she has made it through “the removal of the bullet and the very critical 48-hour window after surgery.”

Treatment for the schoolgirl is likely to include repairing damaged bones in her skull and complex follow-up neurological treatment.

“Injuries to bones in the skull can be treated very successfully by the neurosurgeons and the plastic surgeons, but it is the damage to the blood supply to the brain that will determine long-term disability,” said Duncan Bew, consultant trauma surgeon at Barts Health NHS Trust in London.

Malala’s youth increases her chances for full recovery, because young brains are more plastic than older ones.

Mitt Romney has chickened out on his scheduled appearance with the “sharp-tongued women” of The View

One of the nuggets overshadowed by the 47 percent dis in the secret Mitt Romney fund-raiser video had the candidate telling his wealthy donors how he picked his television appearances, and why he shunned the likes of SNL and Letterman. The View was “high risk,” he said, because “of the five women on it, only one is conservative, and four are sharp-tongued and not conservative. Whoopi Goldberg in particular.” To make amends, the Romney campaign said both Mitt and Ann would come on the show in October, and a summit was planned for this Thursday. But as Barbara Walters announced on today’s program, the appearance has been canceled, and Ann will have to do.

“We were looking forward to it,” explained Walters. “Over the weekend, his people said that he had scheduling problems and would not be coming on with us. Nor at this point did he feel that he could reschedule.” She added, “He can change his mind and we hope he does. It would be our pleasure to have him on the program.” (“It was no longer going to work in the campaign schedule but Mrs. Romney is very excited to join the ladies of The View,” a Romney spokesperson confirmed.)

What a wimp!

There’s a lengthy article at by John Boher at BuzzFeed that explodes a number of myths about George Romney’s political career, and it is well worth the read.

Everyone agrees: Mitt Romney is not like his father.

The late Michigan governor and 1968 presidential candidate George Romney is remembered as a principled man of spontaneity and candor. His example is regularly invoked by both admirers of his son’s disciplined campaign style and critics of Mitt’s back-and-forth pandering. George, it is said, told the truth about the Vietnam War before it was popular to do so, with an unfortunately worded comment about “brainwashing” by U.S. government officials that cost him the 1968 Republican presidential nomination. “Mitt learned at an impressionable age that in politics, authenticity kills,” historian Rick Perlstein wrote in Rolling Stone earlier this year. “Heeding the lesson of his father’s fall, he became a virtual parody of an inauthentic politician.”

This rejection of his father’s example, the thinking goes, is what has made Mitt a more successful presidential candidate — self-controlled but hard to pin down, flipping from moderate to conservative to moderate once again. It is observed that Mitt would never draw a line in the sand like his father did in 1964, when George dramatically “charged out of the 1964 Republican National Convention over the party’s foot-dragging on civil rights,” as the Boston Globe’s authoritative biography, “The Real Romney,” put it earlier this year. Outlets from the New York Times to the New Republic have recalled this story of the elder Romney’s stand against Goldwater’s hard-line conservatives. Frontline’s documentary “The Choice 2012” reported it as a formative event: “when Goldwater received the nomination, Mitt saw his father angrily storm out.” A Google search for the incident produces hundreds of pages of results. In August, Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne cited the episode to write that Mitt “has seemed more a politician who would do whatever it took to close a deal than a leader driven by conviction and commitment. This is a problem George Romney never had.”

Except that none of it is true. George Romney was known by his political peers and by journalists as a flip-flopper with no real ideological core. He never stormed out of the 1964 Convention.

He stayed until the very end, formally seconding Goldwater’s eventual nomination and later standing by while an actual walkout took place. He left the convention holding open the possibility of endorsing Goldwater and then, after a unity summit in Hershey, Pennsylvania, momentarily endorsed the Arizona senator. Then he changed his mind while his top aides polled “all-white and race-conscious” Michigan communities for a “secret” white backlash vote against LBJ’s civil rights advances — a backlash that might have made a Goldwater endorsement palatable at home. Finding the Republican label even more unpopular than civil rights in Michigan, Romney ultimately distanced himself from the entire party, including his own moderate Republican allies

No one knows how that story got started, but it was Mitt who repeatedly spread it around once he began running for office. George Romney never marched with Martin Luther King either. There’s much much more, and it’s really interesting. Mitt may just be a chip off the old block after all.

There a little bit of good news for Obama in today’s polls. Reuters/Ipsos shows Obama leading by two points

President Barack Obama retained a slim lead over Republican challenger Mitt Romney in the Reuters/Ipsos daily tracking poll on Monday, as he appeared to have stemmed the bleeding from his poor first debate.

Three weeks before the November 6 U.S. election, Obama leads Romney by 2 percentage points, with 47 percent support from likely voters in the national online poll, to 45 percent support for Romney.

The margin was small enough to be a virtual tie, but Obama’s slight edge broadened from Sunday, when he went ahead of Romney by 1 point after falling behind in the wake of Romney’s decisive victory in their first presidential debate on October 3.

“Romney received a bump from that first debate, but the very nature of a bump is it recedes again,” Ipsos vice president Julia Clark said. “We’re now seeing Obama regaining a little bit of a foothold as we go into the second debate. They go into the debate on equal footing.”

The Washington Post-ABC poll released overnight had Obama with a 3 point lead, 49-46 percent. Chris Cillizza has some “deep(ish) thoughts” about the results. For some crazy reason, more people still think Mitt Romney would handle the economy better than Obama, but not by much, and everyone is anxious about the future no matter which candidate gets elected. Obama is still seen as far more likable than Romney, 60-30 among registered voters and 58-32 among likely voters.

The bad news for Obama, if the USA Today/Gallup poll of the swing states can be trusted, is that Romney has made huge gains with women voters.

Mitt Romney leads President Obama by five percentage points among likely voters in the nation’s top battlegrounds, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds, and he has growing enthusiasm among women to thank.

As the presidential campaign heads into its final weeks, the survey of voters in 12 crucial swing states finds female voters much more engaged in the election and increasingly concerned about the deficit and debt issues that favor Romney. The Republican nominee now ties the president among women who are likely voters, 48%-48%, while he leads by 12 points among men.

Why those issues would favor Romney is a mystery, since all the experts say his tax cuts would explode the deficit.

The battle for women, which was apparent in the speakers spotlighted at both political conventions this summer, is likely to help define messages the candidates deliver at the presidential debate Tuesday night and in the TV ads they air during the final 21 days of the campaign. As a group, women tend to start paying attention to election contests later and remain more open to persuasion by the candidates and their ads.

That makes women, especially blue-collar “waitress moms” whose families have been hard-hit by the nation’s economic woes, the quintessential swing voters in 2012′s close race.

Ugh.

Ralph posted a couple of very interesting poll-related links in the previous thread:

Sam Wang: The Passing Storm

In national polls, the race has swung back three points since the Presidential debate to a narrow Obama lead. This return has been steady over time, and so the role of the VP debate is unclear. Combined with state polls, the data suggest that the effect of Mitt Romney’s performance was an instantaneous jump of 5.5 points, which has now subsided back to where polls were in August. The decline in the state poll meta-analysis has been blocked by Ohio. Today, President Obama’s November re-elect probability is 84% – still a Russian-roulette situation for the Democrats.

And and “exclusive” at Democratic Underground: Gravis Marketing exposed as a fraud Part I. Very interesting and creepy too.

Everyone has advice for President Obama for tomorrow night’s debate. Lanny Davis offers some ridiculous suggestions at The Hill

1) Be respectful and gracious to Romney — look at him while he is talking and listen to what he is saying — not because it is better than the appearance of disrespect you conveyed in the first debate by looking down and taking notes, but because he is a good man, a good dad, a good husband and a successful businessman and politician who is deserving of respect.

2) Be firm and strong when you challenge him on his policy positions — but don’t interrupt or raise your voice, and concede him the merits once in a while (since it is neither true nor politically effective to declare that he is 100 percent wrong and you are 100 percent right).

3) Most heretical of all — concede a little when you can when the truth requires that you made some mistakes in your first term — and aver that will make you a better president in the second term.

For example, you could say you regret not making a greater effort to break the logjam of the supercommittee on dealing with the then $15 trillion debt. You could say you wished you had done more to reach out to the Senate and House Republicans on the committee and intend to do so in your next term — and to do a better job seeking the counsel of senior Republicans who are, in fact, interested in achieving solutions and bipartisan consensus, particularly on making real progress on reducing the nation’s unsustainable national debt, such as Sens. John McCain (Ariz.), Saxby Chambliss (Ga.) and Orrin Hatch (Utah).

I think he’s actually serious too!!

Greg Sargent wants to make sure President Obama reads David Stockman’s smackdown of Romney’s economic policies so he can “unmask” Romney “as an economic sham.”

Howard Fineman has a column on the many “fans” who are now second-guessing the Obama campaign strategies.

What are you hearing? This is an open thread, of course.