Man Without Qualities

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Undecideds Break For The Challenger V: The Proof Of The Pudding Begins

As noted in prior posts, the Man Withut Qualities has some reservations about the applicability of the Incumbent Rule - especially in this election. There has been some fussing about when the Incumbent Rule is suppose to take effect. It's all very nice to say "after the final poll" - but polling in this race will continue right up to and through election day. We are now two days from election day, and most versions of the Incumbent Rule should be kicking in. What's happening? Well, we have this early report:

A Newsweek poll showed the president moving ahead of Kerry in the popular vote, 50 percent to 44 percent, after being tied in the same survey a week ago. Democrats said their private surveys hinted at momentum for Bush.

(0) comments

Friday, October 29, 2004

Pathetic ... And Bound To Lose: Almost The Last On A Nearly Dispositive Day

Although it would be a very good thing for Mr. Bush to win re-election, one cannot help but feel sorry today for the pathetic, doomed Democratic spinmeisters and their mainstream media water carriers. Charged, on the very same day, with whirling to Kerry-Edwards' advantage three developments each of which alone is a catastrophe for the Democratic cause: (1) Maj. Austin Pearson's disclosure that his team removed 250 tons of plastic explosives and other munitions from the Al-Qaqaa depot south of Baghdad on April 13, 2003 ? 10 days after U.S. forces first reached the Al-Qaqaa site, and (2) the new bin Laden video tape, and (3) ABC News broadcasting a videotape of a man describing himself as an American member of al Qaeda who says a new wave of terror attacks against the United States could come "at any moment."

The Al-Qaqaa disclosure would be bad enough for the Democrats, given Senator Kerry's preposterous, hasty embrace of the original flawed, incomplete, spin-heavy New York Times report as the basis for superheated criticisms of the President. The Democrats and mainstream media (such as the AP article linked above) will no doubt work in overdrive to salvage something of the original story. But the holes and uncertainties that have appeared in the original story make one thing clear: It is far too early for anyone to be engaging in the kind of second-guessing of the Al-Qaqaa operation of the scale and tenor chosen by the Times and John Kerry. And it is increasingly apparent that the story isn't that significant even if every word of the Times/Kerry spin were true. Finally, one could positively feel the pain emanate from the CNN newsroom as the video of Maj. Pearson's press conference played. But that was not the worst for the CNN Kerry partisans, who began to make a valiant effort to suggest ways in which the story might be re-spun - only to be informed by another "expert" talking head that the potential of the entire Al-Qaqaa story to affect the election - no matter how the story is spun and exaggerated - is now utterly gone, superseded by the story of the bin Laden tape. O, Boo-hoo-hoo in the newsroom.

But the sadness on the Democrats effected by Maj. Austin Pearson is as naught compared to that effected by bin Laden. Consider the humiliating need to come up with arguments that it's "unclear" which way the tape cuts in the Presidential race. One sees Kerry spokesman after surrogate after water carrier intoning such rubbish. After complaining for months that they were dreadfully afraid that the Administration would concoct some "October Surprise" to refocus the voting public's memory on 9-11 and terrorism (an issue on which Mr. Bush enjoys a huge lead over his opponent), the Democrats now have to explain how a spectacular and completely real October Surprise that is obviously going to refocus the voting public's memory on 9-11 and terrorism will have "unclear" effect. They look and sound like idiots when they do this. The sense of embarrassment in the spokesmen, surrogates and water carriers palpable - one senses they would rather endure a command to run naked through Times Square at rush hour than to have to make the argument they must make - but they have no choice.

I was particularly amazed seeing one CNN "expert" suggest that bin Laden was actually tendering a bit of an olive branch, since his threat to attack America again was "conditional" on continuing United States intervention in the Islamic world (the AP article linked above - headlined "Bin Laden: U.S. can avoid another attack" - also conveys some of this absurd take). United States support of Israel is clearly considered by bin Laden and his kind to be an unacceptable intervention by the United States in the Islamic world, so there's not much room to wonder where the theory of that "expert" will lead. Gee - how can we remove bin Laden's "condition" to grab the olive branch? Well, we don't know everything that's involved, but pulling the rug out from under Israel would certainly be a part of it! And how about those Iranian nuclear bombs? Some "condition!"

And as if to make sure that voters don't allow their re-focused attention to focus overseas too much, there is the obliging American al-Qaida operative and his tape, apparently made right here in the good old USA.

O, yes. A nearly dispositive day.
(1) comments

Zogbyspeak In The Badlands

The Washington Post provides an amusing glimpse of Zogby Poll "methodology" in the case of the South Dakota Senate race:

[T]he Zogby poll published in the Rapid City Journal ... showed Republican Thune leading Daschle, 48.5 percent to 45.5 percent, just within the margin of error. At first, however, the poll had shown an even larger Thune lead, which seemed so improbable that the pollsters adjusted their voter turnout estimates and arrived at the narrower gap.

So, what about all that baloney one reads about carefully consistent and thought-through polling procedures? Well, forget all that stuff if Mr. Zogby thinks procedures turn out a result that's just "improbable" for his tastes. Then it time to adjust the voter turnout estimates!

Does Mr. Zogby adjust voter turnout estimates by dipping his finger in a double gin-and-tonic and sticking it in the wind?

(0) comments

Thursday, October 28, 2004

The Very First Time

Many Democrats - including Arianna Huffington - hope that first time voters and their cell-phone-only ways will save Kerry-Edwards. This Pace University Pace Poll/Rock the Vote Survey Research Study opens with words of wisdom from James Carville addressing such hopes:

You know what they call a candidate who's counting on a lot of new voters? A loser.

Or, perhaps, "pathetic ... and bound to lose?" Just asking.

The Pace study also includes these observations, which should warm each Caddell cockle:

Senator Kerry's unfavorability rating [among prospective first-time voters] has risen 10 points since July to 46%. During the same time period, the President gained 8 points on Senator Kerry in the head-to-head ballot question, moving from 40% in July to 48% today. ... [T]he President leads Kerry among new voters 48% to 44%. But first-time voters who remain undecided may wind up supporting the challenger.

Of course, we won't know until after the last poll and the election count is completed. But already there are very few "undecideds" left - Zogby, for example, says that the pool of "undecideds" has shrunk to 3% - 4% at this point.

If Zogby is right, who will be left to "break to the challenger" once the Incumbent Rule kicks in? Setting aside margins of error for the moment, suppose 60% of the "undecideds" break to Kerry-Edwards at that point, and they then make up 2% of the voting public. That means Kerry-Edwards could expect a boost of about .2% from the Incumbent Rule.

Whoopee! Bigger effects are probably caused by bad lighting in polling places (mine is in a neighbor's garage) or voters whose arthritis or tremors causes them inadvertently to pull the wrong lever. Perhaps pollster/pundits should spend more of their time analyzing those factors.

POSTSCRIPT: It is worth a minute to peruse a certain feature of the Incumbent Rule that makes it partially self-fulfilling where the incumbent leads in the final poll, and therefore partially meaningless:

The formulation of the Incumbent Rule means where two candidates are arbitrarily close to each other in the final poll with the incumbent leading, it is perfectly possible for the challenger to "benefit" from the Incumbent Rule but the incumbent sometimes still win the election.

That's because the Incumbent Rule considers any split of the undecideds which is less favorable to the incumbent than the incumbent's ratable share of the determined vote in the final poll to be a "break for the challenger." In particular, if the incumbent leads by any amount in the final poll, a 50%-50% split of the undecideds is a "break for the challenger" even though in such a case such a split can never tip the election to the challenger.

For example: Suppose the final poll shows the incumbent drawing 45% of the vote with the challenger at 40% and the remaining 15% of the voters "undecided" at the time of the final poll. If the "undecideds" split 50%-50%, the incumbent will obvously win with 52.5% and the challenger receive 47.5%. The Incumbent Rule calls that result a "break to the challenger." But so long as the incumbent was leading in the final poll, the incumbent will always win the election if the "undecideds" split evenly.

In other words, the Incumbent Rule relies on some of the wisdom of an old Abbott & Costello routine in which Abbott first asks Costello about a 5-year-old girl whose father is 25 years old, or 5 times his daughter's age. "OK," says Costello. Abbott then points out that in 5 years the girl will be 10 years old and her father will be 30, or only 3 times her age. "OK," says Costello. Abbott observes that after 10 more years the girl will be 20 and her father 40, or only twice her age. "OK," says Costello. Then Abbott pops the key question: How long will it be before the girl and her father are the same age?

Or, correspondingly, how many elections have been won by challengers on account of the Incumbent Rule where the incumbent leads in the final poll and the undecideds break to the challenger by splitting 50%-50%?

Now there's a topic for some intense pollster/pundit research.
(1) comments

Undecided Voters Break Towards The Challenger? IV: The Rasmussen Variations

Alert Andrew Morton points out that Rasmussen's readings on this election are consistent in spirit with Patrick Caddell's historical observations:

Among voters who made up their minds in the Spring of 2004 or sooner, Kerry is favored by a 51% to 48% margin. This obviously includes some who decided to vote for anybody-but-Bush since 36% of voters made up their mind before the Democratic nominee was selected.

The candidates are essentially tied among those who made up their minds during the summer. However, those who decided in the past month favor President Bush by a 57% to 38% margin.

Mr. Caddell and/or Mr. Rasmussen should commit his (their) observations and research to a prominent Op-Ed piece or the like, formulate them with more specificity and, among other thngs, integrate Mr. Caddell's historical research with Mr. Rasmussen's data. What I saw of Mr. Caddell on the Fox News programs was seemingly focused on the final two weeks of the election cycle - but I had the sense that his research has yielded more extensive results, along the lines of Rasmussen's take.

Kausfiles links to this interesting "energetic debunking."

(1) comments

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

A Parallax View II: The Arc of a Rejected Hail Mary

It is becoming increasing obvious that Senator Kerry's most recent "Hail Mary" - his hasty embrace of the New York Times' "missing Iraq high explosives" story - is exploding in his face.

Yet the risks were huge and obvious.

If the Washington Times story holds up, how can Senator Kerry continue to argue that he would have "persuaded" our valued ally - Russia - to cooperate in an invasion of Iraq where that "ally" was busy supplying Iraq with high explosives that it then moved to Syria as the American invasion neared?

MORE: From Maguire.

STILL MORE: From the Financial Times, which has endorsed John Kerry.
(0) comments

Undecided Voters Break Towards The Challenger? III: Hearing Secret Harmonies

What Kausfiles calls the venerable "Incumbent Rule" - which holds that in the campaign's last hours "undecided" voters tend to "break" for the challenger - supposedly garners empirical support from a 1989 study by Nick Panagakis, president of Market Shares Corporation (the firm that polls for the Chicago Tribune), a study that appeared in a "famous" article in The Polling Report. The Panagakis study found that in 82% of the cases he selected the undecideds "broke" mostly to the challenger. Claims by the Mystery Pollster, for example, that the Panagakis study was based on polls which were all conducted during the last week before an election are flatly wrong. Further, most of the cases in the Panagakis were not particularly similar to federal Presidential races. Here's how Panagakis described the cases he considered:

The 155 polls we collected and analyzed were the final polls conducted in each particular race; most were completed within two weeks of election day. They cover both general and primary elections, and Democratic and Republican incumbents. They are predominantly from statewide races, with a few U.S. House, mayoral and countywide contests thrown in. Most are from the 1986 and 1988 elections, although a few stretch back to the 1970s.

The last time I looked, "most" still meant "more than half." The difference between asserting (as Panagakis does) that "most" of the final polls analyzed in his report were completed within two weeks of election day and asserting (as the Mystery Pollster does) of those final polls that they were all conducted during the last week before an election is huge. Moreover, the Panagakis analysis simply does not say how many of its final polls were, say, one day from the election and how many were, say, two weeks from the election. Why does the Mystery Pollster choose to mention "one week" at all? For all we know from Panagakis' description, 95% of his final polls may have been taken one day before the election to which they relate.

Does it matter if the Mystery pollster's formulation of the Panagakis results is wrong? Yes, it matters. And it may help to explain why Pat Caddell is looking so upset these days - and saying such tart things. In an interview with Neil Cavuto Mr. Caddell said:

[T]he undecideds always break to the incumbent at the end of a Presidential campaign. ...[N]obody studies the history of this. Undecided voters, by the middle of October, have not decided to vote for the challenger, they go for the safe choice, the person they have. ... In other words, if a challenger cannot convince them, it's what I used to call the button problem, it's the war problem. If you're not going to vote for, unless you convince yourself that the challenger will do a better job in protecting the country, or handling particularly foreign policy than will be the incumbent or the incumbent party, then if you haven't made that decision, you stay with what's safe, you stay with what you know, that you're comfortable with. And that's been working for Bush I think coming all along, and it's part of the whole--

In other words, Mr. Caddell is saying that undecideds usually break towards the incumbent.

Or is he? Mickey Kaus seems to construe Mr. Caddell that way: Pollster Pat Caddell dissents from the so-called Incumbent Rule (which holds that undecided voters never go to the incumbent). I'm not convinced. And Mr. Caddell is clearly upset with something that's being said these days. But is it the "Incumbent Rule" - or, rather, all versions of the Incumbent Rule - that has Mr. Caddell fired up?

Probably not. Mr. Caddell seems to be upset with what he views to be a particular misstatement of the "Incumbent Rule" - the one that is now being used to justify Democratic hopes on the basis of poll results now in existence. The Mystery Pollster and Mr. Caddell agree on at least one thing: The Incumbent Rule applies only based on the final poll, which should be taken very close to election day. As the Mystery Pollster cautioned (despite his incorrect description of the Panagakis study):
That is why pollsters continue to interview voters through the final weekend.
The data needed to apply the Incumbent Rule simply do not yet exist.

The Panagakis study's own description of its included cases should give any serious person serious pause in applying it to the current presidential race. "Primary elections?" "Predominantly from statewide races,with a few U.S. House, mayoral and countywide contests thrown in?" Is "thrown in" writing that usually reflects systematic, scientific choice? What would one think of, say, an experimental drug study whose official analysis submitted to the FDA stated that "a few" trial patients of a particular type (older, female, cancer victims perhaps, or those with known heart irregularities, or those who had competed in recent Olympics Games?) were "thrown in" to the study population?

The Incumbent Rule supposedly largely turns on the effect of voters getting to know and understand the candidates. How comfortable does one feel analogizing the primary, state, House and local elections studied by Panagakis - contests in which ordinary voters usually know little about the candidates, especially the challenger, until the end of the campaign (if voters know much even then) with a presidential election in which the national media has been flooding the political marketplace with information for many months? - especially in this case, where the media have been flooding the market with opinion and information about the Democratic challenger the media overtly favor. The Mystery Pollster is almost certainly seriously wrong to conclude that the historical data and theoretical underpinnings of the incumbent rule are far stronger for presidential races - especially with respect to this presidential race, in which mainstream media coverage has left little positive information about Senator Kerry to be absorbed and much positive information about President Bush obscured.

The Cavuto show was not the only Fox News program on which Mr. Caddell appeared and described his frustrations with the current widespread misstatement and abuse of the Incumbent rule. Mr. Caddell also did so last night on Hannity & Colmes, where he elaborated on his own observations. I do not have a transcript of his statements, but I believe the following fairly summarizes his position:

There is, in fact, sometimes a small "break towards the challenger" in the final day or so before an election. That is the valid content of the "Incumbent Rule" as Mr. Caddell sees it. But in the two weeks preceding, say, the second or third day prior to a Presidential election, there is actually an ongoing "break towards the incumbent." In other words, Mr. Caddell thinks the valid application of the Incumbent Rule leads to the conclusion that Mr. Bush will "top out" no sooner than the second or third day prior to the election - after which there may be a smaller "break to the challenger."

Mr. Caddell did not mention the Panagakis study by name. But his comment on the Cavuto program that "nobody studies the history of this" looks like an implied swipe at that "famous" study. In addition, Mr. Caddell also stated on Hannity & Colmes that he, personally had gone back and researched past presidential races in this respect - research on which he was relying to dispute what he considers an invalid version of the Incumbent Rule. His observation that "nobody studies the history of this" therefore seems intended to mean that he thinks that nobody who is advancing the incorrect version of the Incumbent Rule now making the rounds has adequately studied the history of its application in presidential races.

On the whole, Mr. Caddell's skepticism of any "undecided at one week break to the challenger" or "undecided at two weeks break to the challenger" version of the Incumbent Rule seems very well founded. The Panagakis study, which relies on a lot of races not very much like a presidential race at all, and especially not like this presidential race, is very weak evidence to the contrary. Further, if most of the Panagakis final polls were taken within a day or so of the corresponding elections, there is no daylight between the Panagakis and Caddell research. In that case, the Panagakis analysis would simply be the less precise.


(1) comments

Monday, October 25, 2004

A Parallax View

The Washington Times reports:

U.N. ambassadors from several nations are disputing assertions by Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry that he met for hours with all members of the U.N. Security Council just a week before voting in October 2002 to authorize the use of force in Iraq. An investigation by The Washington Times reveals that while the candidate did talk for an unspecified period to at least a few members of the panel, no such meeting, as described by Mr. Kerry on a number of occasions over the past year, ever occurred.

Does this matter? Probably not in the sense of moving many voters. Senator Kerry's claim to have spoken at length to all Security Council ambassadors was always ridiculous at bottom and lacking in detail. It is very hard to imagine that any substantial number of voters at all points in the political spectrum actually believes that Senator Kerry wasn't grossly exaggerating on this point. So there is very little new information in this report with respect to Senator Kerry's character or experience. (Senator Kerry's potential supporters just don't care that he lies.)

But nonetheless there is a major piece of new information in one aspect of this report: The ambassadors of all those Security Council members were willing to speak to the Washington Times and squarely refute Senator Kerry's claims.

Those ambassadors could have merely said to the Times reporter that as foreign ambassadors they didn't want to get involved in a United States presidential race by responding to the question. Or that they generally don't talk to reporters. Or just refused to take or return the reporter's call. But the ambassadors didn't do any of those things. Instead, they responded to a conservative newspaper in a way guaranteed to undercut the Senator's prospects. That doesn't seem very consistent with the ambassadors and their home countries believing that John Kerry will soon be the President of the United States.

And those ambassadors are not alone in behaving as if they believe President Bush has the race sewed up unless something very big and new happens to put the other man in the White House. Kerry-Edwards, for example, seems to greet every recent morning with a new "Hail Mary" pass with enormous risk. Today, for example, John Kerry fully embraced the New York Times' odd and highly incomplete report of the "disappearance" of 380 tons of high explosives in Iraq. Senator John Kerry seized on the missing cache as "one of the great blunders of Iraq" and said President Bush's "incredible incompetence" had put American troops at risk.

But it was John Kerry who put his campaign at risk by naively accepting a weakly supported report on which to base his harsh assault on Mr. Bush. In addition to being weakly supported, the report comes with many unanswered questions, including why it is being put out after much delay and with obvious intent to influence the American elections by the International Atomic Energy Agency, a body that has shown itself to be capable of highly partisan and questionable maneuvers in the past. Now DRUDGE reports that the report is really re-cycled blather from months ago despite the Times' breathless claims to "exclusivity" and Senator Kerry's Hail Mary may have been summarily rejected:

Tonight, NBCNEWS reported: The 380 tons of powerful conventional explosives were already missing back in April 10, 2003 -- when U.S. troops arrived at the installation south of Baghdad! An NBCNEWS crew embedded with troops moved in to secure the Al-Qaqaa weapons facility on April 10, 2003, one day after the liberation of Iraq. According to NBCNEWS, the HMX and RDX explosives were already missing when the American troops arrived. "The U.S. Army was at the site one day after the liberation and the weapons were already gone," a top Republican blasted from Washington late Monday.

Simply put: If NBCNEWS is right, Senator Kerry is going to look like a very big and highly incompetent ass just days before the election. If he believed that the election were really as close as the polls and media are suggesting, his decision to take the risk of embracing a flaky, partisan Times story on the very day it appeared.

But a premature embrace of what may be a major Times embarrassment poses a small risk compared to the risks represented by Senator Kerry's embrace of Bill Clinton.

Why is Kerry-Edwards taking these chances if they believe in their "winning scenario": President Bush's lead is small, and undecideds "break" in favor of the challenger. That's it, right? Just stay the course, and everything should be all right. So why does Kerry-Edwards seem not to be staying any identifiable course at all?

Other items also suggest that Senator Kerry is doing a lot worse than the national public polls and media reports suggest:

Three polls (one in Florida) indicate that between 15% and 20% of African-Americans have "trended away" (Donna Brazille's term) to the point of saying that they will vote Republican. The Florida poll is consistent with the most recent Gallup results in that state placing Bush-Cheney much in the lead there. Kerry-Edwards has also had a great deal of trouble securing its female suburban base. These minority and female problems of Kerry-Edwards appear to be the justifications for yanking the volatile (and popular) but now almost cadaverous-looking Mr. Clinton from his hospital bed to campaign. Mr. Clinton's Philadelphia performance - which urged voters to vote for the candidate who appealed to their hopes more than their fears - was as dubious and "nuanced" as his dreadful Boston convention address that flogged Senator Kerry's blind vanity and the theme that he was a child of privilege.

Bush-Cheney has a small lead in Hawaii and Connecticut in some polls - states that are supposed to be unquestionably and unambiguously in John Kerry's corner.

Senator Kerry actually took time yesterday to drone on about the attenuated and almost irrelevant micro-issue of flu vaccine. This behavior does not suggest that he thinks his big issues are working ... or are going to work.

Mr. Bush is not personally campaigning much in Ohio, as if he and his campaign believe the state is secured. This is consistent with the recent Zogby Poll results in that state that give Mr. Bush a 5% lead.

Tony Blair agreed to move British troops from Basra to points near Baghdad.

The economic models predict Mr. Bush will take about 57% of the vote - that's not a close race at all, even if one allows for a generous margin of error.

There has been no sign, yet, that undecided voters are "breaking" for the challenger. Quite the contrary: Mr. Bush's lead seems to be slowly growing in the better polls and at least stable in the rest. His margin in the better polls seems to be converging to a point within the margin of error of what economic models are predicting.

Even the grifters who manufacture the hilariously manipulated Los Angeles Times poll (the very same people who predicted that California Governor's Grey Davis' landslide recall election would be "close") can't bring themselves to award Kerry-Edwards more than a "tie."

Some liberal Democratic columnists whose work generally reads like the DNC's daily talking points, such as Ron Brownstein at the Los Angeles Times, are wringing their hands over the possible "illegitimacy" of the likely election results.

It is curious that so many factors, including the behavior of many knowledgeable insiders of various political stripes and of international actors, suggest that the race is really not all that close.

MORE: On the NBCNEWS report.

(1) comments

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Well, Surprise! Surprise! Surprise! II: Another Dead White Male Is Said To Slime The President From The Grave!

The Man Without Qualities has a particular curiosity about the Democratic penchant for slimy campaign accusations purportedly emitted by the long dead - someone did not speak up in the many years preceding death, but now slimes from the grave! The Rathergate/Memogate slur - based on forged documents purporting to be authored by Mr. Bush's long-dead National Guard superior - was a particularly juicy specimen.

Now, just in time for Holloween, through a link thoughtfully provided by Kausfiles, we have more dead White male words from the beyond! Yes, here's an overripe, seasonal treat from Knight Ridder Newspapers, with juices fairly dripping from its bones:

President Bush often has cited his work in 1973 with a now-defunct inner-city program for troubled teens ... P.U.L.L., the Professional United Leadership League, whose executive director, John White, had played tight end for the Houston Oilers in the early 1960s. But former associates of White, who died in 1988, have disputed in recent interviews much of Bush's version of his time at the program.

"I was working full time for an inner-city poverty program known as Project P.U.L.L.," Bush said in his 1999 autobiography, "A Charge to Keep." "My friend John White ... asked me to come help him run the program. ... I was intrigued by John's offer. ... Now I had a chance to help people."

But White's administrative assistant and others associated with P.U.L.L., speaking on the record for the first time, say Bush was not helping to run the program and White had not asked Bush to come aboard. ... "We didn't know what kind of trouble he'd been in, only that he'd done something that required him to put in the time," said Althia Turner, White's administrative assistant.

"John said he was doing a favor for George's father because an arrangement had to be made for the son to be there," said Willie Frazier, also a former player for the Houston Oilers and a P.U.L.L. summer volunteer in 1973. .... "He didn't help run the program. I was in charge of him and I wouldn't say I helped run the program, either," said David Anderson, a recreational director at P.U.L.L.

A White House spokesman, told about the interviews, denied Bush had been in any trouble or Bush's father, who was ambassador to the United Nations at the time, had arranged the job at P.U.L.L.

I particularly like the article's passing reference to "a book published in 2000, largely discredited," its description of one of the current slimers as having "said she has avoided reporters for years, [and] agreed to be interviewed only after phoning her pastor for advice" and the hilarious suggestion that Mr. Bush could not have obtained a place in an unpaid inner city charity project without his father's intervention. Those are nice, garish, cheeky touches - all so appropriate for this time of the year! BOO!

Of course, it goes without saying that the Knight Ridder reporter doesn't say anything about the slimerss current and past political activities and affiliations. Could those be Democratic in nature? Well, does the reader think those activities and affiliations would have been mentioned if they were (are) Republican activities and affiliations? You bet they would have been mentioned. And how many people working in inner city projects like this tend to be Republicans?

Hey, it could happen. They got one Republican to work at P.U.L.L., didn't they! At least that isn't disputed.
(0) comments


The Man Without Qualities believes that pollster John Zogby often manipulates his results for media effect, and it's no surprise that Mr. Zogby now has a comfortable relationship with Reuters, the "news" service. In addition, John Zogby's brother, James Zogby, is founder and president of the Arab American Institute, which bills itself as "the policy and political research arm of the Arab American Community" but whose activities are often rather partisan. The two brothers are on very good terms. That fraternal relationship was hardly worth a mention in 2000.

For all that, Mr. Zogby is a very intelligent and talented man who has lots of information at his command. So it's worth reading what he has to say, even though what he has to say should be viewed with more than one's customary level of skepticism. Here's some of what he's saying today:

Bush led Kerry 47-45 percent in the latest three-day tracking poll, a statistical dead heat that was within the poll's margin of error. Bush had an identical 47-45 percent lead the previous day.

About 6 percent of likely voters are still undecided between the president and the Massachusetts senator 10 days before the Nov. 2 election, and neither candidate has been able to break 50 percent since the poll began on Oct. 7.

Pollster John Zogby said the tense White House battle evoked memories of the disputed 2000 election narrowly won by Bush over Democrat Al Gore. At this stage of the 2000 race, Bush had a one-point lead over Gore in the tracking poll.

Zogby said Bush was performing slightly better this year in the states he won in 2000 -- the so-called "red states" named for the color used by television networks to identify them -- than Kerry was in the states won by Gore.

"Bush leads in the 'red states' 51 percent to 42 percent, while Kerry leads in the 'blue states' by only 47 percent to 43 percent," Zogby said.

So according to John Zogby, Mr. Bush is now doing better in the states he won in 2000 than he did in that campaign. Senator Kerry is doing worse in the states that Mr. Gore won. Mr. Gore took some states in 2000 by only a handful of votes, and, because of redistricting, the states Mr. Bush won in 2000 count for more in the Electoral College in 2004 than they did in 2000, and the states Mr. Gore won count for less than then did in 2004.

When do the undecideds start to break for the challenger?

(0) comments

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Well, Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!

Be honest with yourself. Won't you be surprised if Kerry-Edwards doesn't come up with some "surprise" revelation about President Bush a few days before the upcoming election? - perhaps through a conduit, an "independent" operative? A revelation striving to emulate the DUI story of 2000? Of course you would be surprised! Surprised and a litle disappointed. Already there are unfounded Kerry-Edwards claims that the Bush administration has current plans to restore the military draft and privatize social security and some "blood for oil" blather - not to mention the CBS News-Kerry/Edwards telephone calls in the Rathergate/Memogate doings. Surely all that's just a warm up for what's coming. The real question is what form it might take.

Here's an entertaining possibility from Roland Patrick:

[W]ell-placed sources indicate we should expect desperate Democrat operatives to leak--to whichever network anchor has any credibility left--late next week, a new outrage over Lt Geo. W. Bush's Texas ANG career. Details are sketchy, but reports of highly amusing questions have been floated, out of the Pacific Northwest, to some former pilot colleagues of the President. Betting is heavy for Friday, October 29th.

Dear me, another National Guard slur? Hard on the heels of the Rathergate/Memogate mess? Good grief!
(0) comments

Learning From Florida

Recently there has been a good deal of fussing - mostly by Democrats - about partisan "disenfranchisement" and "intimidation" of voters in the 2000 election, especially, it is alleged, in Florida. The Democratic whining is clearly grossly exaggerated. But it is worth recalling that a good many thousands of Florida voters were apparently induced not to vote by the national television networks - and most of those voters were Republicans, as John Fund cogently summarized after the debacle:

The ... Networks ... declared the polls were closed in Florida when some 5% of the state, in the Central time zone, was still voting. Since those areas voted 2-to-1 for George W. Bush, the GOP nominee probably lost several thousand votes because citizens thought they couldn't cast ballots. ...

It's now well known that all five TV networks and the Associated Press declared Florida for Al Gore at 7:50 p.m. Eastern time, 10 minutes before the polls closed in the panhandle counties. That could not have dissuaded many voters from casting ballots. But far more serious was the announcement by all five networks at 7 p.m. Eastern time that the polls in Florida had closed. As Brill's Content reported: "At 7 p.m., ET, every network was talking about the poll closings in nine states. And every network was wrong: the polls were closing in only eight states. . . . The polls in that heavily Republican [panhandle of Florida] wouldn't close for another hour--8 p.m. ET." The networks, with the exception of Fox News Channel, continued to repeat this misinformation throughout that hour.

Affidavits from 42 poll workers or inspectors ... all indicated that they saw a decline in the number of voters beginning at 6 p.m. CST, when ordinarily the voting traffic increases. ...

An independent report commissioned by CNN accused all the networks of "an abuse of power" by confusing the public and interfering with democracy. ... But the networks have not specifically addressed why they all misreported that the Florida polls had closed. CBS, for example, explicitly stated that the polls had closed in Florida 13 times during the hour while the panhandle counties were open, along with 15 additional implied statements to that effect and frequent visual references to a map showing Florida's polls had closed. All of the networks except Fox News Channel repeated the contention that Florida's polls were closed throughout the hour that the panhandle precincts remained open.

There is growing evidence that the network poll-closing announcement did lower voter turnout. A survey by pollster John McLaughlin estimated that the early calls by the networks discouraged more than 4% more Republicans than Democrats to go to the polls. Another study, by John Lott of the Yale Law School, estimated the drop-off at 3%. That's a range of 7,500 to 10,000 Republican voters for the two studies.

The Committee for Honest Politics, a GOP-founded watchdog group, estimated that at each of the 361 panhandle polling places, the networks' false information dissuaded 54 people from voting. That would represent a total of 19,133 Floridians who didn't vote. If these voters would have gone 2-to-1 for Mr. Bush, as actual voters in the panhandle did, that means a loss of 6,377 Bush votes--nearly 12 times his official margin of victory.

There's no way of knowing how accurate these estimates are, but the testimony of poll workers and inspectors indicates that something certainly happened after the networks declared Florida's polls closed.....

On Oct. 30, a week before the election, Florida's Secretary of State Katherine Harris issued a statement to the media pointing out that the polls in the Central time zone would be open until 8 p.m. EST.

Since Mr. Fund wrote those words, much evidence of liberal network news willingness to work (and distort) in the service of the Democratic cause has surfaced, including the Rathergate/Memogate scandal that has ripped through CBS News and the grotesque memo of ABCNEWS Political Director Mark Halperin admonishing ABC staff not to "reflexively and artificially" hold John Kerry to as high a standard of "accountability" as George Bush.

It is, indeed, important to learn from what certain political actors did in Florida in 2000. But the people who bear the most watching include those who staff and manage the liberal network news divisions. It does not follow that more government regulation would make things better. But the blogosphere and media outlets themselves should be prepared to identify network news abuses before it is too late and the election is again plunged into litigation.
(0) comments

Undecided Voters Break Towards The Challenger? II: The Voice From The Thermos

[Kausfiles readers try this post.]

The Man Without Qualities is not the only, or the first, or the smartest person to suspect that too many pundits and pollsters and pundit/pollsters take too many of their political temperature readings in a vacuum, or a bubble, or both - in a political thermos*, if you will. As election day approaches, the increasingly involuted thermos contingent begins to look a lot like stock market "chartists" - technical analysts who believe recurrent trading patterns can assist them in forecasting future price movements. There may be a bit of truth in such analyses. But just as financial "chartism" runs against all forms of the Efficient Market Hypothesis (which is a lot sturdier than its critics allow) political poll "chartism," which seeks to predict results based on the relationship between past elections and past polls (on the one hand) and upcoming elections and current polls (on the other hand) is a very tough way to make a living, politically, intellectually or financially. Of course, the most basic tenet of political chartism, that election returns look like poll results taken soon before the election, has a lot of truth in it - but things get very dodgy after that. What Kausfiles calls the venerable "Incumbent Rule" (in the campaign's last hours, we tend to see "undecided" voters "break" for the challenger), that darling of Conventional Wisdom mongers everywhere, is a form of political "chartism." The Man Without Qualities remains skeptical of all such chartism, even versions enhanced by complicated epicycles - because they seem too much the products of political professionals impressed by a basso profundo that is little more than the sound of their own voices echoing from the depths of an empty thermos.

For example, it is sometimes said by the voice from the thermos that empirical support for the Incumbent Rule is provided by a 1989 study by Nick Panagakis, president of Market Shares Corporation (the firm that polls for the Chicago Tribune), which analyzed results from 155 surveys, most from the late 1980s, all conducted during the last week before an election. In a "famous" article in The Polling Report, Panagakis found that in 82% of the cases, the undecideds "broke" mostly to the challenger.

That's all very nice for Mr. Panagakis. I hope he made a bundle. But his "cases" weren't all taken from presidential elections - there haven't been that many. So he performed a triage on his data to decide what cases to include. But it's very unlikely that any of his cases were similar to a presidential election in which the best economic model for the election gave a prediction of 57.48 percent of the two-party vote for the incumbent - in this case President Bush (odd the way Yale keeps popping up this year). Are we supposed to believe that late deciders are going to vote as if they really don't care about the economy that much, after all? Instead, they're going to discover they're all really, really angry about Iraq? - even though John Kerry is the Democratic nominee exactly because even Democrats weren't angry enough to choose Howard Dean in the primaries? [UPDATE: Polls, of course, are stationary snapshots - not, in themselves, intended to be predicative at all. Pollsters are still-photographers. Prediction is the job of pundits and public markets - and the public markets in Bush v. Kerry futures very much favor Mr. Bush at this moment.]

For those who just can't break the chartism habit, Michael Barone, with the help of Steven Den Beste, turned the whole chartist enterprise on its head:

Blogger Steven Den Beste has prepared an interesting chart. ... Eliminating some of the peaks and valleys of the Bush and Kerry percentages in's average of recent polls, Den Beste shows that Bush's percentages have tended to rise over time while Kerry's have risen much less if at all.

He draws the Bush long-term trend line from a low point around 43 percent in May, when the media were full of stories about the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, to higher numbers around 45 percent in July and August, then up to the 49 percent level he has reached today. His long-term Kerry trend line runs through the 44 to 45 percent level in the spring to the 45 to 46 percent level in August, after the Democratic National Convention, to the same 45 to 46 percent level of today.

It seems curious that the percentages of the incumbent should rise while the percentages of the challenger have not risen much if at all. As a general proposition, you expect an incumbent's standing to change less, because voters already know much more about him than about his opponent. But that hasn't happened this time.

My tentative explanation is this. Bush's most effective opposition this year has come not from Kerry and the Democrats but from Old Media, the New York Times and the news pages of the Washington Post, along with the broadcast networks ABC, CBS, and NBC. Old Media gave very heavy coverage to stories that tended to hurt Bush?violence in Iraq, Abu Ghraib, the false charges of Richard Clarke and Joseph Wilson, etc. And during the first eight months of the year Bush did a poor job of making his case.

Then, suddenly, that case was made with maximum effectiveness at the Republican National Convention in New York - by John McCain and Rudolph Giuliani, by Zell Miller and Arnold Schwarzenegger, by Laura Bush and Dick Cheney and George W. Bush himself. Bush was able to get his message out unmediated by Old Media. (Fox News Channel had more viewers during the Republican National Convention than any of the old-line broadcast networks.) The message was simple: We need this president to protect the nation. Bush muffed the chance to deliver that message effectively in the first debate. But he made up for it in the second and third debates.

I agree with the significance Mr. Barone assigns to the Republican post-Convention "bounce" and the skewed-but-saturated mainstream media coverage in this race. And I haven't seen anything from the conventional chartists that even begins to answer this kind of argument or the economic models.


* I know, I know ... it's a registered trademark.

(0) comments

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Hail to The Bulldogs

The official site for Yale athletics reports:

For the first time since the U.S. Presidential election process came down to Republicans vs. Democrats, candidates from the same undergraduate institution oppose each other. Since a Yale man (graduate school included) will occupy the White House for the fifth straight term - and both of the current candidates were athletes - we surveyed the largest Bulldog team to see who was getting the most support. The 2004 Yale Football team leans to the right with 62 players voting for George Bush '68 (baseball). John Kerry '66 (lacrosse, hockey, soccer), who shared the Yale campus with his opposition for two years as an undergraduate, got 27 votes while 11 players said they were undecided.
(0) comments

Undecided Voters Break Towards The Challenger?

Around this time of the election cycle one often hears that last minute undecided voters "break towards the challenger" in the actual election. That is supposedly because the public knows more about the incumbent and follows a voting decision procedure that first asks whether the incumbent deserves re-election. One often hears (usually from Dick Morris) that an incumbent who has not "broken" the 50% barrier in the polls by this point is supposed to be in trouble. Is that pattern likely to be followed in this election?

It seems unlikely that the "break towards the challenger" pattern will be nearly as strong in this election as in the past. For one thing, the same factors that favor the challenger in the general election are also supposed to be reasons why the challenger gets a bigger "post convention bounce" than the incumbent. In this election President Bush's post-Convention bounce was clearly much larger than Senator Kerry's bounce. The mainstream media has been saturating the public with their view of the race for a very long time. It is hard to imagine that the public has much new, positive material to absorb about Kerry-Edwards between now and the election.

In addition, the "break towards the challenger" pattern was very weak in 2002. An MSNBC/Zogby Poll conducted of 500 likely Florida voters over Oct. 8-10, 2002 (about as far out from election day as we are now) in the course of the Florida statewide race for governor of that state revealed a statistical dead heat: Incumbent Jeb Bush (Republican) had 48% of likely voters behind him, Bill McBride (Democrat) pulled 45% and 7% of likely voters said they were "Not Sure." The actual election wasn't even close. Gov. Jeb Bush trounced lawyer Bill McBride, 56% to 43%. Of course, Florida wasn't the only example of a late swing towards Republicans and incumbents in the 2002 election - a swing that went essentially undetected by almost all pollsters.

Sometimes the last minute 2002 swing was towards a Democratic incumbent. On the very eve of her 2002 re-election polls showed Democratic Louisiana Senator Landrieu in a dead heat with her challenger Terrell - with Senator Landrieu not having broken 50% in the polls in any consistent manner. In fact, Senator Landrieu won re-election with 624,214 votes, or 52%, and Terrell had 587,423, or 48%. The remaining "undecideds" did not break against the better-known incumbent in that case, either - even though she had not broken the supposedly magic 50% barrier in the polls.

MORE: More reasons to question whether the "break towards the challenger" effect has much to it.

(0) comments

Being Ralph Nader: How Much Does The Ballot Matter?

Ralph Nader has been excluded from the ballot of many states, including critical Ohio. The Democratic Party and its allies have been the main movers in the effort to displace Mr. Nader.

Does it really matter that much?

I have serious doubts. Yes, removing Mr. Nader's name will likely reduce his share of the vote a bit. But wanting to vote for Nader-Camejo is not like wanting to for the Democrats or the Republicans. Being a Nader-Camejo supporter requires a much higher level of personal focus and alienation from the general political system the printed ballot literally represents. The great majority of prospective Nader-Camejo voters will likely be well aware that the Nader-Camejo ticket has been excluded from the printed ballot, and will be determined to vote for that ticket anyway. Absentee voters (consider Oregon) will have plenty of time to realize that their printed mail-in ballot does not include the Nader-Camejo names they wish to choose - and lots of time to resolve any resulting confusion.

In other words, one's being a Nader-Camejo supporter very likely means being willing to write in their names on the ballot, and understanding long before one's vote is cast that one will have to write in Nader-Camejo.

A suggestive example may be found in the last presidential election. In the 2000 election Mr. Nader drew 2.8 million votes nationwide -- 2.7 percent of the popular vote. Mr. Nader's name was excluded from the Wyoming ballot in 2000. How much did that matter? Consider this:

Wyoming reported that 221,685 ballots were cast and 213,726 votes for president were counted, but apparently only for candidates appearing on the ballot. That left 3.6 percent of the ballots not showing a vote for president _ 7,959 ballots.

"What didn't get reported was Ralph Nader," who ran on the Green Party ticket, Meyer said. "He wasn't on the ballot here so he waged an aggressive write-in campaign. If we had tied in the number who voted for Nader, then I think the undervote would be way, way less."

State officials had counted the write-in for Nader but failed to report it publicly. After receiving information from Scripps Howard, Meyer looked up the figures and found that Nader had received 4,625 votes. That would account for most of the ballots that didn't show a vote for president in Wyoming.

In other words, without his name appearing on the ballot in that state, Mr. Nader received 4,625 write-in votes in Wyoming in 2000 out of a total of 221,685 ballots cast, or about 2% of the total vote in Wyoming compared to the 2.7% he won nationally. Did one expect Mr. Nader to do as well in very-conservative Wyoming compared to his performance in the country as a whole even if his name had been on the ballot in 2000? Does all of that suggest that the Democrats have accomplished a great deal by excluding Mr. Nader from the ballot of various states this year?
(0) comments

There’s Nothing Wrong With A Little Indecision...

... as long as your job doesn’t involve any responsibility.

Link thanks to Henry Hanks.

(0) comments

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

The Case For Waiver?

It is no secret that since 2000 some Democrats have overtly argued, and some senior Democrats have implied, that President Bush is somehow an "illegitimate" President because he received a smaller share of the popular vote than did Al Gore. Mr. Gore's popular vote harvest has also been used as the basis of serious arguments that members of the Electoral College should have voted for him notwithstanding the state-by-state numbers (although Mr. Gore personally repudiated that particular argument). Other Gore partisans argued or suggested that a candidate garnering a smaller share of the popular vote is morally - if not legally - "illegitimate."

Now the Washington Post reports that in 2004, in the view of its analyst, there is a substantial chance that John Kerry may receive a majority of the Electoral College vote but a smaller share of the popular vote than George Bush:

The Post tracking poll shows Bush leading Kerry 50 to 47 percent. Independent Ralph Nader continues to barely register nationally, getting 2 percent of the hypothetical vote. But the survey suggests that Kerry continues to claim a large lead in key battleground states. In these 13 states, Kerry held a 53 percent to 43 percent advantage among likely voters.

Last night, former White House Counsel Jack Quinn appeared on Fox News advancing the same argument and possibility. This possibility raises a question:

Is Senator Kerry going to declare that if he loses the popular vote but wins an Electoral College majority, that he will waive his right to assume the presidency in favor of Mr. Bush?

Isn't such a declaration and result a simple corollary of the past four years of Democratic whining? If Senator Kerry won't make such a declaration, shouldn't all the Democrats who have done the whining insist that he do so?

Don't hold your breath.
(0) comments

Asking The Wrong Question, Again?

Blogging has been light recently, mostly because the Man Without Qualities is in the process of buying an additional house not far from the current abode, which abode is also subject to ongoing construction. All of which takes up a lot of time and personal energy.

But, in addition, I have to some extent been waiting for additional wisdom from the Mystery Pollster about cell phone usage and polling - especially regarding "five factor households." Perhaps I'm slow on the uptake, but I don't think discussing - as the Mystery Pollster has done - whether households with land lines and cell phone often or seldom or almost never answer their land line sheds much light. Of course many people with land lines and cell phones often answer their land lines - but they often only answer calls to their land lines if the caller ID on that land line identifies the caller as known and desirable. Indeed, just one minute ago I declined to answer a call on the land line not two feet from this key pad because my call ID revealed the caller to be "Out of Area," but 10 minutes ago I accepted a call on the same line from my mortgage broker. Such people - including the Man Without Qualities - are functionally equivalent to "cellular-only" households as far as pollsters are concerned. No matter how many times the pollster calls that land line, the target will not answer. I therefore see no good reason to fold the "five factor households" problem into the general issue of poll "response rate" while breaking out "cellular only" households for special attention.

With respect to "cellular-only" households, The Mystery Pollster suggests (quite reasonably, in my view):

My point was that the available demographic estimates of the mobile-only population suggest a Democratic orientation, but the same demographic pattern also suggests they are historically low turnout voters. Even if we assume comparable turnout and a plausible pro-Kerry margin, their relatively small size still implies a very small effect. Of course, this inference is a matter of opinion. Yours may differ.

The analogous question for "five-factor households" is then: Is there anything that suggests that five-factor households have a partisan orientation?

There is at least a plausible (but by no means definitive) argument that "five factor households" tend to be upper income, and therefore possibly Republican-leaning in most areas (places such as West Los Angeles and the Upper West Side of New York would be exceptions). Of course, a "five factor household" needs enough money to afford both cell phone and land line service - so that already give the group a bit of a nudge up the economic scale. Perhaps more significantly, prior to the dawn of the national "do not call" registry, many people screened their land line calls with caller ID to avoid telemarketers. Such households were probably disproportionately relatively upper-income - because that's the demographic telemarketers mostly target. For example, it seems reasonable that more telemarketing calls went into prosperous La Canada-Flintridge on a per capita basis than into more modest Pico Rivera, located a few miles away. The establishment of the "do-not-call" registry means that a good reason for wanting (or needing) to screen one's calls was reduced. But that registry only went into effect recently, after many households had already established their screening procedures - procedures that they continue to maintain. Moreover, charitable (I do answer when the LA Opera and Philharmonic calls) and political organizations (including political pollsters and, much more often and annoyingly, consumer preference survey takers who seem to call only when my 5-year-old is near the phone to answer it!) and commercial outfits that have somehow obtained permission to call, still call in unacceptable numbers and at bad times - thereby prompting the desire to screen incoming calls with caller ID. A lot of these residual callers (including the consumer preference surveyors, but not the political pollsters) seem, not irrationally, to target upper-income households - although, again, this is anecdotal.

I, personally, know perhaps one true "cellular only" household with American citizenship (there appear to be more of them among the large number of illegal immigrants I know who buy prepaid service - are these included in Arianna's Democratic rescue-squad?). But I know dozens of "five factor households" who have citizenship and will vote.

How will they vote? Who knows? I haven't asked them all, but of those I have asked, I haven't found a single one who has answered a call from a political pollster this year.

Of course, that's not science.

(0) comments

Friday, October 15, 2004

Asking The Wrong Question?

The Mystery Pollster considers an issue advanced by Arianna Huffington:

Is the extensive use of cell phones, which pollsters do not even attempt to contact, distorting poll results?

The controversy surrounds the role of so-called "wireless only households," at least as framed by Ms. Huffington and the Mystery Pollster. As Ms. Huffington puts it:

[P]ollsters never call cell phones - of which there are now close to 170 million. And even though most cell phone users also have a hard line, a growing number don't - especially young people, an underpolled and hard-to-gauge demographic that could easily turn out to be the margin of difference in this year's race.

With all due respect to these two knowledgeable worthies, the Man Without Qualities believes the problem is much worse than Ms. Huffington suggests, and the Mystery Pollster's response does not even begin to address the full scope of the problem. In short: I suspect that the big problem is not "wireless only households" (although those are a problem, as Ms. Huffington notes and as the Mystery Pollster accepts as the core of the issue). I suspect on the basis of anecdotal evidence that the far bigger problem is households that (1) have cellular service and (2) a land line, but (3) also have "caller ID" on their land line, (4) don't answer the land line unless, possibly, they recognize the caller (sometimes, the land line goes directly into voice mail in all cases) and (5) do answer their cell phones but don't provide their cellular numbers to anyone they don't know well.

The Man Without Qualities knows many people who fit the profile outlined by factors (1) through (5). Moreover, these factors appear to address the practical requirements of many households. My best guess is that such "five-factor households" pose vastly larger problems for pollsters than "wireless only households."
(0) comments

That Old Raisin/Virgin Thing Again

Teresa Heinz Kerry has provided what she calls "a highly effective" remedy for arthritis:

"You get some gin and get some white raisins - and only white raisins - and soak them in the gin for two weeks," she said. "Then eat nine of the raisins a day."

She's all confused, of course. But it's understandable. Her confusion undoubtedly arises from the same ambiguities in Arabic that have led to the misunderstanding of the Koran as promising multiple "virgins" in the afterlife to Islamic martyrs. In fact, the virgins who are supposedly awaiting good Islamic martyrs as their reward in paradise are in reality "white raisins" of crystal clarity rather than fair maidens.

Of course, in suggesting her medical treatment Ms. Heinz-Kerry is making the symmetrically opposite mistake made by the Islamic radicals. A traditional and highly effective middle eastern palliative for arthritis is the following: You get some gin and some virgins - and only virgins - and soak them in the gin for two weeks. Then you consume nine of the now-uninhibited-and-well-lubricated virgins a day in accordance with the sexual orientation and positional preference of your choice. This remedy does not, in fact, lessen joint pain in the least.

But, somehow, you don't care about that part once you really get going.
(0) comments

But John Kerry Is An Honorable Man II: Into The Mainstream?

The story of John Kerry's possibly less-than-honorable discharge from the Navy first broached by the New York Sun is virtually omnipresent in the Blogosphere.

Captain's Quarters has lots of good commentary on the incendiary topic in a post headlined Questions About Kerry's Discharge Make The Mainstream Media. I think it's fine to consider the New York Sun "mainstream," and the Sun article was noted by OpinionJournal with the caveat We're not sure what to make of all this, but have the questions otherwise made it to the mainstream?

The seems to be nothing on the topic in the New York Times, the Washington Post , the Wall Street Journal news pages or the Los Angeles Times. Not even the DRUDGE REPORT has so much as mentioned the Sun questions.

What's going on?

The pattern so far seems a bit like that of the original Swiftee charges: before the first television ad, lots of action in the Blogosphere by even following the first ad, willful neglect by Kerry-Edwards and most of the mainstream media (although Fox News at least mentioned the controversy, if only to dismiss the first ad as "ineffective") until it was clear the ad was, in fact, devastating Kerry-Edwards. But not everything is the similar: DRUDGE was in the first wave of the original Swiftee media assault, but he's is missing in action now.

Media coverage of the original Swiftee charges really hotted up with their first television ad - even the publication of their book was ignored by the mainstream before that ad appeared. Now Sinclair Broadcasting documentary is about to run a controversial documentary "Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal." Very little has been disclosed about the content of this documentary, but it is supposed to deal with Senator Kerry's post-Vietnam exploits. The documentary was apparently created before the Sun story ran - but the content of the Sun story has been the subject of serious rumors for months. If that documentary at least touches on the less-than-honorable discharge subject, perhaps its broadcast will turn up the media heat in the closing weeks of the campaign.

Or maybe there's something seriously wrong with this story.

(0) comments

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

But John Kerry Is An Honorable Man

The New York Sun today runs a story questioning the status of John Kerry's "honorable" military discharge:

An official Navy document on Senator Kerry's campaign Web site listed as Mr. Kerry's "Honorable Discharge from the Reserves" ... is a form cover letter in the name of the Carter administration's secretary of the Navy, W. Graham Claytor. It describes Mr. Kerry's discharge as being subsequent to the review of "a board of officers." This in itself is unusual. There is nothing about an ordinary honorable discharge action in the Navy that requires a review by a board of officers.

According to the secretary of the Navy's document, the "authority of reference" this board was using in considering Mr. Kerry's record was "Title 10, U.S. Code Section 1162 and 1163. "This section refers to the grounds for involuntary separation from the service. What was being reviewed, then, was Mr. Kerry's involuntary separation from the service. And it couldn't have been an honorable discharge, or there would have been no point in any review at all. The review was likely held to improve Mr. Kerry's status of discharge from a less than honorable discharge to an honorable discharge.

A Kerry campaign spokesman, David Wade, was asked whether Mr. Kerry had ever been a victim of an attempt to deny him an honorable discharge. There has been no response to that inquiry. ....

The "board of officers" review reported in the Claytor document is even more extraordinary because it came about "by direction of the President." No normal honorable discharge requires the direction of the president. The president at that time was James Carter. This adds another twist to the story of Mr. Kerry's hidden military records.

Mr. Carter's first act as president was a general amnesty for draft dodgers and other war protesters. Less than an hour after his inauguration on January 21, 1977, while still in the Capitol building, Mr. Carter signed Executive Order 4483 empowering it. By the time it became a directive from the Defense Department in March 1977 it had been expanded to include other offenders who may have had general, bad conduct, dishonorable discharges, and any other discharge or sentence with negative effect on military records. In those cases the directive outlined a procedure for appeal on a case by case basis before a board of officers. A satisfactory appeal would result in an improvement of discharge status or an honorable discharge.

Mr. Kerry has repeatedly refused to sign Standard Form 180, which would allow the release of all his military records. And some of his various spokesmen have claimed that all his records are already posted on his Web site. But the Washington Post already noted that the Naval Personnel Office admitted that they were still withholding about 100 pages of files.

Read the whole Sun article.
(0) comments

Remaining Deadlocked? Holding Steady? Not Of This Earth.

Reuters today reports that Mr. Zogby tells them that John Kerry and George Bush go into tonight's final debate tied:

President Bush and Democratic Sen. John Kerry remain deadlocked in the White House race going into their final debate, according to a Reuters/Zogby poll released on Wednesday. Bush and Kerry held steady at 45 percent each in the latest three-day tracking poll, raising the stakes for Wednesday night's pivotal final debate in Tempe, Arizona.

So as of today, October 13, the candidates "remain deadlocked" and "held steady." That's quite a trick considering that on October 11 Reuters reported:

Democratic challenger John Kerry expanded his slight lead over President Bush to three points in a tight race for the White House, according to a Reuters/Zogby poll released on Monday. The Massachusetts senator held a 47-44 percent lead over Bush in the latest three-day tracking poll, up two points from Sunday. Bush's support dropped one point and Kerry's support rose one point in the new poll.

So Senator Kerry has lost 3 points in the Zogby Poll against Mr. Bush in the two days before the final debate. Yet Reuters and Mr. Zogby say that the candidates "remain deadlocked" and "held steady."

It seems that remainings deadlocks and holdings steadies just don't last the way they used to! The Zogby/Reuters approach here evokes Woody Allen's speculation about the possible existence of alien civilizations more advanced than ours by fifteen minutes - which gave them a big advantage in making appointments on time.

(0) comments

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Senator Edwards Speaks Truth To Power!

There's a lot of fuss being raised over Senator John Edwards' claim that "When John Kerry is president, people like Christopher Reeve are going to walk. Get up out of that wheelchair and walk again."

Senator Edwards should be commended for speaking truth to power.

Of course it's completely absurd to think that John Kerry's election to the Presidency would help anyone in the position of Mr. Reeves to walk again. There is, in fact, a nearly 0% chance of that happening - and Senator Edwards obviously knows that.

But rather than uncharitably construing Senator Edwards' claim as a lie or transparent demagoguery , one should construe his colorful claim as merely expressing his opinion of the chances that John Kerry will be elected president. Yes, John Edwards is simply telling his running mate and the nation that in Senator Edwards' opinion there is, in fact, a nearly 0% chance of that happening, too. Sure, Senator Edwards might have expressed himself differently, and said something like "When pigs fly, people like Christopher Reeve are going to walk. Get up out of that wheelchair and walk again." But he had more courage than that.

It's important that John Edwards be able to face up to the power of John Kerry and give him the bad news with the good. And it's also important that we all give Senator Edwards the benefit of the doubt. He should be commended.
(1) comments

What Me Worry Economists Win The Nobel Prize

Herr Doktorprofessor Paul Von Krugman didn't win the Nobel Prize again this year. Instead, it went to Edward Prescott and Finn Kydland, the first of whom immediately opined in a most politically incorrect manner:

President George W. Bush's tax rate cuts were "pretty small" and should have been bigger.

"What Bush has done has been not very big, it's pretty small," Prescott told CNBC financial news television.

"Tax rates were not cut enough," he said. Lower tax rates provided an incentive to work, Prescott said. .... The American analyst ... said a large tax cut in 1986 had lowered rates while collecting the same revenue. But "in the early '90s the economy was depressed by the tax increase in '93 by about four percent, and it's right at that level now," Prescott said.

Of course, that's not what prior economic Nobelist George Akerlof thinks, as Herr Doktorprofessor noted after he didn't win the Nobel Prize last year:
"What we have here is a form of looting." So says George Akerlof, a Nobel laureate in economics, of the Bush administration's budget policies — and he's right. With startling speed, we've blown right through the usual concerns about budget deficits — about their effects on interest rates and economic growth — and into a range where the very solvency of the federal government is at stake. ... Yet the administration insists that there's no problem, that economic growth will solve everything painlessly. And that puts those who want to stop the looting — which should include anyone who wants this country to avoid a Latin-American-style fiscal crisis, somewhere down the road — in a difficult position. Faced with a what-me-worry president, how do you avoid sounding like a dour party pooper?One answer is to explain that the administration's tax cuts are, in a fundamental sense, phony, because the government is simply borrowing to make up for the loss of revenue.

So there you have it from Herr Doktorprofessor's lips to God's ear. It's not enough for Herr Doktorprofessor that Messrs. Akerlof and Prescott merely disagree. By Herr Doktorprofessor's lights Edward Prescott must be a what-me-worry Nobelist who advocates yet more "phony" tax cuts and is an enemy of "fiscal sanity." As far as Herr Doktorprofessor is concerned, the Nobel Prize Committee might as well have honored Alfred E. Newman. And, presumably, in view of today's column, we might expect Herr Doktorprofessor to deem Mr. Prescott a lying sack of fertilizer just for good measure.

Gee, what will Herr Doktorprofessor write when President Bush holds the inevitable White House Rose Garden fete for Mr. Prescott?

UPDATE: Don Luskin provides a terrific detailed debunking of Herr Doktorprofessor's latest column. With Luskin's fisking out there, Senator Kerry uses Herr Doktorprofessor's arguments in tonight's debate at very much the Senator's own peril.

(0) comments

Monday, October 11, 2004

The Other 97.5% III: Learning From Australians

On October 8, the New York Times understood that Australia's Iraq involvement was a substantial issue in that country's imminent elections:

[Incumbent Prime Minister] Howard is also in a tight race nationally against the Labor Party, led by Mark Latham. ... The latest polls give the Liberals a slight lead, but in many respects it is surprising that the race is close at all. .... On Iraq, the differences are stark. Mr. Howard has defended his decision to go to war and has said the 800 Australian troops in the Persian Gulf region will stay there as long as needed. Mr. Latham has said that he will have the troops home by Christmas. Opponents of the Iraq war got a lift in August when 43 retired senior military commanders and senior diplomats issued a public statement saying that Australia went to war "on the basis of false assumptions and the deception of the Australian people." The signers included a former chief of the navy, a former chief of the air force and a former secretary of defense. Australia's "unquestioning support for the Bush administration" has harmed Australia, they wrote. "Terrorist activity, instead of being contained, has increased."

Then the Australians voted, Mr. Howard won big, and by October 10 the Times understood that Iraq hadn't been an issue of any real significance:

Prime Minister John Howard of Australia .. was decisively re-elected Saturday, according to official returns. ... Iraq loomed in the background during the campaign, but Australian political analysts cautioned that the voting was not a referendum on the war. The main issue was the economy, and that is booming.

Similarly, back here in the United States, the mainstream media, including this Associate Press item, is suggesting that it's time to disregard economic models in favor of peering into the chicken entrails of opinion polls and overt partisan speculation:

The Iraq war has deeply torn the nation. National polls show a neck-and-neck race. Yet economy-based projections still show a decisive Bush victory on Nov. 2. What gives? Political scientists and many economists say this may be the year to throw the economic models out the window. Forecasters are flummoxed about the impact of Iraq, uncertain about the true state of the economy, and less sure about their projections than in any recent election.

Opinion polls are largely inconsistent with each other - so this is hardly a campaign that pits the economic models against the polls. On the other hands, the well documented problems in polling methodology, including "party norming," seem to explain a lot of the polling inconsistency - and further undermine reliance on those polls in lieu of the economic models.

But in the recent Australian experience economics won out nicely over the polls and everything else.

I'm betting on the economics here in the United States, too.

(0) comments

Sunday, October 10, 2004

It's Cul-de-sac All Over Again II: The Substance of Style

Following the first presidential debate a prior post reviewed the Man Without Qualities's take on what I believe to be the most significant aspects of the styles of the two candidates:

Senator Kerry has a style that can impress up front, leaving the viewer (that is, the voter) only later to realize that the performance was not what it seemed to be. ... I think the problem for Senator Kerry is deeper than his gaffes. His problem is that the same style he employs to make much of so little works much better in the short run than it does in the medium or long run - as those terms might be meaningfully defined under the hot glare of this Presidential race. Worse, once the short-term effects start to dissipate, his style leave a sense of distrust ... of having been misled. ... Mr. Bush, on the other hand, has a style that can be less shark-like and impressive up front, but over time leaves one feeling that he - for all of what can seem to be his comparative inarticulateness - really understands the essentials better than the flashier Senator Kerry. In an odd way, it is Mr. Bush who leaves one more with the sense that he understands the "nuances." Further, I think that particular stylistic difference resonates more with women - and I also think that the enlarged image Senator Kerry presented on the "split screen" (of which too much has been made) will also resonate relatively poorly among women after the first flashes have subsided. In short, I don't think that Senator Kerry did much to shore up his "base" among women in the medium to long run of this campaign. I also think that Senator Kerry had to add some definition to his positions that he has kept carefully ambiguous to date on account of his split base. That should not, over time, work to his benefit. ... The bigger problem for the Republicans is that Mr. Bush's performance, while not really bad, showed Mr. Bush without direct, simple answers to entirely predictable and predicted questions and issues. ... A more disturbing error on the part of the Bush team is the undeniable fact that he looked and acted tired compared to John Kerry. ... But Mr. Bush won't commit that mistake again.

It appears to me that the ensuing performance of the candidates in the polls has been quite consistent with the above observations. The second debate has now come and gone, and Mr. Bush did not repeat his prior mistakes. But more importantly, Senator Kerry's slippage in the polls appears to have been well under way before the second debate, as the Rasmussen Report today notes:
Sunday October 10, 2004--The latest Rasmussen Reports Presidential Tracking Poll shows President George W. Bush with 50% of the vote and Senator John Kerry with 46%. Voters have declared the second Presidential debate a tie with fans of each candidate thinking that their man won. ...[J]ust over one-third of the interviews for today's update were completed after the conclusion of Friday night's Presidential debate. There was not a noticeable jump in the post-debate interviews, but it will take a few more days to fully measure the impact of the debate.

Recent Rasmussen Poll results seem to track a public that was for a few days pulled towards the Senator by his first debate performance, but then chose another direction despite Senator Kerry having "won" the post-debate "spin" cycle:


If I am correct that Senator Kerry's style leaves a substantial bitter after taste beginning, say, a week after his presentation, then the bitter after taste should be all the more intense following the second debate, since Mr. Bush did not repeat the mistakes he made in the first one. But one would not expect to see the negative polling consequences for the Democratic ticket to show up for more several days. That trajectory is, so far, all consistent with Rasmussen's observation there was not a noticeable jump in the post-debate interviews.

The consistency of my theory with the second half of Rasmussen's observation, that it will take a few more days to fully measure the impact of the debate is a little more complicated. Yes, the debate's effects will be fully incorporated into the tracking poll and voters' minds in a few days. But, if I am right, the tendency of voters to recoil from whatever favorable effects Senator Kerry had on those voters in the second debate, will lag by several more days.

That seems to be what happened after the first debate.

UPDATE: Bill Safire's take on the second debate gets almost everything right, beginning with:

When pro-Kerry commentators solemnly pronounce Debate Round 2 to have been "a draw" - you know George Bush won that round.

The big sea-change in American political coverage is that now when someone like Mr. safire alludes to pro-Kerry commentators much of the public immediately know he is referring to essentially everyone at the news divisions at the three "old" networks, CNN and the usual print media suspects. Yes, those media outlets and their agents deny, deny, deny. But, what is true for Senator Kerry is also true for them: "It's clear for everybody to see. And as I said, you can run, but you can't hide."

(0) comments