RCP Embarrassing Final Calls for 2000

Real Clear PoliticsListen up my little ones, because I have a story to tell that I was pointed to by Dave Weigel! You certainly know about the website Real Clear Politics, where they put together all of the major polls and provide an average, even though the polls are not all of equal value. But still, that’s not a bad approach to figuring out what’s going on. It is certainly better than getting all excited about one poll or another. But it was not always this way.

Remember back in 2000, Al Gore ran against the President Whose Name Dare Not Be Mentioned. As you probably recall, Gore won the popular vote. And he would have have won the electoral college if the Supreme Court had not voted to stop the recount in Florida. So you would think that the polls from that time would have been close. And you would be right!

But if you thought that the Real Clear Politics final call would be close, you would be very, very wrong. Take Florida for example. There were four polls: Bush +4, Gore +2, Bush +3, Gore +3. That is close with an average of Bush +0.5. The RCP final call: Bush +6! (This was at best a minor win for Bush: less than 0.1 percentage points.) But there’s more: Pennsylvania. There were two polls: Bush +1, Gore +1. The RCP final call: Bush +4! (Gore won by 4.2 percentage points.) But there’s more: California! There were three polls: Gore +9, Gore +4, Gore +6. The RCP final call: Bush +2! (Gore won by 11.7 percentage points.)

What is particularly funny about this is Real Clear Politics seems to have been snookered by Karl Rove and the Bush campaign. At the end of the campaign, Rove sent Bush to California. This was done only to get the media chattering: “Bush has a chance of winning California! He’s another Reagan!” And it not only worked with the regular media, but RCP fell for it as well.

I am genuinely concerned that we liberals are placing too much faith in poor ol’ Nate Silver. He does seem the most reasonable person to listen to. But the truth is that the polls are a mess. Perhaps it is best to take William Goldman’s advice and trust no one. “Nobody knows anything.”

Selective Christians

Billy GrahamI’ve learned a great deal from reading Robert M. Price. But probably the most important thing I’ve learned is that people don’t read the Bible and then decide what it means. They may read the Bible, but they do so in the context of what their pastors think it means. And where did the pastors get their ideas? You get the idea. There is no literal reading of the Bible.

Blue Texan has written a very good article over at Crooks & Liars, Billy Graham’s Full Page Ad in the NY Times Urges Followers to Vote Against Abortion, Gay Marriage. In Graham’s Times ad, he tells all good Christians that they should vote for biblical principles. Those principles just happen to be the usual right wing hate issues: anti-choice for both reproduction and marriage rights.

Blue Texan points out that Graham doesn’t mention other biblical principles like prohibition of usury or caring for the poor or men having multiple wives. And he calls it when he says that Graham is just doing what Christian demagogues always do. “They begin with a set of right-wing values, then they selectively interpret the bible to comport to those values.”

Smart Christians are fond of pointing out that they don’t really believe in an anthropogenic God. They don’t envision a guy with a white beard sitting on a throne in the clouds. God it something much greater than that—something unimaginable. And yet, they claim that he would care about such trivial things as human sexuality. It seems bizarre. But as Robert Price has shown, this isn’t about God. Religion is just the accumulated prejudices of generations of church leaders. And this is why they can skip multiple passages about being kind to others and just focus on the ones that say, “Get the fags!”

I do wish I believed in heaven and hell, because I think it would be fitting if Billy Graham spent eternity being anally raped with a red hot poker.

Niall Ferguson Says Obama Wants War

Niall FergusonI have long thought that Niall Ferguson was an idiot, but I think that may be the wrong way to think about him. Ferguson is just evil.

I understand being partisan. I certainly am. But to be only partisan is to be only interested in power. Today Ferguson has written an article over on The Daily Beast, Niall Ferguson on Obama’s Possible Mideast Surprise. His argument is that Obama is down in the polls and that he will try some kind of “October Surprise” or a “Wag the Dog” move.

Let’s just step back from this for a moment. In what universe is Obama losing in the polls? In the conservative media bubble, of course! In the real world, the national polls show Romney very slightly ahead of Obama. But more important, the national polls mean absolutely, positively nothing. We elect presidents based upon the electoral college, and in that contest, President Obama is and has been the likely winner for months.

In an attempt to mollify conservatives, their own personal alternative media are providing lots of articles to sooth them so they won’t fall into a funk and end up missing the election. Typical of this is Jay Cost at The Weekly Standard who claims that Romney is doing really well with the “independent” voters and this will prove decisive. You know what I think of this kind of wishful thinking: it is more wishful than thinking. But this kind of thinking is all over. Brendan Nyhan at the Columbia Journalism Review writes about this in, The momentum behind a misleading narrative. Basically, Romney gained in the week before and the week after the first debate. And that’s it. There is no miracle on the horizon.

But Niall Ferguson thinks there is and he thinks that the Obama campaign thinks the same thing. What will they do? Don’t worry: Ferguson has a thought. Obama will tell Israel to bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran. This makes sense from a Republican standpoint: it is just the way they roll; since they will do anything for power, everyone else must act the same way. But with a clear-eyed view of the real world this is nonsense. Would the president really start a war just to win re-election? A democratic president, that is? And if he did, would the people really believe that it wasn’t an act of political desperation? After all, why not wait another week and do it after the election? And who, other than wackjob conservatives like Ferguson, wants a war with Iran? It is a ridiculous idea: Obama weighing his choices, “Should I work on getting out the vote or just start a war with Iran? It’s such a tough choice!”

Ferguson isn’t calling for war explicitly, of course. He is calling for Israeli strikes on Iran’s alleged nuclear laboratories. But this is the same as calling for war. This is, in fact, an act of war. And having Israel start it would not make it any less our war.

Hopefully with Newsweek breaking away from The Daily Beast I won’t have to read Ferguson again. But I fear I am being far more wishful than even the conservative poll watchers.

What a Difference a Word Makes

Todd AkinThere is a meme that Romney has closed the gender gap. It is almost exclusively coming from conservatives, but they are speaking with such unanimity that it seems real. The implication is that it is because the Democrats are talking down to women. “Women care about economics, not lady parts!”

Of course, this is not just about women. I find the anti-choice movement repugnant as do a great many men. The war on woman was never a good idea from a tactical point of view. It only encouraged staunch Republicans, it never appealed to vast swaths of the electorate.

Below is a shockingly stark graph from Real Clear Politics. On 19 August, Todd Akin made his “legitimate rape” comments in an interview with KTVI. Note how the race essentially flipped on that day:

<%image(20121029-akinmccaskill.jpg|450|363|Akin vs. McCaskill)%>

So people really do care about this stuff. What the Republicans mean is that they don’t.