Did righty Silverbating prevent them from getting over the top?
November 7, 2012, 12:15 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

There’s another column I fully expect to see from all the lefty pundits, which is the idea that the righty ‘rejection of data’ and hatred for all things ‘reality-based’ is what caused them to lose the election. So I figured I’d get it out of the way by writing it myself.

Missed in the righty obsession with whether Silver’s model headline-percentage was ‘right’ is the fact that there’s a lot of other useful info to be gained from analyzing polls and likely electoral-college outcomes in the way that sort of model does. For example, on the sidebar Silver featured something he called a ‘Return on Investment Index’, which I gather measured the relative probability that one voter in a given state would determine the outcome. In my spreadsheet I had thrown in a column for something similar (which, dimensionally, should probably if nothing else differ from Silver’s ROI numbers by the states’ relative populations): a state by state ‘delta’ / leverage, or the answer to the question: if a state’s Obama polling lead increases by 0.1%, how much does that increase his probability of winning? And how much does that increase the Expected # EVs he would win? For example here’s what it looked like the last time I had calced it:

I mean, I dunno. I don’t claim these (or Nate’s) numbers are perfect. But these are the sorts of basic analytics that, y’know, I figure a campaign might want to look at. You could do very basic, obvious things with such numbers, like, I dunno, use the table to figure out where to target ad buys?

Say the Ohio leverage is 3x the Iowa leverage. Maybe that tells you to to spend 3x as much money in Ohio as Iowa. So you do. Then you look at more polls. The Ohio poll #s moved by X and the Iowa poll #s moved by Y. That tells you how much each $100k you spend moves the poll by, which (via the leverage or ROI or whatever) tells you how many ‘expected EVs’ that $100k bought you – maybe not at all, maybe some, maybe more in Iowa than Ohio, maybe vice versa – so you adjust your $cost/0.1% move ratio per state on that basis, which (via the leverage or ROI, which you are constantly recalculating/updating in the face of new data) helps you further make ad-buying decisions. Repeat. Feedback. OODA loop. Moneyball. Call it whatever you like, but there’s more to this sort of ‘whiz kid’ analysis than simply spitting out a headline Probability To Win and then arguing/whining over whether it’s ‘right’. To be clear (because I hear this criticism coming), none of this has to mean you make yourself a slave to any of these numbers. Perhaps you have some extraneous reason to believe a state is extra important, or not important at all. Fine. If you reject one of these numbers on solid extraneous reasons, or even on your ‘hunch’, then fine. You’re the boss. But it still could be an aid to have a daily report of these numbers in your hands to refer to, no?

Righties who spent all their time saying Nate Silver is wrong just might not have grasped any that.

Now, my assumption had always been that just because rank and file righties were Silverbating all the time, and the blowhard Michael Barones of the world were pulling predictions out of their butts based on “fundamentals”, didn’t mean the actual Romney campaign was being so stupid. Surely, I figured, somewhere in the Romney campaign was some 20something guy, with a spreadsheet, a spreadsheet very much like mine in fact, or perhaps (though less likely) Nate Silver’s, doing the same sorts of calculations to help inform the campaign’s decisions as I’ve just sloppily outlined above. Surely. Right?

But what this blog post presupposes is, maybe not.

15 Comments so far
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they had that guy, but they also (like the righties) talked themselves into believing they had a better fundamental shot at the white midwest than they really did.

white dudes stayed home, white chicks didn’t and that is why romney lost. he couldn’t turn out enough white dudes. the vdare nutbars are vindicated.

Comment by A Lady

‘talked themselves into believing’ is the process I’m interested in here. How/why did they do that?

We have seen a bunch of Silverbating righties talk themselves into believing a lot of nonsense recently. Now, one would assume that wouldn’t carry over to actual professionals running the actual campaign, but I have run into trouble before when Assuming That People In Important Positions Know What They’re Doing, Are Doing The Obvious Things, And Are Not Doing The Dumb Things.

So, that’s this post.

Comment by Sonic Charmer

Like me (even though I’m not white), a lot of white people have trouble recognizing or even being aware a major demographic shift has already taken place. I thought that 2008 was an exception, that we wouldn’t see the real shift until 2016 or even 2020. I live in a conservative whitopia and it’s pretty easy to be convinced that there is a critical mass of married, nominally Christian-valued white people with kids just waiting to support even the hazy pretense of fiscal responsibility.

Professionals are people too. If we’ve had that big shift, the R party is over for real even if it goes still further down the D-light path. And Romney is not likely to have surrounded himself with anything other than the aforementioned type of white people. IOW I think they bought into the Reagan Democrat thing too hard. That is totally over with, but it keeps showing up like some kind of zombie.

Comment by A Lady

As you say, this whole conclusion vindicates the VDARE/Sailerites, because it seems inescapable that to get the ‘Reagan Democrats’ (or their closest current analogue) back, the (R)s are just gonna have to be in the game of giving them Goodies like the (D)s do to all their groups. They can’t be about giving them the same Goodie Package the (D)s do though because that’s a losing game, they will always be outbid. For example, this may explain why (despite their supposed principles) the (R)s flirt as much with Protectionism as the (D)s do. But again, they can’t possibly outbid the (D)s there, so it doesn’t work.

That’s why (aside from my actual arguments in favor of it) more-controlled immigration seems to me like a no-brainer lesser-evil. (1) It helps staunch the demographic tide that works against (R)s structurally, and (2) as ‘Jobs Protectionism’, it still acts as a Goodie that the (R)s can offer today’s would-be ‘Reagan Democrats’.

Again, nasty/unrespectable as this all is, it’s a Sailer conclusion that is just hard for me to rebut, no matter how many cocktail parties it gets me disinvited from or libertarian purity-tests it causes me to fail.

Comment by Sonic Charmer

As an aside, this is what Wanniski pointed out way back in the 1970s. Remember the “Two Santas” gambit? With the Supply-Side rationale tucked in for intellectual credibility? “The Dems promise Goodies, well us Repubs will promise our own Goodies too! Tax cuts for everyone and NO spending reductions!” The Dems, beaten at their own game (governed as it is by pandering and irresponsibility) were left out in the lurch for damn near thirty years.

But the acceptance of this strategy by the Republican party was not, in retrospect, the best possible thing that could have happened. Today, as a young thirty-something white male I’d much rather they had just let the thing blow up in 1980 and tried to pick up the pieces. My guess is that we’d be much better off today but I may be underestimating the scope of the abyss we very well could have fallen into.

At any rate, I’d have rather stared into the abyss then than now, but I wonder if doling out Goodies, though a potentially efficacious electoral strategy, is the most prudent thing to do at any time. Even if the alternative turns out to be imminent collapse in some relatively catastrophic sense (be it Democratic party dominance for an extended period, default on the debt, etc), bending a little bit further and further to placate such ridiculous people as the median voter seems not to be optimal. Personally I don’t give a f**k if Republicans are in power or not; I want good public policy especially for the sake of my children and if it means going through a nasty purgation over the next 10-15 years then so be it. Sure, staring into the abyss is daunting but we are unworthy to call ourselves heirs to this project if we shirk from it.

NB: I’m generally with Sailer on immigration issues.

Comment by Redd Kross Matt

Agreed, in the main. But that is why I’m on the lookout for that rare ‘Goodie’ that *can* be handed out without it being bad public policy, threatening the abyss, violating some deep-seated principle, etc.

There aren’t too many options meeting all those criteria that I can see for the (R)s, but more-controlled immigration is one of them. And especially when you consider the other Goodies they try which are far worse in various respects – housing bubble & trade protectionism for example – this one just seems like a no-brainer.

Comment by Sonic Charmer

You’re saying they should offer up the goodie of stricter immigration and I agree with you. But you’re offering it up as a means and I ask toward what end? You want them to run on this policy so that they can appeal to a new set of voters and thus regain power in DC, but why should we even want this party to govern at all? What else is the Republican party going to do after handing out that goodie? Is there a reasonable expectation that they will govern well?

From what I see, Bush and Obama are indistinguishable on most domestic and foreign policy issues and where they are it’s either because of lip-service to pet social issues or because Obama has ramped-up the Bush project. Even the future hopes of the party (Ryan, Rubio, Christie) are just gussied up progressives who have some know how when it comes to manipulating low-information white-male voters.

Comment by Redd Kross Matt

Well, independent of everything else I happen to believe it would be the right policy, for a number of reasons, including to whatever extent that it would have salutary effects on the entitlement system. And so if it helps to hold back the demographic tide and give the (R)s a Goodie to offer to change the dynamic and increase their coalition, so much the better. But keep in mind I don’t see it as anything resembling an ‘end'; we’re talking about counteracting maybe 3% of that tide. :-)

I call foul on ‘indistinguishable’ and this goes back to a comment I made in one of the other 8 zillion blog posts I’ve written in the past 6 days: if both-the-samers like libertarians aren’t infinitely more incensed by Obamacare than by whatever (R) grievances they have, they’re doing it wrong. Nothing a Bush did or would have done is ‘indistinguishable’ from Obamacare. Which is not to say that one wants Bushes, just that there is every reason in the world for anyone with any sort of liberty-approving bent to wish for (D)s to stay out of power.

In decades past I might have had to add, ‘except on the issue of drugs’, but I don’t think even *that’s* true anymore – I think realistically the (R)s are far, far more likely to be the engine of decriminalization. So ‘left-libertarians’ don’t even really have *that* to hang their hat on, in my book.

I can understand that one can probably fill both the left and right sides of a sheet of paper with grievances against the two major parties but it just seems to me that when righty- and libertarian-minded people get to a conclusion like ‘indistinguishable’, it has to be because they are counting line-items without assigning them anything resembling sensible weights. Like, however mad I was at Bush for sins against ideological purity such as, say, The Steel Tariffs, my brain is simply not big enough to imagine how many Steel Tariffs it would take to equal one Obamacare on a sensible ledger.

Your mileage may vary, of course – as, apparently, many peoples’ mileages do. But, I simply do not understand those people.

Comment by Sonic Charmer

All fair points. In reality I know they aren’t “indistinguishable.” I vote Republican 98% of the time myself. Hell I print my ballot off from the Right to Life website. I’m just kind of pissed off right now.

Comment by Redd Kross Matt

A number of libertarians I know thought of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars as massive negatives, ones that perhaps in their minds balance out Obamacare

Comment by Ian

One of these things is not like the other. Hint: the other 2 are historical rather than indefinitely-ongoing events.

And of course, President Obama hasn’t engaged in any warfare whatsoever so the whole notion makes total sense.

Comment by Sonic Charmer

You’d hope that high paid campaign staff would be doing that sort of quantitative analysis, but I guess you never know.

Congratulations on your election call. Enjoy your well-earned gloat.

Comment by SkepticalCynical

Sonic another big tell not talked about VIX was extremely low leading into the election. The market is efficient, trillions of dollars don’t lie

Comment by Bob

I guess a similar signal was sent by all those polls that asked, “Who do you expect will win?” Obama had a gigantic lead in those.

Comment by Sonic Charmer

I suppose that is hard to argue with but polls can be BS, depends on the question, who is asked by whom, see “Bradley effect” for more. I much prefer people who put their dick on the line with their own money.

Comment by Bob

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