OK

I put most of this as a comment elsewhere, but I'm so pissed off about our chest-thumping leader that I'm going to make it its own diary as well.

Markos's "The Most Annonying Liberal Freakouts of 2012" is among the most annoying things that he's written in 2012 -- because it shows that, in making a false equivalence between what some of us did after the first debate, he still fails to understands both the sliminess of what CNN did with its "Snap Poll" coverage and the serious peril that the President's campaign was in after Oct. 4.

The fact that that VP Biden and President Obama both did solid jobs in the three subsequent debates and that the Democratic ticket ended up almost sweeping the swing states is wonderful, but immaterial to the judgment that was to be made in the wake of that debate.  It's like saying that because you got drunk and drove 80 on the highway and skidded out but you didn't hit anything and made it home safely everything was OK.  You don't judge the rightness of actions solely by their consequences.

What CNN did was terrible and there a good chance that but for the quality of our candidates it could have left us in mourning today.  So let's go to the replay on "liberal unskewing" on October 4, of which I think that my diary (building on someone else's) was the most-read example.

First of all, there was a legitimate criticism to be made against my diary and the preceding one by "TheSilverMonkey." That poster had reacted to the explanation of the data accompanying the snap poll by noting that it had apparently polled only older whites from the South.  It turned out that this wasn't true -- CNN/ORC had just made a bizarre and to my mind indefensible decision about how to present the breakdown of its data -- but it led me and others to take a closer look at the internal analysis, which I think was all to the good.

Still, that wasn't Markos's problem with the pair of diaries.  His position was that Obama had sucked and that we shouldn't complain about the data showing that Romney had beaten Obama by a margin of 69 to 25 -- which is the worst beating ever recorded in Presidential debates (if you took this as actually being representative of the public.)  Criticizing the poll was "unskewing" -- and we didn't want to be like the conservative unskewers (unskewerers?), so he grabbed the opportunity to criticize those lefties who slammed the methodology of the study.

In other words, he was engaged in (more or less) hippie-punching and false equivalency.

This wouldn't be a problem if he had been right -- but he wasn't.  And he also overlooked that, by coming out so quickly after the debate and by misleading readers and viewers into thinking that this was a poll of the general population's reaction to the debate, the CNN poll had an enormously outsized effect on then-unformed public reaction to the Presidential first debate -- at which, incidentally, I admit that Obama underperformed, but not as bad as have many others.

Why is this?  Simple sociology.  When presented with a stimulus to evaluate, such as a debate performance, people look for normative information -- "what do other people think?"  In this case, that normative information was overwhelming -- so much so as to convince anyone who called it the other way that they must be missing something.  That snowball effect, beyond simply the debate itself, led to the overwhelmingly negative reaction to Obama's performance -- which, in my opinion, was weak because he hadn't expected Romney to shake the Etch-a-Sketch right at that moment and because he wrongly figured that, if Romney did something that brazen, the press would kick his teeth in.

My concern from the moment I looked at the data and saw how slanted the sample was on several variables.  If it wasn't ALL older white Southerners, it was more so than it should have been -- and, most critically, we had no idea from where the initial sample was taken.

To the best of my knowledge, we still don't know.  I still expect that we're going to find out that the panel used to get reactions to all four debates -- eventually admitted to be 8% more Republican than most other contemporaneous samples -- was initially selected from a universe of cable news viewers, not "all voters."  And, due to additional bias creates from people dropping out of a panel study -- the same people, from whatever population they came from, were surveyed prior to any debate and then after each one) -- the bias in the sample may well have become worse over time.

On to the comment I left in reply to Markos:

Hello, Markos:

My concern -- and I think I'm the only one you called out in comments after the first debate, though I could be wrong -- was that CNN/ORC was intentionally using a strained poll to push a narrative that Romney had outpeformed Obama far more than he had.  I stand by that 100%.

After I and the [other] diary's author and others blew up in fury at the CNN/ORC poll -- despite your snottiness towards us -- and after I started a pretty well-read Facebook page going after them and other people took their own actions that you deride as "unskewing," CNN finally noted (in a small print note on the technical details page of their poll) that Party ID in the sample they were using was highly discrepant from the ones in their other contemporaneous polls.

In other words, IT WAS SKEWED and they weren't telling to public that.  But by the time that that was admitted, the CNN/ORC's role in helping to augment the negative reaction to the President's first debate had been completed.  It was the right early bump in the trajectory at the right time.

But if you're still so annoyed at the "liberal freakout" to the CNN/ORC poll, which was represented to the public in headlines and stories simply as a sample of "voters who had watched the debate" (a phrase that I'm paraphrasing from memory) maybe you can answer this question:

Of what initial universe of respondents was that poll supposed to be a representative sample?
If you can't answer that question -- and I don't think that you can without looking it up and maybe initiating a phone call or two -- then you have got no fucking business criticizing anyone else, because you're the one who didn't get it -- and somehow you still don't seem to get how damaging that single, first-appearing, mendacious poll was to the campaign.

(Yes, Biden and Obama then salvaged things with three strong subsequent debate performances.  But what if they hadn't?)

If you're sitting here smugly in the wake of Obama's election victory and assuring yourself that it couldn't ultimately have been otherwise, you're fooling yourself.  No, that one debate didn't push Obama underwater, especially in swing states -- but that doesn't mean that a second generally-agreed-to-be-bad performance couldn't have or that two more such performances wouldn't have.  And the trigger for that would not have been so much the debate itself as the dramatically, unbelievably, slanted CNN/ORC poll -- of a sample initially selected from a universe of respondents the identity of which we still don't know.

The right thing to do at that moment, when it became clear that CNN/ORC's poll was highly misleading -- and any trained survey researcher should have been able to perceive that something was off from the data itself -- was to lunge towards them with both hands throttling their neck and a thumb in each eye.  (In this metaphor, one has four arms.)  Refutation had to be quick and powerful and sure, before opinion coalesced in a way that put us at a disadvantage.

And do you know who I learned that from?  I learned it from Markos Moulitsas -- at his best.  That is not, obviously, where he was when he wrote the diary he published today.

5:38 PM PT: I think that it's only fair to point out that this post today is an example of Markos at close to his best.  He's a great analyst when he's not trying to be snotty.

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