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I was going to let this analysis of the 2012 election go until I saw it was on the COVER of this week's New York Times Magazine.  Since nobody else has had at it yet, I figure I could start, and then people who know more about statistics than I do (I teach American history, not something with numbers) have at it, but I think Nate Silver has gone over to the Friedman/Brooks school of interpreting American politics the way they want it to be rather than it is.

Okay.  It's a long article, as cover stories of the Times Magazine go, and the actual title is "Is Obama Toast? Handicapping the 2012 Election" -- the straw man is set up.  Why would he be toast?  The debt-ceiling debates, the Anthony Weiner seat (Obama's Jewish problem), Obama's Black problem, and it all sounds a little concern-trollish, and then we get the three main problems:

• First, many of us understand that Barack Obama inherited a terrible predicament. We have a degree of sympathy for the man. But we have concerns, which have been growing over time, about whether he’s up to the job.
• Second, most of us are gravely concerned about the economy. We’re not certain what should be done about it, but we’re frustrated.
• Third, enough of us are prepared to vote against Obama that he could easily lose. It doesn’t mean we will, but we might if the Republican represents a credible alternative and fits within the broad political mainstream.

#2, maybe.  But #1?  Compared to George W. Bush?  Is he kidding? And I threw up my hands at #3, as you know if you've been following my comments.  Really.  Which Republican?  The centrist the Republicans will never nominate?

Then follows pages and pages of comparing Obama's performance in the polls with everyone from JFK on:  approval ratings (beginning of term, end of third year, inconclusive), economic performance ("good news and bad news for Obama"), opponent's ideology (you can guess here). Nate then presents two models, the referendum model (will this be a referendum on the incumbent?) and the median voter model (the Third Way yet again), but, surprise, evidence suggests referendum.  ANY history or political science teacher could tell you that (think the 1932 election and the 1980 election).

Still,

our view of the fundamentals focuses on two performance-based indicators for the incumbent president — approval ratings and economic growth — but only one variable related to the opposition candidate.

The variable for the opposition?  Extremism.  See 1972 for that.  Then, we get four case studies.  Romney and stagnant economy (Romney wins the popular vote with 83% probability), Romney and improving economy (Obama, 60% probablility), Perry and stagnant economy (Perry, 59%), and Perry and improving economy (Obama, 83% probability.

I won't bother with his conclusion, in which he defends the idea Obama has a 50/50 chance (we needed six pages of statistical analysis for this?).  I's actually all fine and predictable until the four scenarios, which I read with increasing amazement.  Seriously, dude, the popular vote?  Gore would have been president in 2000 if the popular vote counted for anything.

Come back when you understand how the Electoral College works, Nate, and when you've done all the state-by-state work that would reflect you understood it.  If this was a Procrustes Bed situation with your editors, I apologize if some of this sounded snarky, but I don't think that's what this was here.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (0+ / 0-)

    All it takes is security in your own civil rights to make you complacent.

    by Dave in Northridge on Fri Nov 04, 2011 at 06:11:46 PM PDT

  •  The Worst Midterm Defeat In Over a Century to (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BradyB, miningcityguy

    either party was inflicted by the most extremist and malevolent group of Republican candidates in living memory.

    And they did it by ignoring moderation and sanity, concentrating exclusively on wildly false lies and smears aimed solely at their most extremist supporters.

    So yes, they very much can make a clean sweep of 2012.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Fri Nov 04, 2011 at 06:15:55 PM PDT

    •  Ohio went GOP in 2010 (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      207wickedgood, Odysseus

      And has two of the top ten major cities in the country with the highest poverty rates:  Cincy and Cleveland.  And I was reading today that Dayton, Toledo and Youngstown are among the top ten metropolitan areas in the country that whose poverty rate is currently growing the fastest.

      You'd think that would create opportunities for the Dems, not preclude them.

      People are going more and more for the crazy.

      "In a nation ruled by swine, all pigs are upwardly mobile." Hunter S. Thompson

      by Keith930 on Fri Nov 04, 2011 at 06:35:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It does create the opportunity, but the Democrats (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        miningcityguy

        are not interested in pursuing it.

        President Obama was elected by running on a platform of change. Once elected he made it abundantly clear that change was merely a political euphemism and that he had no intention whatsoever of actually changing anything. His greatest achievement was saving the Republican Party from its well-earned and tardy extinction.

        The Democratic Party is just one side of the power coin owned by those that have possessed it since shortly after this nation's founding. Eventually, we will figure out that there is no hope to be found within the established system.

        "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities." - Voltaire

        by Greyhound on Sat Nov 05, 2011 at 06:21:58 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  but they played that card. and perhaps too early (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Wee Mama, skohayes

      although it certainly did damage.

      The 'Tea Party' concept is much, much weaker than it was last year.  In part because now that they've gotten candidates in where it counts, we can see exactly what Tea-partyism looks like.  That has appeal for, say, the far right, but not the center.

      The sentiments of the Tea Party have now been overshadowed largely by the Occupy movements, and while we don't know where it's going to go, and it is formally apolitical, we can safely assume it's more sympathetic to Obama than, say, Romney.

      Also, while it may  not play well on this site, Obama's foreign policy does look decent from a national perspective.  That's not a main issue, but it means that the wind is taken out of GOP sails both on the 'public discontent' and the terrorism fronts.

      I also think that (and I mentioned this on some other thread somewhere today), Obama has had so much crap thrown at him he's pretty well vetted on the swift-boat type fronts (birtherism, anti-Americanism, etc. ).  He's shown he can handle that kind of character assassination, and those aren't winning points with independents anymore.

      If the economy remains completely stagnant, or tanks again, the GOP will have a decent shot.  If it moves up, even slowly, I think Obama is in a stronger position.
      Much can change, of course.

  •  I will have to take a look (0+ / 0-)

    statistics is my thing

    Founder Math and Statistics Geeks . Statistics for progressives

    by plf515 on Sat Nov 05, 2011 at 05:02:21 AM PDT

  •  You dismiss the wrong things. (0+ / 0-)
    • First, many of us understand that Barack Obama inherited a terrible predicament. We have a degree of sympathy for the man. But we have concerns, which have been growing over time, about whether he’s up to the job.

    You dismiss this.

    But #1?  Compared to George W. Bush?  Is he kidding?

    Why?  Obama's fundamental mishandling of the entire recession is my single biggest problem with the man.  ARRA was too small, HAMP was poorly designed and targeted, Home Buyer's Credit was terrible, about the only thing he's done that was an unqualified good was Cash for Clunkers.

    • Second, most of us are gravely concerned about the economy. We’re not certain what should be done about it, but we’re frustrated.
    • Third, enough of us are prepared to vote against Obama that he could easily lose. It doesn’t mean we will, but we might if the Republican represents a credible alternative and fits within the broad political mainstream.

    Second is a real concern for a lot of people, not an immediate concern to me.  If Obama had a credible track record on 1, 2 wouldn't be an issue.

    Third is ridiculous, of course.  I pretty much cannot ever see myself voting Republican in any general election ever.

    -7.75 -4.67

    "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

    There are no Christians in foxholes.

    by Odysseus on Sat Nov 05, 2011 at 08:31:50 AM PDT

    •  You have your concerns, I have mine (0+ / 0-)

      All this to tell me I misread #1?  W handled things better?  Yes, I agree Obama really mishandled the recession, but I'm not going to vote for someone else because of that.

      Reminding myself to stick to GLBT issues from now on.

      All it takes is security in your own civil rights to make you complacent.

      by Dave in Northridge on Sat Nov 05, 2011 at 10:21:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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