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Nate Silver is wrong on the electoral effect of Sandy

by Frank Schnittger Tue Oct 30th, 2012 at 06:11:17 PM EST

Nate Silver has expressed skepticism as to whether Hurricane Sandy will have any significant effect on the election one way or the other. I think he is a great numbers guy, but sometimes he just misses the big picture. I expect Hurricane Sandy to have a major positive effect on President Obama's reelection prospects for the following reasons:<p<p>

  1. The storm drowns out the electoral narrative Mitt needs to sustain his "mittmentum" and reduces his campaign appearances to a few school halls.

  2. It allows Obama to look Presidential whilst Mitt desperately tries to insert himself into the story with ridiculous attempts to hold sparsely attended election rallies re-branded as "Storm relief events" collecting laughable amounts of "relief supplies" no one wants.

  3. It draws attention to Mitts earlier statements that federal disaster relief is immoral and his pledges to abolish FEMA  - not to mention his poor track record of handling disaster relief as Governor in Massachusetts.

  4. It draws a stark contrast between Obama's competent handling of Sandy with Bush's handling of Katrina.

  5. It reminds people of what good government is all about and cuts through the Republican ideology that Government serves almost no useful purpose.

  6. It draws attention to Republican congressional attempts to defund disaster relief.

  7. Chris Christie, Governor of New Jersey, long time tea party favorite, potential Presidential candidate, and Romney's keynote speaker at the GOP convention has praised Obama's handling of the Crisis to high heaven and refused Romney a picture opportunity "helping the distressed" in New Jersey whilst extending an invitation to the President.

  8. It emphasizes the Democratic values of social solidarity rather than the Republican values of "you're on your own" and underscores and validates Democratic concerns about global climate change.

  9. The timing disrupts the (partisan) campaigns whilst not necessarily effecting election day itself. Most of the states in the storm path are solidly Democratic in any case, and those that aren't - Va, NC and FL - have much reason to be grateful for Federal Disaster relief.

  10. It MAY damage the Democratic attempts to build a big lead in early voting in some states - for example in NC, but there is little sign of that yet.

  11. There is a psychological phenomenon whereby people who have been through a stressful situation with someone come to bond with them in a very emotional way. We are not talking rationality here, but of unconscious processes which apply even in very negative situations such as kidnappings - see Stockholm syndrome. The best recent political example is perhaps President Bush's bump in popularity post 9/11, despite mounting evidence of his incompetence and inattention in the lead up to that tragedy.

Sandy may yet turn out to be a positive October surprise in political terms at least even if it has caused a lot of hardship on the ground. There's rarely a cloud without a silver lining...


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I'm just off the rec list at Daily Kos, so any recs there would be much appreciated.

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by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Oct 30th, 2012 at 06:29:58 PM EST
I rec'd you out of European solidarity - but I think that Nate Silver will turn out to be right - but in a particular way.

Silver's basic (unspoken) thesis is that absent a live boy or a dead girl, nothing much changes the fundamentals - and a large scale averaging tells us that the fundamentals in this era are:

47% Dem : 47% Repub

These voters are basically fixed, they aren't changing without major internal realignment of the parties.

So there's 6% swingable and this year they are basically 2% Romney, 4% Obama. That's how it looked back in June and all the campaign has done is introduce some blips and noise, but after all the convention bounces and Mittmentum, it's settled back to that. And already before Sandy there are virtually no "undecideds" - most people with the motivation to vote know who they are going to vote for.

So you're right that after all is said and done with Sandy, Obama will likely win 51 to 49. But Nate is right that this is likely what was going to happen anyway.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Wed Oct 31st, 2012 at 04:29:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Mostly agreed. There are structural factors which are almost out of play - race, religion, class, generational issues, peer group pressure, ideological infrastructure, suggestibility, economic interests, social self identification, brand awareness etc. - and which change only very slowly over time.

But there are other variables which can impact most of the 100% - not just the 6%.  Chief of these is turnout. A 100% voter - e.g. an early voter - is worth a lot more than a "likely" voter with a 75% probability of making it to the polls. I am not convinced most pollsters weight this factor adequately.

This is where political organisation, ground game, intensity, the last minute news cycle and semi random factors can come into play. In a game of very narrow margins, these can have a wildly disproportionate effect. The number of "battleground" states within 2-3% is quite amazing  - Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, Wisconsin - and represent 110 electoral college votes or over a 20% swing one way or the other in the EC.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Oct 31st, 2012 at 04:58:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
However, while the 47% / 47% bases won't flip their vote, they can flex based on turnout, with the Republican 47% more stable and the Democratic 47% more volatile.

If Obama were to barely lose the popular vote and barely win the Electoral College, it would be due to the ground game in nine swing states increasing Obama-supporter turnout in those states over turnout in the "safe Red/Blue" states.

However, it looks like we are most probably heading to a +1% to +2% Obama popular vote win, so that the electoral college would be a slightly larger margin.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed Oct 31st, 2012 at 08:46:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I am rather more concerned about possible "equal protection" legal challenges in the states most affected by the hurricane. When are evacuees going to come back home from shelters, how are they going to get to precincts to vote, etc...

Atlantic City appears to have been heavily damaged by the hurricane, for instance.

I distribute. You re-distribute. He gives your hard-earned money to lazy scroungers. -- JakeS

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Oct 31st, 2012 at 05:16:48 AM EST
In a very close election, there are no end of potential legal challenges on legitimate and not so legitimate grounds and SCOTUS in Gore vs. Bush has shown no propensity to investigate or adjudicate any of them. The result will be what the local (and often partisan) local electorate authorities deem it to be, with the help of our old friend Diebold.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Oct 31st, 2012 at 05:32:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
My concern about the impact of Sandy is that it may disproportionately affect the ability and disposition of the poorest segment of the voters to get to the polls. Bag lunches and transportation on election day could help there.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Oct 31st, 2012 at 01:19:40 PM EST
But where? You mean Florida, North Carolina, Virginia  and New Hampshire?

Certainly not in Ohio, and AFAIU not in Iowa, Wisconsin, Colorado, Nevada.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed Oct 31st, 2012 at 08:50:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Fortunately, the biggest impacts are mostly in states that are likely to go for Obama by sizable margins. But Pennsylvania, especially Philadelphia, might have a lower turnout from the poor that otherwise would have been expected. Pennsylvania and New Hampshire are #s 7 and 8, respectively in Nate Silvers list of tipping point states.

We can hope that any such effect will be overwhelmed by the negative effects the storm's arrival are having on the Romney campaign, due largely to his past advocacy of eliminating or privatizing FEMA and claims that 'we' can't afford to have the government pay for disaster clean up.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Nov 1st, 2012 at 02:25:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If the Government can't do disaster aid, what can it do - besides deliver goodies to the rich?  There can be no more important function for social solidarity/state support - bar perhaps defense of the nation, which is more or less the same thing.

In saying what he said, Romney is betraying his Randian roots. It doing what he is doing in NJ, Obama is expressing his solidarity and support of the Union, with Americans in distress everywhere, and particularly with his Democratic base.

And the quid pro quo is you get out there and vote if you support that Union!

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Nov 1st, 2012 at 05:28:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If the Government can't do disaster aid, what can it do - besides deliver goodies to the rich?
The most important consequence of running the state like a private firm is that the state should not be in the business of providing free or implicit guarantees of any kind, as these are large "contingent liabilities" threatening to bankrupt the state. The threat of bankruptcy is real, as the state must fund itself by borrowing from private lenders, unable as it is to create money to fund necessary expenses deriving from the exercisising of implicit guarantees. One alternative to bankruptcy is default, but this is considered unthinkable as defaulting on obligations to fellow EU member states is "uneuropean". In addition, countries with a large primary trade deficit may find it impossible even to default.

So, what kinds of implicit guarantees are Eurozone governments providing that they shouldn't be in the business of providing? I can think of half a dozen off the top of my head:

  • deposit insurance for banks
  • granting limited liability to businesses
  • disaster relief
  • access to health care
  • access to education
  • access to legal redress
  • public safety

All of these are implicit guarantees that every citizen in Europe expects to enjoy relatively free of charge. These are large contingent liabilities of the state. Any and all of them could not be undertaken by a private entity that didn't charge hefty fees up front and wasn't adequately capitalised in case a particularly large claim presented itself. Would you pay a savings deposit insurance premium to an inadequately capitalised insurance company? (not that "sophisticated investors" didn't do exactly that when they bought CDS "protection" over the past 10 years) Would you incur risks with a full-liability entity having less capital than your potential loss? Would you trust you can be rescued from a disaster by an entity without the capital and operating income to actually fund a rescue operation? How about health insurance from an entity without the resources to pay for the treatment? How about your right to file a complaint to an entity without the necessary money to operate a grievance handling system? How about contracting physical security or firefighting services from an entity without the operating income to actually deploy security or firefighters?


I distribute. You re-distribute. He gives your hard-earned money to lazy scroungers. -- JakeS
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Nov 1st, 2012 at 05:31:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, my first reaction to listening to Romney's full quote, about deciding what the Federal government should do, was, "And disaster aid would be one of the first ones on the list".

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Thu Nov 1st, 2012 at 10:43:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There's also the disaster of Romney's lies about the auto industry being so bad that the CEO's stepped in to label them lies.

Newspaper and local TV news stories about the biggest employer in town calling Mitt Romney a liar kind of undermines the benefit of making a big ad buy in the area.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Thu Nov 1st, 2012 at 10:36:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]


I distribute. You re-distribute. He gives your hard-earned money to lazy scroungers. -- JakeS
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Nov 1st, 2012 at 10:41:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Now that's worth a tweet!

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Thu Nov 1st, 2012 at 10:45:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
(seen on BooMan's facebook)

I distribute. You re-distribute. He gives your hard-earned money to lazy scroungers. -- JakeS
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Nov 1st, 2012 at 11:19:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Heh! They show a Rubicon. I think Mitt crossed on a donkey and only with his personal retinue. Oh well, his money will add to the bottom line of the media companies.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Nov 1st, 2012 at 12:36:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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