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October 04, 2012


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low-tech cyclist

I need to turn off this computer and go to sleep, so I can get one good day of work in before heading to Florida for a week on the beach. (Annamaria Island, if you're interested. About halfway down the Gulf coast side of the state, near Bradenton.)

But like you, I'm not particularly worried about this election. The second wave of reaction does seem to be more "Romney was better prepared, but he's still a liar" and the Obama campaign, and Obama personally, are busy making hay of that.

I still need to chip in some money to House campaigns, but I don't see the time to do my own picking and choosing. So I think I'll just break down and send a check to the DCCC. They will probably send more money to Blue Dogs than I would like, but if we get to 218 by whatever means, guys like Boehner and Cantor will suddenly become much less important, and that would be a very good thing.


It was quite enjoyable listening to him. I remain incredibly impressed with the rigor and integrity he brings to his task.

Being trained in science any time I read his posts I can't help but notice the transparency and caution with which he writes about what he's done, the strengths and weaknesses of his prediction model, and the way he strives to carefully explain both the data entered into the model and what the model's latest outcomes likely mean and don't mean. It's like he's publishing a new informally written research article each day.

Romney's "victory" will prove ephemeral and that his lies and his steamrolling manner are not going to play well as all of this gets digested

Jonathan Bernstein's talked about that today. If the MSM gets it into its hive mind that a necessary and ongoing part of covering this election will be describing Romney's integrity-free assertions he's going to be in a world of hurt he hasn't encountered yet.


Yeah, and I'm sure Nate (a U of C grad, BTW), could give us the odds of that. I'd rate them at about 1% or less myself.

I'm reading a lot of "oh well debates don't matter that much" commentary today. I think we all know the grim reality: Obama got hammered, the polls have narrowed and Romney's fundraising is way up. Obama had better come out swinging in the next one.


I've liked Nate Silver since his days at Baseball Prospectus, and I appreciate the rigor that he brings to his analysis — a rigor that's noticeably absent in so much evidence-free punditry. At some point, I'll have to read his new book. The chapter that the NY Times printed on weather forecasting was excellent.

Romney won the first debate, on style if not substance. It was dispiriting to watch Obama's performance. It was almost as if he was unprepared for Romney to disavow so much of his agenda. The good news for Obama is that past incumbents have lost the first debate (sometimes badly) but still gone on to win the election. Hopefully that will hold true this time around. Obama's a good enough campaigner that I think it will.

big bad wolf

the link to the sullivan post provides me with a chance to recommend Garry Wills excellent book "Lincoln at Gettysburg."

low-tech cyclist

Note to the Boy Scouts of America: there's a point at which you've got to accept that your 'principled' stand is just a thin intellectual cover for assholishness. I think you're at that point, not that you're liable to realize it.

I was a Boy Scout for a couple of years while growing up. I enjoyed it. But there's no way I'd let my son join the Boy Scouts, not that I expect him to want to do so.

Sir Charles


Obama crushed it in fundraising this month, raising $150 million. And that's it -- there is really no more fundraising to be done.

Interestingly, despite the vaunted Romney fundraising advantage all accounts seem to indicate that Obama has dominated him on the airwaves in all of the major battlegrounds. Strangely enough, the campaign of the former community organizer has been far more efficient in deploying resources than that of the putative business genius.

There's only thirty days to go, so really the cake is baked in terms of presidential fundraising.

John and (Becky),

I am not suggesting that Obama didn't have a bad night. He really did -- I felt like we were keeping him from something he'd rather be doing.

But I actually do think we vastly overrate debates. I remember Mondale just eating Reagan's lunch in the first 1984 debate (the moment where Reagan may have first publicly given a glimpse of his impending senescence). As a result, Reagan did end up losing Mondale's home state.

l-t c,

I'm heading to Florida for the weekend as well -- doing the South Beach thing again. It sounds like we will be returning to real fall weather, after it has kicked into the 80s here the last couple of days.


I really should read Lincoln at Gettysburg. I love Garry Wills -- and Lincoln.


Yeah, Nate is pretty rare in terms of both his discipline and his modesty -- while also being very self-confident. It's an interesting mix.


Modest and very self-confident?

Yes, that is rare.

low-tech cyclist

Nate's mix of traits doesn't surprise me in the least; it pretty much comes with the geek territory. You always know that your conclusions are no better than the support you can demonstrate for them. But when you've got a kick-ass argument, you know it kicks ass, because you've already been over it a couple dozen times, looking for the hidden flaw.

What I have a hard time understanding is why anyone takes the George Wills and Robert J. Samuelsons of the world seriously, when they're clearly talking out of their asses, and have no intellectual integrity to speak of.

low-tech cyclist

SC - the ground game is another area where the cake's pretty much baked. Team Obama has been investing in their own ground game for the past year.

Meanwhile, the GOP outsourced a good deal of theirs to Nathan Sproul who they *knew* was a fraud, and now that that's come to light, they've had to fire his sorry ass, and they won't have any ground game in several major states.


Sir Charles


When you think about it, you've got to be pretty sure of yourself to announce on the NY Times on a daily basis that Obama has an 80 something percent chance of winning, while the rest of the beltway types content themselves with saying it's too close to call or -- my favorite -- a statistical tie.

l-t c,

One of the more amusing things that Nate did last night was a power point presentation in which he discussed, among other things, the quality of the predictions over the years on the McGlaughlin Group. You will be shocked to learn that they are not very good. (I almost used a line I heard at my kid's college last weekend when I asked him my question -- "power corrupts, but powerpoint corrupts absolutely."

Although, I still to this day love to say "on a scale of one to ten, with ten being metaphysical certitude" a la John McGlaughlin, who really is one of the great bullshitters of our time -- something I say in his case with a surprising hint of affection.


Yes, you do have to be sure of yourself, but combining that with sincere modesty isn't especially common.

It's not unusual to find very self-confident scientists, but it's not unusual to find they're d*cks, too.

Stephen J. Gould was a brilliant paleontologist and evolutionary biologist who wasn't the slightest bit shy about making sure you knew it. He and a colleague at Princeton proposed an updated understanding of evolution that took into account what he as a paleomalacologist repeatedly found in the fossil record: that over long stretches of evolutionary time species remained relatively unchanged, and then (from the perspective of evolutionary time) would make sudden rapid changes in response to changes in the environment. They named this explanation "punctuated equilibrium".

Their critics named it "evolution by jerks".



my favorite -- a statistical tie

Of course, since the margin of error in national polling typically is 3-4% a lead of that or less than that is indeed a statistical tie and from a statistical perspective can't be argued to be a lead because the data aren't precise enough to discern whether the survey result is truly a lead or merely a sampling error.

Obviously Nate knows all that very well and takes it into account.

low-tech cyclist

Matt Yglesias has a post saying "The BLS' Enormous Credibility Is The Real Story" but, um, Matt, that's the Census Bureau with the cred, thanks.

The BLS' role in this is to pay the Census Bureau to conduct the Current Population Survey which produces the unemployment numbers, and the establishment survey (whose name I can't recall) that produces the employment numbers.

BLS can't fudge the numbers. If it did so, there'd be hell to pay, because the Census folks wouldn't exactly appreciate BLS' releasing a different set of numbers than the Census Bureau produced.


Finally. On the matter of "undecided voters" -- Timothy Egan says what's needed saying. Thank you, Tim.

Also, too. SNL .

Enjoy the beach respite guys. Maybe you'll bump into some of those famous Florida undecideds and can bend an ear. ;)

kathy a.

chronicling mitt's mendacity, vol. xxxvii, by steve benen. this edition contains 50 items, what with all the material from the debate.

love those links, nancy!

i saw the best big bird photoshop of them all, but can't find the source. it is a norman rockwell style thanksgiving dinner scene with the smiling romney clan; ann is delivering big bird on the platter, feet up. :)

kathy a.

so, mitt's 47% thing was 100% wrong. excuse me, but first it was just inelegant, and only weeks after the firestorm does he come up with an understanding he was wrong to write off half the country as moochers?

the man has been professionally running for president for what, 6 years now? (ha ha, he's one of the unemployed!) and he happens to say this [revised] totally wrong thing to big-deal campaign donors, with a statistic as well as choice words about those who do not pay federal income taxes? so at this point -- we're supposed to believe that was an accident, but he is totally qualified and prepared to run the country, work bipartisanly, and have his finger on the button???? honestly, he can't be that stupid; but that he believes voters might be is perfectly consistent with what he said in the first place -- he just does not care much about citizens unless he can get them to vote for him; this is about winning, not governance.


I am... growing considerably more sanguine about last night's debate. I have the gut feeling that Romney's "victory" will prove ephemeral and that his lies and his steamrolling manner are not going to play well as all of this gets digested."

Sir C. - I know what you're saying, but this is yet another example of the thing about Obama that infuriates me so: the opportunity costs. He has all of these amazing opportunities to just shove Republican lies up Republican asses, and he just never does it. He certainly didn't screw anything up for himself, but at the same time, he's constantly performing at 40-50% of his potential, IMO.

kathy a.

jeff -- i thought obama did great the next day. i know -- i hope we see that obama at the next 2 debates.

but -- romney came out with an entire breathtaking set of lies; hard to debate a flat liar, and i tend to agree with the observation in benen's post that obama was not expecting lies at that scale and volume. he also has barely met romney before; and obama could not come across as an "angry black man," no matter how stunning the prevarications. also, the moderator was unsuccessful. so, live and learn; we'll see how the next one goes.

Sir Charles


Don't get me wrong. I was very disappointed by the lost opportunity. I think Obama, had he performed better, really could have put Romney away for good. Politics, like baseball, is an endeavor where you do not want to give your opponent any extra at-bats.

I do agree with kathy though that sometimes your opponents audacity can leave you pretty flat footed. Nonetheless, I don't think that accounts for the lack of emotional energy.


so, mitt's 47% thing was 100% wrong. excuse me, but first it was just inelegant, and only weeks after the firestorm does he come up with an understanding he was wrong to write off half the country as moochers?

The Etch-A-Sketch has, finally, been shaken as Romney pivots left.


I agree with Jeff. It's not fatal or unrecoverable, but Krugman this week pointed out again something about Obama he noticed 4 years ago - when he has an opportunity to go for the jugular, he chooses the capillaries instead (it's his theory that the debate was The Return of Capillary Man). I also agree with SirC - maybe there are lots of challenges in being President, including facing serial liars and not playing into stereotypes, but it's your freaking job to muster enough energy for these debates! Millions of people were counting on him potentially to deliver the death blow to the granny starvers, and he funked it. I hope he doesn't next time because another blown debate puts him (and more importantly, the millions counting on him) at risk.

Sir Charles


One of my very agitated law partners made that very point to me the day after the debate -- that Obama had a huge obligation to millions of us and that it was his responsibility to muster the energy even if he didn't feel like it.

kathy a.

open thread: maddow interviews olson + boise on marriage equality. this is a long segment, 55 minutes, but looks worth watching.

kathy a.

y'all really really need to watch that maddow link. it will affirm your faith in humanity. note that most of the talking is by the republican guy, who hopes to move his party on equal rights for LGBT folks.


Sully's long made the point that marriage equality is a politically conservative way to promote gay rights. It violates our society's culturally conservative norms, but not necessarily its politically conservative ones (because it doesn't seek to upend marriage per se but rather to add to it another subset of American citizens).


Debate postmortem, day three. Mitt's stunt apparently has a name -- "Gish Galloping" or "spreading" as it is known in the formal rules of debate. News to me. For obvious reasons, on display Wednesday, the technique disqualifies the debater who resorts to the tactic.

Serial prevaricator moved to the deliberate bold liar approach before sixty-million people. Do we just get to hope, pray and trust that the "independents" notice before it's too late. Gish Gallop has a ring to it they might enjoy remembering.

big bad wolf

nancy, without disputing mitt's undisputed gish gallop, i can't agree with that piece. it engages in a rhetorical trick itself---the strawman. also overstatement, as in the use of the raging drunk metaphor. and, that favorite, you're not allowed to say anything unless you've been in the arena.

i think that few were saying, as the article suggests, saying that obama should have tried to refute all of mitt's lies. the more common, and i think accurate, criticisms were that obama drew his demeanor too far down, that obama buried his leads, and that obama missed a couple of obvious points that could have been handled quickly and pointedly.

i hope mitt's lies catch up to him. i also would like to see a bit more, if not fire, at least sharpness from obama next time. in part, this is an occupational bias. a lawyer who gave such desultory answers to an inquiring judge would run a real risk of losing a winnable case. now, it is true any lawyer that lied as much as mitt would lose for sure, but judges, i think, know more about a case than many debate viewers know about tax policy or 716 billion dollar medicare "cuts.

i don't think the debate will matter in the outcome of the election. i do think it is fair to say that obama's performance was average and that we rightly expect better of him.

Davis X. Machina

....but it's your freaking job to muster enough energy for these debates!

All Mitt does is run. Obama's got a day job.

kathy a.

good link, nancy. here's the urban dictionary defiition of gish gallop, referenced in that piece -- an interesting discussion in itself. here are the 2 major features:

1) The factual and logical content of the Gish Gallop is pure bullshit and anybody knowledgeable and informed on the subject would recognize it as such almost instantly. That is, the Gish Gallop is designed to appeal to and deceive precisely those sorts of people who are most in need of honest factual education.

2) The points are all ones that the Galloper either knows, or damn well should know, are totally bullshit. With the slimier users of the Gish Gallop, like Gish himself, its a near certainty that the points are chosen not just because the Galloper knows that they're bullshit, but because the Galloper is deliberately trying to shovel as much bullshit into as small a space as possible in order to overwhelm his opponent with sheer volume and bamboozle any audience members with a facade of scholarly acumen and factual knowledge.

big bad wolf

we all agree then that GWB's performance in the first debate against kerry was attributable to the difficulties and responsibilities of his office?

or are we maybe just being a bit too partisan?

and yes of course obama was markedly better than gwb, but faulty rhetoric is faulty rhetoric.


All Mitt does is run. Obama's got a day job.

Unfortunately that goes with territory if you're the incumbent running for reëlection and so the incumbent has to overcome that challenge or risk losing the election.

kathy a.

BBW, point taken. and no, obama did not have the energy needed at this debate, and did not effectively muster in spots where he could have.

i am pretty partisan. and that is because of the actual policies the GOP puts forth (what romney says on a given day varies, but i have no good reason to trust him on anything). it really does trouble me, though, to see this rushing torrent of lies.


we all agree then that GWB's performance in the first debate against kerry was attributable to the difficulties and responsibilities of his office?

bbw -- GWB was forced to try to respond to strings and strings of rapid fire lies from Kerry?

A bit too partisan? I plead not guilty. I never once used the expression "Shrub" or BushHitler nor even Dubya. :)

re faulty rhetoric: I'd say that responding to mendacious bullshit with rhetoric cannot work without pointing to the mendacity. Obama would have had to surrender all of his time in that game. My takeaway about "you're not allowed to say anything unless you've been in the arena" was that the author's focus was on how once one has been in an arena, what one sees and spots and how one responds becomes markedly different. I don't see that as an unfair observation.

big bad wolf

nancy, i should have said that i thought rhetoric that obama's performance could be explained by his day job was faulty. gwb had the same day job. either we think that is an excuse for the president, or we don't.

i did not say that obama should have responded to mitt with rhetoric. i said that obama's flaws on wednesday were a demeanor that was too flat, answers that buried his main point, and a couple of points that needed to be answered, could have been rapidly, and were not. i stand by that.

well, very few are in the presidential debate arena but that arena is not wildly different from an appellate court or other kinds of debate. obama, by the standards of those forums (i dont say fora) was average at best.

kathy a.

obama can do this -- respond to a few big whoppers, and ignore the rest as he moves along with the points he needs to make. he cannot do a point by point smackdown in a timed-answer debate, which might have been what romney was trying to elicit, because that would derail the message and essentially allow romney to frame the issues.

Sir Charles


I agree with you.

I recall doing an argument in the Second Circuit where the panel -- led by George Bush's cousin -- went off on a very dangerous tangent on an issue that had not been raised in the court below, not raised on appeal, and briefed by neither party. (Something as you well know courts of appeals are not supposed to do.) I had a detailed outline for my argument that I simply left at counsel's table. It was, as Ronald Ziegler might say, no longer operative.

I got up there and dug in and pushed back at the court for 15 minutes as forcefully as I could, although I was well aware I was in deep trouble. (I remember having one of those moments where you think, "you're doing well counselor . . . and you are so fucked.") I ended up losing 2-1, so it's not like the moral of the story is a good one. But in any job where you have to argue a case, you've got to be able to adjust.

The thing about Obama's performance is not so much that it was substantively defective -- I think it was adequate or better than the normal presidential debate standard -- but that he allowed himself to be utterly dominated by Romney, that he looked small and weak and indifferent in comparison. I hate to focus so much on style point but they matter. And one of the things you have to do when your opponent is lying is to muster sufficient outrage to back him down a bit. You have to call him on his lies in a way that is potentially shaming, that creates at least a hesitancy about lying further.

Obama didn't do this at all and it was a huge mistake. I think Romney is a guy you can back down, but you better stand your ground.

kathy a.

kinda funny, JM. i still don't think obama can call romney a liar -- that is a characterization of the person, which would not be a good place to go -- but he sure can call him out for being wrong on the facts.

romney is not going for the fact-based voter, obviously.

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