Archive for June, 2007

small contributions

June 30, 2007

To begin with, I don’t have much money to give. But I thought I could part with a few bucks. So, I contributed $50 to Clinton, $33 to Richardson, and $25 to both Obama and Edwards. Speaking of frugal: my s.o. and I went on another frugal trip last weekend, this time to New York City. My how clean it is. Last time I was there it was a bit grungy. Kudos to Giuliani and Bloomberg. On a side note, as cute as the towns and villages of Long Island are, I have to say one thing, which I will put in the positive. There should be more “Road D’s.” After all, wasn’t it public funds that made beaches there possible to begin with, or places like Fire Island and Jones Beach? In any event, NYC and surrounding area is great.

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edwards soaring in the hawkeye state

June 15, 2007

So well is John Edwards doing in Iowa that a key staffer in Hillary Clinton’s campaign encouraged her to abandon this state altogether. A close look at polling data confirms that, indeed, Edwards is soaring in the hawkeye state.

Close inspection of polling data from www.davidwissing.com reveals something interesting about Edwards in Iowa. As the table below shows, there have been fourteen polls since January, and Edwards has bested other hopefuls in ten out of fourteen. (Click on the table)

polls_2007_02.jpg

In averaging these polls, we find that John Edwards has garnered 26 percent of Iowa voters, with Clinton a respectable second at 24 percent. What’s striking about Edward’s numbers is recent changes in his “standard deviation,” a very rudimentary statistical tool to measure volatility around an average. A decreasing standard deviation signals that a candidate’s base of support is firming up, which candidates desire.

The North Carolinian’s “standard deviation” over the five months since January is 3.3, meaning he polled somewhere between 22.7 percent and 29.3 percent, all the while averaging 26 percent over that long-haul. Edwards’ average has inched up to 27 percent since March 30, a benchmark roughly synonymous with the close of first quarter campaign finance reporting.

More importantly, his “standard deviation” went down dramatically from 3.3 to 1.5 — which is good for him. Edwards polled somewhere between 25.5 percent and 28.5 percent, all the while averaging 27 percent over that short-haul from March 30 to May 31.

“So what?” you might ask. Well, think about it this way. Most elections are won not on the margins but by identifying and then pitching a winning message to a core voter base and getting that base to actually vote, as well as convincing undecideds (including voters who tepidly support the other side) that your opponents are radioactive. Sound familiar? It’s the “bottom-up” approach that, time and time again, Karl Rove had executed to perfection. So, Edwards leads in Iowa, and, as important, he’s got a message that’s garnering a strong base the strength of which is increasing even more at a time when you’d think voters would still be in candidate-shopping mode.

To her credit, Clinton’s standard deviation also decreased from 6.6 to 5.1. In fact, Clinton’s average polling figure since March 30 suggests she’s in striking distance of Edwards, at 23 points versus 27 points. She has also bested Edwards in two out of the five polls in May. But Clinton’s problem is that her volatility index at 5.1 is still somewhat too high, even if it has trended downward. Decent polling numbers for now but soft (although somewhat improving) base of support in Iowa.

Thus, we find that even as they give her decent polling figures for now Iowa voters are fickle about Clinton, whereas Edwards is firming up his support among voters there. Voters are even more fickle about Obama as his standard deviation actually increases — but the slight increase in his polling average from 19 percent between January-May to 20 percent between March 30-May 31 hints at maybe something positive.

Clinton might also be sailing into a figurative perfect storm favoring Edwards. From what I can tell, Clinton seems to be running a standard Democratic presidential campaign — the “big stage” “top-down” campaign where you start by gathering as much big name endorsers as possible, then drill down by bringing them and their constituents together for a big bash (or a series of big bashes) involving the general public and media (maybe even a celebrity or two), topped-off with a positive stay-above-the-fray message about unity, our future, universal healthcare, etc., etc.

That’s well and good. But if Edwards runs a Karl Rove campaign (without the extreme hateful venom, of course) in which he uses Iraq to identify, firm-up, and get out his base, and, at the same time, somehow make Clinton and Obama radioactive, I think he has a strong chance of winning decisively in Iowa, assuming lack of counter-measures by the two Senators and the rest of the field. My hunch is that Edwards has to win decisively because Clinton coming in a close enough second could, I think, take the wind out of Edward’s sail, since his overall campaign strategy depends so much on Iowa.

In summary, analysts and pundits typically track presidential politics like a horse race, comparing poll numbers at a given point in time to say “so and so” is leading “such and such” and the lead is commanding (or not) because it beats the margin of error. In applying a rudimentary tool like “standard deviation” to a pool of data, you can obtain other equally important insights, particularly on whether support for a candidate is hardening or softening.

(On a final note, apologies to statisticians and economists as I recognize that there may be some methodological qualms with averaging and calculating standard deviations for a bunch of different polls. Something about apples and oranges. Using the dataset made available by the davidwissing.com, I’ve done this to predict the Kerry-Bush 2004 election in key battleground states and key 2006 US Senate races to great success.)

(By the way . . . Bush-Kerry battle for New Mexico was a high-point of my methodology — as was the Corker-Ford Tennessee and Allen-Webb Virginia races. Here’s what I wrote three weeks before Kerry-Bush New Mexico battle: “Summary: Kerry is leading, but he’s losing ground, while Bush is trailing,but he’s picking up speed.Can Kerry hold on? Answer: Kerry leads in average poll numbers but his poll fluctuations around the average, when comparing last four fluctuations against overall fluctuations, has increased. In other words, Kerry leads, but his lead is subject to greater variability, for better or for worse. Bush trails, but he has a firm base of voters, as indicated by the decrease in voter fluctuation, i.e. standard deviation, from 1.6 overall to 1.3 in last four polls. Moreover, Kerry’s fluctuations around his average polling of 46.2, at 2.9 to 3.3, are relatively greater than Bush’s (1.6 to 1.3), meaning that Kerry’s voters are really fickle. Bush won’t lose his voters and he stands to gain by swiping away votes from Kerry, since Kerry’s voters are still making up their minds. Kerry can’t swipe into Bush and Kerry must figure out a way to harden the resolve of voters who are supposedly for him. Assessment: Kerry leads but is declining, and Bush is coming on strong. I believe fickle voters eventually play it “safe” by staying with the incumbent. This is one of my surprise picks: BUSH)

richardson’s funny ads

June 12, 2007

new hampshire (postscript)

June 5, 2007

I forgot to mention that my significant other and I went to New Hampshire the week before, stayed in Manchester and from there drove around the state, as well as Maine and Massachusetts. Beautiful region. I wanted to stop in Kennebunkport but my s.o., knowing this to be G. H. W. Bush country, would have none of that and just kept driving through that little town.  As usual, we were quite frugal in planning this short trip — but it was worth it.

new hampshire

June 4, 2007

This is my response to Dick Morris’ recent blog entry at the Hill’s Pundit Blog.

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Hmmmm . . . maybe the Democratic debate I was watching on CNN’s Internet site (called Pipeline) was not the same debate that the rest of America was watching on CNN’s cable TV channel.

To me, Hillary seemed in command of issues and, as important, time and time again, re-framed issues and questions in ways that substantively addressed questions and, in so doing, educated the viewing audience on different ways at looking at issues.

For example, I liked her response to the question about how candidates, if elected, would utilize Bill Clinton: Hillary offered the only unique answer in re-framing the question, in effect saying the issue is not how to use Bill but how to use all past Presidents. My point: Hillary was on her toes and in command of the moment.

More importantly, she didn’t get suckered into a debate with Edwards, although he tried to draw her into one, especially on the question of Iraq.

Remember how she re-framed Edward’s thesis about Democrats and Iraq, from one in which certain Democrats (i.e Clinton and Obama) have been slow and silent in doing the right thing vis-a-vis Iraq, into the larger and more important point, on how Democrats are united in reversing Bush-Cheney’s failure in Iraq? I also liked her line about Dick Cheney, a riposte that came across as genuinely funny.

Thus, I can’t agree with your observations on Hillary in New Hampshire.

I agree with you that Obama did very well in terms of parrying and thrusting with Edwards and others, particularly on the virtues of their respective health-care proposals and on Iraq. That line by Barak was a memorable zinger (“You’re about four and a half years late on leadership on this issue”), as was the way he challenged the premise of the moderator’s question on whether or not English should be our “official” language. (By the way, I wasn’t impressed with Hillary’s legalistic distinction between “national” and “official” language, although I think I agree with her.)

I think Obama left a series of memorable and positive lasting impressions on the viewing audience. For good or bad, the voting public, I believe, base decisions on sum of impressions cast over time as much as on particulars. So, although Barak is still behind, at least he’s keeping pace with Hillary, and he’s in striking reach of her.

As for Hillary, she’s the big kahuna and, contrary to what you write, I didn’t see her losing an inch. In fact, she distanced herself from Edwards. Whereas she was presidential in the sense of re-framing issues from the vantage point of the bigger picture, Edwards, to me, seemed nit-picky.

As for Edwards, I believe he had to go into last night saying that there is a FUNDAMENTAL difference between he, Obama and Clinton, and he had to do so convincingly (i.e. not in a “nit picky” kind of way); as they left the auditorium or turned off their TV sets, the viewing audience was supposed to agree with Edward’s value proposition in part or in full. Edwards had to draw a lasting and fundamental distinction last night because the vast majority of Americans and Democrats are going to tune out presidential politics for the next three months — it’s summer time and our minds are (or soon will be) elsewhere (hot summer lazy days, Fourth of July, summer vacation, summer camp for kids, new school year for kids, etc)! We’re already overloaded as it is. But both Obama and Clinton rebuffed Edwards, as the skilled debaters that they probably are and had been in back in the days in high school and college.