Archive for January, 2008

let us now praise . . . bill clinton

January 30, 2008

“Mean . . . nasty . . . brutish and short.” That’s how the 17th century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes described the “state of nature,” a literal and figurative place where every man and every nation are locked in a dog-eat-dog world of mortal combat. Fortunately for us, our forefathers created a nation in which rules, procedures, customs and habits have lifted this nation and its peoples above that human condition many are still mired in to this very day in far away shores. Yet, we are not altogether free from that Hobbesian world where some will do anything to ensure their own survival. Have we forgotten the lengths to which the Republican Party went in Florida 2000, among other things, sending in goon squads of young Republicans to intimidate and then steal the election? Have we forgotten about the games played by Karl Rove and company in 2004, playing on people’s fears like they did? Weren’t we always kicking ourselves every time we lost the Big One in 1980, 1984, 1988, 2000 and 2004, muttering something along the lines of, “Why aren’t we as tough and dastardly as those damn Republicans?” Bill Clinton reminds us about What It Takes to win in an environment in which the opposition will stop at nothing to achieve victory. Maybe Clinton was over the top in South Carolina last week, but the larger point we must never forget is that, after the dust of all the primaries have settled, we will need his kind of Nasty to win in November.

obama wins big in south carolina — a not unexpected victory

January 26, 2008

Senator Barak Obama scored a much-needed victory over his leading opponent for the Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton, in what amounts to a not unexpected victory for the Senator from Illinois. As early as July, I argued that, if recent history was any indication, Barak stood a strong chance of winning in the palmetto state. It remains to be seen if tonight’s victory will generate enough momentum to crash the walls of California and New York, whose primaries are coming up in over a week. Clinton is the strong favorite in these states. If you ask me, the more interesting development is the recent endorsement of Barak by Caroline Kennedy. Why, you ask, did she do this? I think it partly has a lot to do with Hillary Clinton’s mis-reading of US history and civil rights. Clinton said that the Lyndon B. Johnson was the necessary predicate to the work of MLK, Jr. and the Southern Leadership Conference in passing the 1964 Civil Rights Act. As I recall my history books, the tragic assassination of JFK had a lot to do with LBJ’s success in getting the law passed, and I believe this was a point that LBJ specifically made.

wow! if margins hold — decisive win for obama

January 3, 2008

A 36 percent to 30 percent Obama over Clinton margin is pretty decisive.  Wow. . .  Double-wow. . . Triple-wow.

clinton to win iowa by comfortable margin

January 2, 2008

Hillary Clinton will win the Iowa caucus this Thursday by a comfortable margin over opponents Senator Barak Obama and former Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards. On Thursday, Clinton will garner 29.3 percent of the Iowa vote to 26.9 and 24.6 for Obama and Edwards respectively.

Since the Iowa Democratic Party’s Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in early November, Clinton has averaged 28.2 to Obama and Edwards’ 27.2 to 23.4. Clinton’s number since that dinner is an improvement over her long-term average, which since January 2007 has been 26.9 percent versus 23.7 percent and 23.8 percent for Obama and Edwards respectively.

More importantly, Clinton has managed to maintain a relatively low standard deviation of 2.7 through 34 polls conducted since the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner. Obama and Edwards’ standard deviation figures are 4.1 and 3.0 respectively. Standard deviation is a rudimentary statistical tool that measures volatility around an average. The higher the standard deviation, the greater the volatility. The lower the standard deviation, the stronger the base of support for a candidate.

In applying a rudimentary tool like “standard deviation” in conjunction with poll numbers, you can obtain other equally important insights with respect to a series of polls, particularly on whether support for a candidate is hardening (standard deviation declines) or softening (standard deviation increases). For the most part, analysts and pundits typically track presidential politics like a horse race, focusing on and comparing poll numbers at a given point in time (particularly the most recent polls) to say “so and so” is leading “such and such.”

In the three weeks leading up to the Thursday vote, Clinton has exhibited a **relatively** low standard deviation of 2.7 (18 polls), all the while improving her polling average to 29.3 from the 28.2 recorded since the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner. In short, over the last 18 polls, Clinton has exhibited a higher polling average and lower standard deviation compared to her leading opponents. It is worth noting that Clinton’s standard deviation is higher than the 1.5-to-2.0 target we have employed in the past when accurately predicting winners.

In predicting races, we construct a 2-by-2 matrix that, on the “x” axis, compares long-term versus short-term polling averages and, on the “y” axis, long-term standard deviations versus short-term standard deviations. We have found that winning candidate’s combine better short-term polling average when compared against the long-term **and** short-term standard deviation that is lower than long-term standard deviation.

In other words, a winning candidate is one who garners a greater share of votes over time and, over the same period, exhibits less voter volatility as expressed by a low standard deviation. We have also found that a second place candidate will pull out a “come from behind” victory if she or he exhibits a significantly declining standard deviation while her or his opponent exhibits high and increasing standard deviation.

If the prediction is accurate, Clinton’s victory would represent a stunning turnaround since the beginning of July when former Bill Clinton began campaigning actively in the hawkeye state. As discussed earlier, prior to July, Hillary Clinton experienced wildly fluctuating poll figures resulting in correspondingly high standard deviations. There was talk of dropping out of Iowa. She trailed Edwards badly, and even worse, Edwards throughout the campaign recorded relatively low standard deviations that demonstrated a strong support base for the former Senator from North Carolina.

Data set on which the analysis is based is available here.