About Author: neoavatara


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Why Are We Conservatives?

Paradigm shifts.  New beginnings.  Dramatic change.

All of the above should lead one to revisiting their belief systems.  With the re-election of Barack Obama, the conservative movement in America faces all of the above, and should take a long, hard look at what we stand for.

Since 1980, we have theortetically (if not practically) been the party of smaller government, lower taxes, and strict constructionist view of the constitution.   The questions that face us therefore are quite clear:  do these positions make sense in what appears to now be a center-left nation?

The role of government has been integral to our political debate from the beginning.  The original Democrat, Thomas Jefferson, wisely said,

“A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor and bread it has earned – this is the sum of good government.”

Pretty unlikely to hear that from any Democrat in this day and age.  In actuality, Democrats of today sound more like Jefferson’s opposition.  Just one note, from Alexander Hamilton:

A government ought to contain in itself every power requisite to the full accomplishment of the objects committed to its care, and to the complete execution of the trusts for which it is responsible, free from every other control but a regard to the public good and to the sense of the people.
–Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 31, January 1, 1788

This debate largely frames where the two parties were in 1789, and are still today. We are simply in a new iteration of a two and quarter century struggle between a stronger, more centralized federal government, and a more diffuse, more localized government.

In the past decade, the philosophical shift has been toward more Federal power, culminating in Obamacare, the largest expansion of Federal power in decades.  With President Obama’s re-election, and following the Supreme Court’s affirmation of Obamacare’s constitutionality, the momentum to greater and greater centralization of the role of government is quite clear.

So in that environment, what are conservatives to do?  Are we even relevant?  We all know what liberals would prefer:  They would prefer conservatives largely disappear.  That is why their onslaught of trying to marginalize the entire movement with steady claims of bigotry, misogyny, and tyranny will continue.

But the country deserves better.  Conservatism is just the newest incarnation of the belief in a true federal system, with both states and the central government playing co-equal goals in achieving public prosperity, best outlined in the 10th amendment.  This amendment has been the bane of liberalism, and they have been successful in marginalizing its relevance over a long period of time. Liberalism will continue to try to marginalize those facets of the constitution and law that limit federal power, because to liberals, that is the primary hindrance to achieving all the glory that can be achieved by an all powerful central government.  Liberals may not view the world in the way I describe, but ultimately, what is factually erroneous about that description?

But history teaches us a clear lesson:  the pendulum swings both ways.  In much the way that liberalism became the laughingstock of American politics after Reagan’s ascendance, conservatives have become the extremists and demagogues of our time.  All the major social pillars of the country, whether you talk about the political sphere, the entertainment industry, or the mainstream media portray us in that light.

It is within that environment that we fight a rear guard action against the overbearing expansion of federal power that stands before us.

So why are we conservatives?  Why not admit defeat and move on?  Simple:  America’s founding ideals, namely engrained in the Constitution, drive us to keep the fight alive.  In the truest Jeffersonian sense of American, we fight for less centralized government, greater state and local control, and above all else, the rights of the individual over the presumed rights of the masses.

So the difficult fight goes on, because it must.  An America without conservatism is not much of an America at all.  The political balance that has maintained individual freedom from the time of the Founding to this day relies on the fight for limited government versus those fighting to expand political power.   From our founding, it has been an integral part of what we are.  So that is why we are conservatives…not to enrich ourselves, but to allow the Republic to endure, to focus on its core ideals, and prevent progressive extremism to take us to a place our Constitution never intended.

And so I leave you, ironically, with a great liberal lion’s words:  “For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”


Lincoln: Movie Review

Lincoln, directed by Steven Spielberg and loosely based on Doris Kearns-Goodwin’s book Team of Rivals, is an ambitious attempt to bring to life the last few months of the 16th President’s life.  It is ironically one of the most optimistic times of Lincoln’s life.  He has just won re-election, knows that the North is going to win the war, and he and his administration are trying to look forward on the steps necessary to put the country back together again.

Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln is fantastic, and simply looks the part.  Even when you try to imagine Day-Lewis under the makeup, it is difficult to visualize.  The special effects are amazing, and he looks identical to any picture of Abraham Lincoln you have ever seen.   As for his voice…it has been much criticized by viewers, but I think that is because of their own personal biases.  Contemporaries of Lincoln described his voice as somewhat high pitched with Southern accents…and I can only imagine that they come quite close to that description.

Much of the story centers around the political fights that embroiled Washington, D.C. for the months before Lincoln’s assassination.  Primarily this centers around the fight over the 13th Amendment, which ultimately outlawed slavery.  Lincoln knew that he had a narrow window to end slavery, because if the war eneded first, it was unlikely that the amendment to abolish slavery would ever become a reality, as southern states would move to block it.

He also knew that the evil must be eradicated for America to live up to its principles.  As Lincoln stated in 1854, “We were proclaiming ourselves political hypocrites before the world, by thus fostering Human Slavery and proclaiming ourselves, at the same time, the sole friends of Human Freedom.”  Lincoln understood that America could only be true to its foundign principles by ending the scourge of slavery, and so he took it upon himself to insure passage of the Constitutional amendment, which was opposed by both sides for various reasons.

In this quest, he faced numerous hurdles.  First was within his own cabinet, led by Secretary of State William Seward (William Strathairn) and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton (Bruce McGill), both of whom would rather have a quick end to the war than the 13th amendment.  Democrats in Congress were vehemently against any equal rights for blacks. The pro-rights Republicans themselves were split, with a conservative faction that is dubious about the Constitutional changes.  The radical Republicans were led by Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones) who is a true believer (for reasons that will become obvious), but himself must make compromises to get the bill passed into law.

If you don’t like political theater, this is not the movie for you.  Most of the key scenes center around Congressional arguments, and melancholy scenes in the White House with the members of the administration debating the future of the country.  However, for historical and political buffs like myself, the scenes are pure joy.

This movie is not a portrayal of the heroic or messianic Abraham Lincoln that has become so commonplace in our educational system these days, but the real man, the real politician, dealing with real political and societal problems, and showing leadership along the way.  This Lincoln has to barter, deal, beg, and plead with politicians to get what he wants…much like every President of the United States.  We see a simple reality:  people complain about politics today, but it is nothing compared to the politics of the past.  True leadership, regardless of opposition, makes a great President.

This movie portrays Lincoln not as a perfect figure, but as a good and decent man dealing with reality.  Lincoln had many flaws, and only a few of them are truly illustrated here.  But more than any other film portrayal I can think of, this movie humanizes Lincoln, and forces us to deal with the man, not the myth.  We see his difficult personal relationships with Mary Todd Lincoln (Sally Field) and his eldest son Robert Todd Lincoln (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), both of which are colored by the loss of their second son Willie years earlier.  But we also see the close and loving relationship Lincoln has with his youngest boy Tad, and how that makes him a more realistic character in our eyes.

Lincoln is a man who made many mistakes, some of which we are still dealing with today…but that does not for a moment take away from his greatness.  Some critics today complain about Lincoln as the progenitor of the ‘imperial presidency’, and there is truth in that.  But in this film, we are shown that Lincoln made tough choices to save the union, and not necessarily to increase his power.  He made terrible choices because he had to in order to save the nation, without thought of the long term consequences if and when the country survived.  One of my favorite scenes takes place in the White House, when he explains to his Cabinet why the 13th Amendment is so crucial…and the discussion largely centers on his own doubts whether many of his actions, such as the revoking of habeas corpus and the Emancipation Proclamation, are truly legal and binding.  His own doubts (which can be seen authenticated in his own writings of the time) show that he understood the risks he was taking for the greater good.

This is not a film for everyone.  First and foremost, it is worthwhile just to see Daniel Day-Lewis in all his glory.  I think this may have been his greatest acting role ever, and if not the Academy Award, a nomination is at least deserved. As for the movie itself, history buffs and the like will adore this portrayal of reality.  Others maybe should take a pass.  But for those that are truly interested in one of the most important moments in history, with maybe our country’s greatest President dealing with issues that would shape the nation to this very day…this is a must see.


Skyfall: Movie Review

The venerable James Bond returns in the 23rd movie in the series, and on the 50th anniversary of the first Bond movie, Dr. No.

Skyfall is in many ways reminiscent of the earliest Bond films.  It focuses on the crisis at hand, develops our main characters and gives them more depth, and lives in a more present reality, without the bells and whistles of many of the Bond films of the past that make the unbelievable.

The film begins with a classic Bond chase scene, that ends with James Bond (Daniel Craig) supposedly dead (if you think this is a spoiler, please; 10 minutes into the movie and you think Bond is dead?).  He returns, but he is a shell of the man he once was, and everyone, including Bond himself, is starting to realize it.

At the same time, MI-6 is suffering an existential crisis, with there agents through out the world at risk.  M (Judi Dench) herself is on the verge of losing all credibility, not to mention her job.   She is being hounded by politicians, led by Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes).

Into this story enters Silva (Javier Barden) who plays an insane genius who happens to be a genius himself.  And it takes some time to realize his motivation, and when you do, you realize this is a much more personal story than many Bond films.

This movie then turns to a very personal nature, involving M and Bond, giving us insight into their lives, their past, and what made each character what they are in the present.  Additionally, it shows a level of emotion from Bond that I can’t recall seeing in any of the Bond films.  He is fighting for more than just country.

The final scenes are fascinating, in that Director Sam Mendes is clearly setting up the James Bond series to return to its roots.  We are slammed with echoes of the past through out the movie, but the final scene makes it clear:  Past is present, when it comes to this series.  And the final scene also, to no one’s surprise, promises more Bond films to come.

This is an excellent edition to the pantheon of Bond films.  I love Casino Royale, and didn’t much care for Quantum of Solace.  I think this film may be better than both.  I love that Mendes has turned back the clock, and we are seeing glimpses of the ‘classic’ Bond we have not seen since Sean Connery.  For the first time in a long time, I am actually looking forward to future installments in this series.  Highly recommended.


2012 Winners and Losers


1.  Barack Obama – Clearly cements his first term policies including Obamacare, and now has the political capital to move the country further to the left.

2.  Nate Silver, polls and Conventional Wisdom – Nate Silver now rules the world of political prognosticators, bar none.  The polls were absolutely spot on.  Who would have thought?

3. Senate Democrat candidates – They virtually ran the table.

4.  GOP Governors and House of Representatives – The few bright spots for the GOP.  The GOP holds the House, and now holds 33 Governor mansions…the most by any party in decades.

5.  Marco Rubio – The most well known of a number of excellent minority candidates for Republicans in 2016.  Right now, he is the odds on favorite.



1.  Mitt Romney – Romney fought hard, was a much better candidate than McCain…and got less votes than 2008.  His campaign staffers and consultants bear a significant portion of the blame as well, but ultimately, the buck stops here.

2.  GOP – Can they be more dysfunctional?

3.  GOP Senate candidates and the Tea Party – Our senate candidates were horrid.  No other way of spinning that.  And the Tea Party candidates were even worse.

4. Conservative Pundits - George Will, Michael Barone, Jay Cost, Sean Trende…back to the drawing board.

5.  Neoavatara – Hey, my predictions were historically wrong…I will eat my crow, and be happy about it.


Conservatives, Step Back From The Ledge

I think this picture says it all…

O.K., we took a beating.  Hell, we got pummeled.  Obama and his colleagues took every bit of conservative conventional wisdom (and even some liberal conventional wisdom), turned it on its head, and smacked us silly with it.  In one night, we lost the White House, lost seats in the Senate; we did take some governorships, and yes, held the House of Representatives, but lost Allen West and Mia Love, among others.

Welcome to the woodshed.

O.K., now that the self-flagellation is done (for the time being), get up and walk it off.

We lost.  It happens.

As a sports fan, I take these losses in stride.  Take University of Michigan football.  In 2008, we were horrendous.  The worst in a generation or two. (The same year, Obama won the presidency.  Double gut punch.)  It took a few years for Michigan to get back on its feet. We have lost three games this season, may lose a couple more…but most fans feel we are on the way back.  We went through a lot of strife, but we are on the right trajectory.

During the bad years, when others asked why we were confident everything would be o.k. in the long run, there was a simple meme: Simple:  WE ARE MICHIGAN.

This is the same as the conservative movement today.  Yes, we lost.  Yes, Barack Obama has found a weakness in our defenses, exploited it, and gone on to victory twice.  Congratulations to him.

But if time has told us anything, it is this:  we are conservatives.  We look to the long haul.  We believe more in the long term trends than short term pandering and payoffs.  We understand the fight for our nation is perpetual, from generation to generation, from grandmother to mother to child.

I congratulate Democrats today.  They fought hard, and beat us.  Simple as that.

But the fight for the heart and soul of this nation goes on.  One election, even two, doesn’t change that.  Did the four terms of Franklin Delano Roosevelt end the opposition?  Did the country falter after two horrible terms of Richard Nixon?  Did two terms of Bill Clinton end the conservative movement?  No…and neither will two terms of Barack Obama.   No one man, even one President, can destroy this nation.  I hope Obama gets smarter, and starts to realize the damage he is doing.  If not, then we will fix it in the future.  It may be painful, but that is what this country does; it learns, progresses, corrects, and moves on.

So lift your chins a little higher today.  We fought the good fight.  We lost; life is that way sometimes.  There is nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to force you to hang your heads in shame.  We fought for love of country, not revenge, and that is what we should do today and in the days forward.  Learn from what we did right, and what we did wrong.  We get up on our feet, dust ourselves off, and live to fight for another day.

Because we are conservatives…that is what we do.


Congratulations To President Obama

Months of ridiculous attacks, flighty rhetoric, questionable policy initiatives, and hot air from both poltical sides now comes to an end…for a few days at least.

Americans have now decided their path forward. Both sides must accept this, for better or worse. With a likely divided Congress, the path forward for the president-elect is challenging. Yet, this is the way of American government.

As an American, I am always proud of our democratic process. Sure, the election is never perfect. But we are still the gold standard for such a large scale election worldwide. There are countries that probably run elections better than we do, but none are as large or diverse as we are. Simply put, for the difficulties and challenges we should have every election, very few problems actually truly arise.

I would call for unity and a collective spirit moving forward, but that is a fool’s errand. It was for George W. Bush in 2000, after a heated and divided election; and it certainly was for Barack Obama in 2008, despite a mandate that gave him, for the most part, the most control of Congress in a generation. Nothing will change now.

As a conservative, I feel the way forward is clear. Tax reform, without large scale tax cuts. Entitlement reform, not for near term retirees, but for people my age, to make sure the safety nets that we have promise our citizens is there for perpetuity. Restraining federal spending, which may or may not mean real short term cuts, but certainly means that we will have to live within our means far more than we have in the past. That includes discretionary spending as well as the ever touchy subject of military spending.

Ultimately, these are fiscal realities we will face, either by using rational thought, or by facing a fiscal cliff. Reality cannot be ignored.

As for foreign policy, the reality is not much will change practically.

In the end, every American should wish the President the best, as I did for Barack Obama in 2008…because we face massive problems, and the President will be held to account for the success or failure of his policies in confronting these tasks…for better or worse.


Ways For Me To Look Ridiculous On Election Day

So, after months, and even years, of campaigning, it comes down to Election Day. I have written tens of thousands of words on the subject of the election, but I might as well condense my last second thoughts for posterity, either to look brilliant, utterly stupid, or both.

  • No surprise that I believe Mitt Romney will win the presidential election, as well as the popular vote.
  • Republicans will lose less than 10 seats in the House, with my prediction being a loss of 5 seats.  They will also capture a couple of surprise districts from Democrats, but ultimately not much will change.
  • As I predicted here, I think the Senate will be tied.
  • Romney will tie on the gender gap.
  • Obama will win less than 40% of the white vote
  • Romney will win almost 40% of union households.
  • Romney will win independents nationwide by 10 points.
  • In 2008, the voter turnout showed an eight point advantage for Democrats. This year, that advantage will be, at most, 3 points. If there is a late minute surge, I would not be surprised to see parity among Democrats and Republicans, along the lines of 2004.  But my prediction as of now is a 3 point Democrat advantage.
  • Democrats, and particularly Obama’s vaunted turnout machine will do its job, but still fall far short, simply because no party apparatus can overcome the lack of enthusiasm.  Additionally, Republican turnout efforts will out perform.
  • Key Democrat constituencies, including African Americans, Hispanics, and college voters will comprise less of the electorate in 2012 than 2008. Turnout among conservative voters will look more like the 2004 turnout than 2008, as the right wing surges.
  • Rasmussen, which has been one of the two most accurate pollsters in the last three Presidential cycles, will again be proven to be among the most accurate. Other pollsters that showed voter turnout models akin to the 2008 election will have some explaining to do.
  • Liberal media outlets, who in late September said the election was over, will further diminish their credibility among the American public. Nate Silver, whose models were lauded by liberals in 2008, will have to backtrack in his projection models, which right now still show Obama’s chances of victory at about 84%.
  • There will be a few cries of voter fraud, but for the most part, the elections will proceed smoothly.
  • I would be very, very surprised if we get any victor declared on November 6th…at the earliest the morning of the 7th is what I would expect.

2012 Final Electoral College Prediction

Well, it all comes down to this.

You can see my prior predictions from 10/22,  10/1510/89/248/16, and 4/26 on the links provided. The amazing thing is how little things have changed since _April_.  The only states that have flipped since April is Colorado and Iowa; that is a remarkable amount of stability all things considered.  Neither candidate has significantly shifted the landscape of the race in over a year.

Couple presumptions that I have made in my predictions that you need to know, some based on facts, others based on gut feeling.

I believe that the ultimate composition of the electorate this year will not look like 2010, 2008, or 2004, but somewhere in between.  In 2004, the breakdown was D38/R38/I25.  In 2008, Republican support collapsed, and the turnout was D40/R33/I28.  In 2010 (a midterm election which cannot be weighted equally with the other election cycles), the turnout was D35/R35/I29…or in other words, basically back to the 2004 levels. My primary presumption regarding this is that although there was a small surge for Democrats in 2008, there was more of a collapse of Republican support that made up the margin.  See this chart

What the green line shows is Democrats in the electorate.  And although Obama got a slight bump upward, it was not significantly different than in 2000.  However, the blue line shows plummeting Republican support.  One of my presumptions is that will not happen this year.  Republican enthusiasm is simply too high, and Democrat enthusiasm subpar, to achieve that.  Additionally, there is hard data to support this.  First, voter registrations, especially in the battleground states, has shifted to the right. Second, and maybe more important, is that early voter data (the hardest of hard data) shows Romney significantly narrowing Obama’s advantage in these votes since 2008.

My prediction, based on this hard data and historical educated guessing, is that turnout on election day will be something along the lines of D37/R35/I28, which is along the lines of the historical average.

My second guess is about undecided voters.  If you take the RealClearPolitics as face value, Obama and Romney are tied in the national vote approximately with 47% a piece.  Independent candidates have averaged a total of 2% across the board in virtually every poll.  So that leaves about 4% of the electorate as undecided.

The real question is, what way do undecideds break, if they break at all?  This is actually a much more complicated question than many believe.  The common belief is that undecideds break away from the incumbent; however, data shows this is not totally the case.

Case in example:  2004.  George W. Bush led John Kerry by a little under 2 points going into election day, with about 6% of the electorate undecided.  Democrats were gleeful, thinking that undecideds would break for Kerry 2:1.  They, in fact, split evenly.  Each candidate got approximately 3%, and Bush won by a little over 2%.  However, there is a key lesson here, that Nate Silver nicely detailed in a piece last summer:  if an incumbent is leading, then all bets are off, and often the incumbent gets a fair share of undecided voters on election day.  But do note:  Silver’s analysis showed that of all the races he surveyed with this scenario, 36% of the incumbents did lose.  Also, Silver admits that if an incumbent is losing, then undecideds often break decisively for the challenger; 1980 with the Reagan/Carter match up is a perfect example.

However, here is the problem right now:  Obama is not leading.  He is probably tied with Mitt Romney.  And Nate Silver, notably so, does not do any analysis of results in these type of cases.  Mark Blumenthal, taking Nate Silver’s data, misses that point in his recent piece in the Huffington Post, basically dismissing the Incumbent rule because of Silver’s analysis, but never asking the question, “What if the candidates are tied?”

So basically, Nate Silver and others do not really give us any good information in the scenario we are now facing.  Simply put, they too are at a loss at this point in time. But that doesn’t mean we cannot make a predictive analysis on other data.

The key data here, without any additional data point, is the vote of independent voters.  The vast majority of undecideds are, by definition, going to be nonpartisan voters.  All partisan voters have picked sides.  And in this group, Romney is consistently leading by double digits in virtually every national poll, and leads in most state polls, except for (for some unknown reason) Wisconsin and Iowa.  Furthermore, although Silver and others dispute this, the challenger does seem to, in most cases, take a slight majority of these voters.  Even in 2008, when Obama was the erstwhile challenger, if you look at state polls he took the bulk of the undecided voters is almost every state.

In that case, if you treat undecided voters as independent voters, what you get is the assumption that they will break toward Romney by something along the lines of 3:2. And that is the assumption I have used here.

So with all of that gobbledygook out of the way, here is my state by state breakdown, and my final prediction of the vote in each state.

Florida – This state has been trending Romney for over a month, and I feel confident he will win the state.

Final Prediction:  Romney 51.1  Obama 48.1

North Carolina – Easy win for Romney.

Final Prediction:  Romney 54  Obama 45

Virginia – A wider margin than experts believe.  I think the lack of enthusiasm in northern Virginia and significantly increased enthusiasm downstate will make the difference.

Final Prediction:  Romney 50.8  Obama 48.7

New Hampshire – Another state that is traditionally impossible to predict.  There are frankly only two good polls in the state right now, and basically those show the race tied.  This is a coin flip.

Final Prediction:  Romney 49.9  Obama 49.8

Iowa – Other than Ohio, this may be the hardest state to predict.  The polls are all within the margin of error, outside of some highly suspect polls like NBC/WSJ/Marist.  Romney was struggling in the state until the debates, but Republicans on the ground tell me they are feeling very good, and early voting there has not met Obama’s goals.

Final Prediction:  Romney 49.9  Obama 49.7

Wisconsin – Another tough state.  Again, certain pollsters that are usually reliable, like Marquette University, are using strange likely voter models.  I think this will be razor thin, but there are enough polls showing Obama with a lead that I can’t reliably flip it to Romney.

Final Prediction:  Obama 49.8  Romney 48.8.

Colorado – Everyone, including Democrats, are telling me this is slipping away from Obama.  Early voting tallies are looking good for Romney.

Final Prediction:  Romney 49.7  Obama 49.3

Nevada – No state irritates me more than Nevada.  This should have been Romney country, but he has never been able to make inroads in the state.  Does Harry Reid’s machine really control the state that effectively?  Apparently so.

Final Prediction:  Obama 51.0  Romney 48.2

Michigan – This is Mitt Romney’s home state.  This is my home state.  I will not believe this goes Red until I see Michigan’s electors voting on the final day to submit electoral college votes on December 26th, 2012.  In other words, not going to happen.

Final Prediction:  Obama 52.2  Romney 45.2

Pennsylvania – Yes, I know.  Romney is going there on Sunday.  Bill Clinton and Joe Biden are likely heading there too.  Along with Michigan, this is Charlie Brown’s football:

Damn Lucy and her Democrat Progressive roots.

Final Prediction:  Obama 51.0  Romney 47.2

Ohio – My current home.  Proud of it.  And here it is the simple reality of what the last 1,500 words or so comes down to:


This is the reality, for both candidates.  I don’t see a reasonable path to 270 without Ohio for either man.  Oh, sure, you can make the math work, but the reality?  The Reality is another story all together.

Let us be honest:  all year, the polls in Ohio have not looked good for Mitt Romney.  He has trailed for the most part by 2-3 points, as he does right now.  There are two questions though.  First, do you believe the polls?  I do, but with a caveat; I think any poll that shows the lead more than 2 points has a flawed model.  It is simply not realistic, from what I have seen on the ground. Democrats will admit that enthusiasm in the state is far below 2008 levels, and early voter turnout in Blue counties in the state are significantly lagging 2008 results.  Furthermore, when Obama comes to town…people are not showing up.  Here is Obama in Hilliard, Ohio yesterday, where less than 3,000 people showed:

Plenty of open space in that auditorium.  I know that place well, it can easily seat 10,000 people.

Now, here is Mitt Romney’s rally in West Chester, Ohio on the same evening:

30,000 people, in 30°F weather, showed up, and the Fire Marshall says another 10,000 people were turned away.  That is, by far, the largest rally by either candidate in the state of Ohio this year.  Now, that is completely and utterly anecdotal.

Monday night, election eve, Romney had a rally at an airplane hanger…

I actually went…but did NOT get in.  This is from twitter.  There were at least 5,000 people waiting in the cold when the Fire Marshall closed the doors.  This very same night about two hours ago, Barack Obama held a rally in Nationwide Arena in downtown Columbus with Jay-Z and Bruce Springsteen. He got about 15k people there; the upper tier of the stadium was empty. Just as a comparison, McCain held a rally at the same spot on election eve 2008…and got about 12k people.

You want more anecdotes?  Over the past few weeks, I have been traveling all around central Ohio, including the blue county of Franklin (in which I live) and red counties of Union and Delaware.  In Franklin county, which Obama won 60-40 in 2008, campaign signs are about even, with a slight edge to Romney.  In the red counties, where McCain won 60-40, outnumber Obama signs 10-1.  Furthermore, in my neighborhood which was pretty evenly split or even edging to Obama last time, there are no Obama signs to speak of. 

This all of course is utterly and completely meaningless…or is it?  In a state like Ohio, enthusiasm matters.  First, if like you me you presume the polls that show big Obama leads in the state are using flawed modeling, and then you add in what is apparently a surge of enthusiasm from Republicans…does anyone believe that could not account for 2-3 points on election day?

One last data point.  Ohio is an interesting state, because it always regresses to the mean.  Meaning, the margin in Ohio almost always, whether a Republican or Democrat wins, is narrower in the state.  The margin between the popular vote victory in Ohio, versus the margin of victory in the country as a whole, is pretty consistent.  In 2008, Obama won Ohio by 4.5% and won nationally by 6.3%.  In 2004, Bush won Ohio by 2% and won nationally by 2.5%.  The best argument for Obama, actually, is 2000, where Bush won Ohio by 3.5% but lost nationally by 0.5%.

Furthermore, if you compare it to the other big bell weather Florida, Ohio is never more than 2-3 points divergent.  In 2000, Bush won Florida by 538 votes, but won Ohio by 3.5%.  In 2004, Bush won Florida by 5 but won Ohio only by 2.  In 2008, Obama won Ohio by 4.6, but Florida by only 2.8.

What this tells us is that Ohio can flip blue and red, depending on how it feels, with no consistency whatsoever, but it does stay within about 2 points of Florida and about 2 points from the national popular vote.  If Obama is going to lose Florida by 3 or more points…what are the chances that he wins Ohio by 2-3 points?   That would be the largest divergence of those two states since 1980, and even then, the only reason for the divergence is that Reagan won Ohio by 11, but won Florida by 17.  One last point:  Ohio and Florida almost always both go to the victor.  The last time it didn’t was 1992, when George H.W. Bush won Florida by little more than 1 point, while Bill Clinton won Ohio by a little more than 1 point…but again staying within my stated margin.

I am convinced Romney is going to win Florida.  And I am convinced there is little or no evidence that Ohio is going to diverge more than 3 points from Florida, or for that matter, the national popular vote.  Maybe I am living in a dream land, but that is what I believe.

Final Prediction:  Romney 50.1  Obama 49.5




And there you have it, for better for worse, for all of posterity.

My record has been pretty good over the years.  In 2000, I predicted every state except New Mexico (which Gore won by 366 votes).  In 2004, I predicted every state correctly.  In 2008, I missed on North Carolina and Indiana.

But I will be honest: this is, by far, the least confident presidential prediction I have made.  I would not be surprised if Obama won 290 electoral votes.  I would not be that shocked if Romney won 320.  The margin of error, both with the polls and other mitigating factors, is much larger than the margin between these two men.

I stand by my predictions…but one thing is clear:  one side or the other is going to be very, very wrong when they wake up on Wednesday morning.  I just hope it is not me.


2012 Senate Prediction: Final

You can see my July predictions here, my August predictions here, my September predictions here, and my earlier October prediction here.

1. Massachusetts

PREDICTION:  Elizabeth Warren by a nose.  But really a tossup.  However, President Obama’s coat tails should make the difference.  Confidence Level:  Low.   Democrat Pickup.

2.  Virginia

PREDICTION:  This race is basically tied.  There are two polls (NY Times and Washington Post) that have skewed the polling average in Kaine’s favor, but clearly Allen has made up ground.  This is a true tossup.  I go back to my initial prediction; I think Allen pulls it out by a few thousand votes, and that Romney coat tails helps pull him over the finish line.  Confidence Level:  Very low.   Change from Democrat hold to Republican pickup.

3.  Nevada

PREDICTION:  Heller has a steady lead, and I think will win.  Republican hold.  Confidence Level:  Moderate.  NO CHANGE.

4. North Dakota

PREDICTION:  Berg.  Republican pickup.  Confidence Level:  Moderate/high.  NO CHANGE.

5.  Montana

PREDICTION.  Rehberg by a nose, because of Romney coat tails.  Republican pickup.  Confidence Level:  Very low.  NO CHANGE.

6.  Wisconsin

PREDICTION:  Baldwin still leads, though Thompson has made up significant ground.   This state really is now a tossup.  I just have a gut feeling on this one that Gov. Walker and Paul Ryan will pull enough votes for Thompson to carry him over the finish line.  Confidence Level:  Very low, virtual tossup.   CHANGE: REPUBLICAN PICKUP.

7. Connecticut

This race is tight, but Murphy holds a tiny lead, and I cannot believe that McMahon can close the gap on election day.

PREDICTION:  Democrat Hold.  Confidence Level: Low.  CHANGE:  TOSSUP.

8.  Florida

PREDICTION:  Nelson.  Democrat hold.  Confidence Level:  Moderate.  NO CHANGE.

9.  Missouri

Prediction:  This race has narrowed, but still is a Democrat hold.  Confidence Level:  Low.   NO CHANGE.

10.  New Mexico

Prediction:  Democrat hold.  Confidence Level:  High.   NO CHANGE.

11.  Maine

Prediction:  Independent win; virtual Democrat gain.  Confidence Level:  High.  NO CHANGE.

12. Indiana

Prediction:  Ironically, this is the first time all year that I have mentioned this race.  But Richard Mourdock’s late October debate debacle has given Democrat Rep. Joe Donnelly a fighting chance.  I think this race is a tossup, and Donnelly may even have an edge, but the Romney surge will have coat tails and give Mourdock a razor thin win.  Confidence Level:  Very low.  REPUBLICAN HOLD.

13.  Ohio

Prediction:  Another race that has narrowed, but Mandel has never held the lead.  Democrat hold.  Confidence Level:  Moderate.  CHANGE:  TOSSUP.

If you take all this into account, there is a net gain of 2 for Democrats (including Maine), while Republicans gain only 5 seats.  That would give Republicans a net gain of 3 seats, leading to a tied Senate, meaning the Vice President (whoever he is) will be the deciding vote.

Tossups in Massachusetts, Virginia, Wisconsin, Indiana and Connecticut could shift this dramatically with tiny shifts in the electorate.  But my best guess, as of now, is that this is going to be a photo finish.  And if my predictions are wrong, I think it is more likely that the results will end up with more Democrat seats than Republicans.  This is as razor thin as I have ever seen an election cycle.



My Final Critique On Polls

This has been a long and painful campaign.  And over the past year, I have had dozens of posts and thousands of statements on social media about the polls.

This will hopefully be my last critique in this cycle, except for my final predictions.

Looking at the race now, there is a clear divergence between state and national polls, something everyone from Jay Cost to Nate Silver has remarked on.  As usual, Republicans like their polls, liberals like theirs, and we simply haven’t a clue what the reality on the ground.

I think there are two things going on, but both are set in reality, actually.  Let us look at history.

In both 2004 and 2008, it was the national polls, not the state polls, that were predictive.  At this point in 2008, Obama led McCain by 7 points in the national polls; Kerry trailed Bush by 1.5 points. Both of the national predictors were on the mark, for the most part.

However, the state polls were off.  Take 2004.  Bush led Kerry by 8 points in several polls in Wisconsin, and lost the state.  He led by 4 in Pennsylvania.  On the other hand, on the eve of the election, Kerry was leading in both Florida and Ohio.  And how did that work out for him?

2008 was, I think, more telling of the problem we now face.  Obama led by a wide margin nationally.  But the state polls told a different story.  In Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Indiana, Colorado and Virginia, Obama led by less than the margin of error in polls.  He actually trailed in polling in North Carolina and Missouri.

So how did he manage to win all but the great state of Missouri (which he lost by only 0.1 point)?  Simple.  The National polling, not the state polling, told the story.  National polling showed that independents were solidly behind Obama, but for one reason or another, the state polling did not.  It showed that Republicans were despondent (with McCain averaging around 44% in polls), while Obama was over 50% consistently.  Independents in polling were breaking to Obama by 15-20 points.  State polls, for one reason or another, did not show this as well, and that is why most of them were in the margin of error.

Furthermore, liberals have made a lot of hay about Nate Silver predicting 49/50 states (missing on Indiana).  If you take the polls, straight up, on election day, they would have predicted 48/50 states, only missing on Indiana and North Carolina.  Ironically, I myself got every state but Indiana and North Carolina right in my prediction on the eve the 2008 election; many prognosticators did, in fact.  If you add Missouri, which was also decided by the thinnest of margins, all Silver did was predict 2/3 races that were truly tossups correct, while most others only got 1/3 right.  Very few real poll watchers predicted McCain to win any of the other battlegrounds.

So what does that tell us about 2012?

First, the national polls are virtually tied.  Arguing about a tenth of a point here or there is irrelevant.  What we have seen in the month of October is a general consensus that most reliable polls have the race anywhere from a +2 for Obama to a +2 for Romney.  Outliers like Gallup and the National Journal are likely just that…outliers. Polls showing a +2/-2 margin are basically arguing that the race is tied.

In the state polls, what we are seeing is Romney with steady leads in Fl, VA, CO, while Obama has steady leads in OH, MI, PA, IA, WI and NV.  None of the leads, by either candidate, is more than 3 points when you look at the RCP average. Nate Silver and most liberals are betting the entire election on this margin in several states.

This is fool’s gold.  Why?  Again 2008 is a hint why.

Let us take just three states from 2008, just for the sake of brevity.  In Colorado, Obama led by 5.5, and won by 8.5.  In Nevada, Obama led by 6.5, but won by 12.5.  Finally, what may be most illustrative, in Ohio Obama led by only 2.5, but won by 4.

So what does this tell us?  First, that in some of these states, the polls were wrong, but not fundamentally so.  They all showed Obama winning, so if you did a blind predictive analysis they were all right.  But they were not accurate in predicting the actual results of the race.  In the above examples, Colorado would have been barely within the margin of error, but Nevada was outside the margin of error.  That is fine in a race that had a 7 point margin nationally; that is not fine in a race that is a dead heat nationally.

What about Ohio?  Well, certainly that result was in the margin of error. I myself believed that Obama was going to win Ohio in 2008, though if McCain ‘surged’ he could have won the state.  My prediction was 100% accurate.  What in fact happened is a surge…for Obama.  Across the board, in state after state, we saw Obama outperform his polling by a few points.  Even in Missouri, which he lost, this was basically true.

But the state polls did not show this.  They showed a divergence:  a national race that was over and going to Obama, but a state by state analysis that said that McCain was competitive.  This latter point was clearly false; the race was not competitive by any stretch of the imagination.

The national polls gave a better predictor with what was happening in the race as a whole…which is precisely my point.

One final take away from all this.  I don’t see a surge for either candidate now, but if there is a surprise surge on election day, who ever gets the surge will win.  If there is no surge, then the state polls are basically not all that predictive.  Without a surge, Obama 2008 does not win North Carolina, Indiana, and maybe is counting votes in Florida and Ohio to see if he won. That is likely the scenario we are facing.  In the states deciding the election, without a late minute surge the state polls are too close to call, and predicting a winner from them is either a coin flip or a fool’s errand.  Anyone telling otherwise is either trying to fool you or themselves.

So strap in your seat belts.  We are in for a rocky ride.

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