Who is gonna win? Updated

Updated November 3.  There is another informal poll that is going for President Obama – the 7/Eleven poll.  As of this morning the President is ahead 50 to 41.  According to their press release, they have correctly predicted the last three elections.


Woke up this morning to see Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight updated just after midnight to give President Obama 299 electoral votes with a 77.4% chance of winning.  We all know that polls are volatile and that will shift, but we now have two non-poll polls that give the race to the President.

Politico reports

A group of people who have accurately predicted the winner of the popular  vote in the last four presidential elections thinks President Barack Obama is headed for a second  term: the American people.

Fifty-four percent of Americans think Obama will win the election, compared  to 32 percent who predict a Romney victory, according to Gallup polling released Wednesday but conducted  before Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast. Eleven percent have no  opinion.

This is down two points from a similar poll taken in May.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll released Tuesday found a similar result:  53 percent of registered voters believed Obama would win, compared to 29 percent  for Romney.

In the 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008 election, Americans accurately predicted the  popular vote winner. The gap between Obama and Romney is similar to the gap  between Al Gore and George W. Bush in 2000. Fifty-two percent of registered  voters thought then-Vice President Gore would defeat the Texas governor, while  35 percent thought Bush would win.

We all know that Gore did win the popular vote, but lost the Electoral College by one.

Barack Obama is seen at the White House. |AP Photo

There was a similar non-poll which has been running longer with pretty good accuracy.  I am talking about the Nickelodeon kids poll.  On October 22, the Washington Post reported

Nickelodeon’s Linda Ellerbee said Monday that the president captured 65 percent of the vote to beat Republican Mitt Romney in the network’s “Kids Pick the President” vote. More than 520,000 people cast online ballots through the children’s network’s website over one week earlier this month.

Since it began in 1988, the kids have presaged the adults’ vote all but once, when more youngsters voted for John Kerry over George W. Bush in 2004.Obama answered questions submitted by Nickelodeon viewers for a special earlier this month. Romney didn’t participate.
Does that last tell you anything?  No late night television, no answering questions from kids.  I think Mitt Romney is out of touch and that is going to help cost him both the popular vote – which will be close – and the electoral college.
Photograph from AP

Sandy from Boston: the day after

A little after 4 am this morning I was awakened by the full moon shining in my window. The winds had calmed, the rain ended and the clouds had parted at least momentarily.  The Old Farmer’s Almanac calls this the Full Hunter’s moon.  Now we have alternating sun and clouds.  (And a brief shower when I went out to buy Halloween candy.)

Boston and Massachusetts, except for the south coast, were as the Boston Globe put it in the headline to the Metro section, “still walloped” even far from the center.  After a while I just couldn’t watch television coverage as they showed Seaside Heights on the Jersey Shore basically under water.  I can only imagine what Long Beach Island where I often summered as a child looks like.  And Manhattan and the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn.  Yes, Boston was lucky.

But we were not without damage which shows the size and strength of the storm.  That size and strength was magnified by that beautiful Hunter’s moon outside my window.  Here is how it works.  This is from the EarthSky News.

Of course, we all know the moon is primarily responsible for the rising and falling of ocean tides.  In most places, but not everywhere, there are two high tides and two low tides a day.  That’s true of the U.S. East Coast, where Sandy is having its effect.  That effect can’t be predicted precisely because – for any particular spot on Earth’s surface – the height of the tides and their fluctuation in time depends not only on the moon, but also on the sun – and also on the shape of the specific beach, the larger coastline, the angle of the seabed leading up to land, and the prevailing ocean currents and winds.

The difference in height between high and low waters varies as the moon waxes and wanes from new to full and back to new again.  The higher tides are called spring tides (nothing to do with season of spring).  The lower tides are called neap tides.  It’s a spring tides that’s happening around this weekend, as Sandy is sweeping closer to U.S. shores.

Around each new moon and full moon – when the sun, Earth, and moon are located more or less on a line in space – the range between high and low tides is greatest.  These are called spring tides.  Image via physicalgeography.net

Spring tides.  Full moon this month comes on October 29 at 19:49 Universal Time (or 2:49 p.m. Central Daylight Time in North America).  Around each new moon and full moon, the sun, Earth, and moon arrange themselves more or less along a line in space. Then the moon’s pull on the tides increases, because the gravity of the sun reinforces the moon’s gravity.  In fact, the height of the average solar tide is about 50% the average lunar tide.  Thus, at new moon or full moon, the tide’s range is at its maximum.  This is the spring tide: the highest (and lowest) tide.  Spring tides are not named for the season.  This is spring in the sense of jump, burst forth, rise.  So spring tides bring the most extreme high and low tides every month, and they happen around full and new moon.

It’s when a spring tide coincides with a time of heavy winds and rain – flooding due to a weather extreme – that the most extreme flooding occurs.  That’s the case this weekend.  There is one small bit of luck.  That is, the moon is not near perigee, or closest to Earth for the month.  In fact, the moon will be at apogee- farthest from Earth for the month – on November 1.  A full moon at perigee during a destructive hurricane would be bad news indeed.  A full moon at apogee is slightly less bad, but still bad.

So, yes the full moon didn’t help, but I guess it could have been worse.

This is from Quincy, MA just south of Boston.

Hurricane Sandy in Quincy, Mass. -- Photo couresty: Dawn Gaffney

Photograph by Dawn Gaffney

Hurricane Sandy from Boston

It is just past 3 pm when I began to write.  The morning was pretty calm.  Nothing we haven’t seen before and I wondered if Mayor Menino had made the right decision to close City Hall and the Boston Public Schools.  But the trains and subway shutdown at 2 and kids would have been dismissed early.

We live on the top two floors of a post-Civil War house on top of one of the hills in Boston and the house has weathered a lot of storms.  But we can now feel the house shaking.  About an hour or so ago things really picked up with rain and wind lashing the east and north facing windows.  And we are hundreds of miles from the eye of the storm!  I have been watching scenes from the Jersey shore where I spent many summers of the childhood and can only imagine the devastation on Long Beach Island.

The main impact is due between 5 and midnight.  Midnight is when Boston Harbor has high tide.  But already people are posting pictures of damage.

This is from Belmont, just outside of Boston and where Mitt Romney lives.

And this is from South Boston not sure of the exact location but I’m sure near the Boston Harbor Walk and Castle Island where I often walk.

Hurricane Sandy in South Boston, Mass. -- Photo courtesy: @Brooke_Marlowe

More updates as things progress.

South Boston Photograph from @Brooke_Marlow.  Belmont photograph from Liz.

Two etch-a-sketch poems

Calvin Trillin has written two Mitt poems featuring the etch-a-sketch.

Mitt Doesn’t Think That Nearly Half the People In This Country Are Moochers After All

He was, he says, completely wrong;
To care for everyone is vital.
He’s singing now a different song,
And “Etch A Sketch” is that song’s title.

Foreign Policy Debate   

Mitt seemed to agree with Obama a lot.
Divergence in policy got hard to spot.
He used all the moderate words he could muster.
So where was the Mittster’s past neocon bluster?
He knew that those still undecided would hate it.
The answer then is that the Etch A Sketch ate it.

Eric Fehrnstrom told us this was going to happen and it has.  I guess he is the one person in the Romney campaign who can tell the truth.

Race: the elephant in the room

If you look behind the numbers of most polls, President Obama is losing the white male, and to a lesser extent, the white female voter.  Why you may ask yourself are these folks voting against their own self-interest?  There is a fear of change.  Fear of loss of power.  And race is at the core.  If I had any doubts about this, they were ended with the reactions of John McCain and John Sununu about Colin Powell’s endorsement of President Obama yesterday.

John Sununu who is not known for his rationality said in an interview with Piers Morgan

“When you take a look at Colin Powell, you have to wonder whether that’s an endorsement based on issues or whether he’s got a slightly different reason for preferring President Obama,” Mr. Sununu said.

Mr. Morgan asked flatly, “What reason would that be?”

Mr. Sununu responded, “Well, I think when you have somebody of your own race that you’re proud of being president of the United States, I applaud Colin for standing with him.”

Do you think Sununu has endorsed Mitt Romney because Romney is white?  I don’t think so.

Sununu later released this statement

Colin Powell is a friend and I respect the endorsement decision he made, I do not doubt that it was based on anything but his support of the President’s policies. Piers Morgan’s question was whether Colin Powell should leave the party, and I don’t think he should.

John McCain was not as overt saying

Mr. Powell had “harmed” his legacy by endorsing Mr. Obama a second time. Appearing on Brian Kilmeade’s radio program, Mr.  McCain said “General Powell, you disappoint us and you have harmed your legacy even further by defending what is clearly the most feckless foreign policy in my lifetime.”

Remarks like these from leaders of the Republican party help to fuel the ugly streak we see in the election.  The billboards in minority communities telling people voter fraud is a crime, the t-shirts with the logo “put the white back in the White House”, and the persistent view that the President is not a citizen and certainly not Christian.  David Sirota wrote a piece titled “5 Signs Racism Still Rules Politics”  which is quite instructive.

1. Joe Biden Is almost never called a socialist or a Marxist. Despite a Senate voting record and presidential policymaking record that align him with moderate Republicans from a mere decade ago, Obama is regularly derided as a socialist, a communist or a Marxist. By contrast, Obama’s own white running mate, Joe Biden, has as liberal — or at times even more liberal — a voting record as Obama, but (save for the occasional Newt Gingrich  outburst) is almost never referred to in such inflammatory terms.

2. Romneycare is Obamacare, yet the latter is criticized. It’s a well-known, undisputed fact that Romneycare was a conservative health insurance model constructed by the right-wing  Heritage Foundation , and that it was Massachusetts’ state-level  model for the federal healthcare bill ultimately championed by President Obama. Nonetheless, under the first African-American president, the very same healthcare model the GOP championed is now being held up by the GOP as a redistributionist boondoggle

3. A white president would never be criticized for these statements about Trayvon Martin. No white president has ever been blamed for the varied and disparate transgressions committed by white folk.

What the President said was

“When I think about this boy, I think about my own kids, and I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this, and that everybody pulls together.”

4. America would neither ignore nor laugh off a young black male relative of Obama publicly fantasizing about violence against a presidential candidate. As I reported last week, Romney’s son, Tagg Romney, cheerily riffed on his fantasies about committing an act of violence against a sitting president of the United States.

5. If one of Obama’s teenage daughters was unmarried and pregnant, it wouldn’t be considered a “private” matter.When Sarah Palin was put on the Republican ticket in 2008, Bristol Palin’s pregnancy did not initiate a national discussion about the issue of teen pregnancy, unprotected sex or promiscuous fornication outside of wedlock.

Pictures show the difference between the crowds at rallies.  You rarely see any brown or black faces at Romney rallies.  His crowds tend to be older and whiter.

Mitt Romney arrives to campaign at Worthington Industries, a metal processing company, in Worthington, Ohio, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012.  | AP Photo

Let me end with some observations from Eugene Robinson.

This election is only tangentially a fight over policy. It is also a fight about meaning and identity — and that’s one reason voters are so polarized. It’s about who we are and who we aspire to be.President Obama enters the final days of the campaign with a substantial lead among women — about 11 points, according to the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll — and enormous leads among Latinos and African Americans, the nation’s two largest minority groups. Mitt Romney leads among white voters, with an incredible 2-to-1 advantage among white men.
It is too simplistic to conclude that demography equals destiny. Both men are being sincere when they vow to serve the interests of all Americans. But it would be disingenuous to pretend not to notice the obvious cleavage between those who have long held power in this society and those who are beginning to attain it.When Republicans vow to “take back our country,” they never say from whom. But we can guess.
Robinson concludes

Issues may explain our sharp political divisions, but they can’t be the cause of our demographic polarization. White men need medical care, too. African Americans and Latinos understand the need to get our fiscal house in order. The recession and the slow recovery have taken a toll across the board.

Some of Obama’s opponents have tried to delegitimize his presidency because he doesn’t embody the America they once knew. He embodies the America of now.

I can’t help but feel that if President Obama wins a second term we will have turned a corner –  whether the Republicans can accept it or not.  If the country is not to continue on this divided path the Republicans deal the elephant of race.


Charles Blow has an interesting chart in Saturday’s New York Times.

Both photographs by AP.

About horses and bayonets and the 3rd debate

I’ll leave it to others to do more serious analysis of the debate which I think most agree was won by President Obama.  He certainly produced the most memorable response.

“But I think Governor Romney maybe hasn’t spent enough time looking at how our military works. You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military’s changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.”

Here are some of my favorite debate twitters thanks to Andrew Sullivan and the Daily Kos.

See that look in Mitt Romney‘s eyes. That’s the feeling a guy with $300 million has when he’s found something he can’t buy.

@LOLGOP via web


Mitt’s entire debate strategy: What he just said, but from a white guy — @billmaher via web
Hundreds of world leaders blowing up Obama’s phone texting “lol romney” right now.
@pourmecoffee via TweetDeck
Mitt Romney is sweating so much that it looks like he ran a sub-3 hour marathon.
@fbihop via TweetDeck

I had neither Horses nor Bayonets on my bingo card.



You guys realize that unicorns are basically horses with bayonets growing out of their heads, right?


And finally from Andrew Sullivan the meme of the debate


Chris Kluwe and Gay Marriage

If you don’t follow football, aren’t from Minnesota, and didn’t read the New York Times article you probably don’t know who Chris Kluwe is and why his support of gay marriage is such a big deal.  Chris Kluwe is a punter for the Minnesota Viking professional football team.  Professional sports are one of the last bastions of closeted men and women (although maybe less so for women since Martina Navratilova came out all those many years ago).  But I don’t know of any man with an active career who has come out.  And given that about 10% of the population is thought to be gay, about 10% of male professional athletes are likely to be gay.  There is still a stigma.

Let Kluwe explain how he first voiced support for gay marriage.

In late August, the Maryland state delegate Emmett C. Burns Jr. wrote to the Baltimore Ravens’ owner, Steve Bisciotti, urging him to silence linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo. Ayanbadejo had been supporting the state’s Civil Marriage Protection Act, which will allow gay couples to obtain a civil marriage license beginning Jan. 1 if it passes a Nov. 6 referendum. Burns asked Bisciotti to “inhibit such expressions from your employee and that he be ordered to cease and desist such injurious actions.”

“I know of no other N.F.L. player who has done what Mr. Ayambadejo is doing,” Burns wrote, misspelling Ayanbadejo’s surname.

Nine days later, at 11:30 p.m. in the master bedroom of the modest Savage, Minn., home that Kluwe shares with his wife, Isabel, and daughters, Olivia, 4, and Remy, 2, Kluwe came across Burns’s dispatch while surfing the Web.

“So I’m lying in bed, and I keep thinking over and over about this letter, and I’m like, ‘I can’t fall asleep,’ ” he recalled. “I have to write something.”

So he pulled off the covers, turned on his MacBook Pro and spent less than an hour composing a response to Burns that was published on Deadspin.com and lifted Kluwe off the sports pages and into the national conversation about the rights of same-sex couples.

“This is more a personal quibble of mine, but why do you hate freedom?” he wrote. “Why do you hate the fact that other people want a chance to live their lives and be happy, even though they may believe in something different than you, or act different than you? How does gay marriage, in any way shape or form, affect your life?”

The letter is a profanity-laden rant, as well as a multilayered, point-by-point decimation of Burns’s argument, so insidiously thorough that Burns waved the white flag two days later in an interview with The Baltimore Sun in which he said, in effect, “Never mind.”

You should click the link and read the letter.

Kluwe is a man who described himself to the Times by saying “Football is what I do for a living, but it’s not even remotely who I am.”  As the Times article points out he is smart, articulate and extremely well read.

Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe practicing music with his band. (Photograph:  Stephen Maturen for The New York Times)

But his letter about the Maryland marriage equality referendum is not his only support for gay marriage.

What added to Kluwe’s angst that night in his bedroom was the proposed amendmentto the Minnesota Constitution known as Recognition of Marriage Solely Between One Man and One Woman, which is on the Nov. 6 ballot.

“There are only 4 percent of Minnesotans undecided on this question,” says Richard Carlbom, the campaign manager of the coalition Minnesotans United for All Families, an umbrella organization for more than 600 groups working to defeat the amendment. “Right now it’s a dead heat.”

Kluwe lent his brash voice against the amendment, appearing in radio advertisements and writing a letter on behalf of Minnesotans for Equality, a fund-raising arm of Minnesotans United for All Families. He recently began selling T-shirts printed with two of the more colorful terms from his letter to Burns. Proceeds will be split between Kluwe’s charity, Kick for a Cure, which benefits children with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and Minnesotans for Equality.

So what has been the reaction of the NFL and his teammates?

Handling such politically delicate matters is new territory for the N.F.L., which has recently been assaulted by concussion issues, player bounties and inept replacement referees. When asked to comment about the Ayanbadejo situation during a Politico forumin September, Commissioner Roger Goodell said: “Listen, I think in this day and age, people are going to speak up about what they think is important. They speak as individuals, and I think that’s an important part of our democracy.”

Paul Tagliabue, the previous N.F.L. commissioner, said he planned to donate $100,000 to support same-sex marriage in Maryland.

Despite the league’s macho culture, Kluwe said: “I had quite a few teammates come up to me and say: ‘We appreciate you speaking out in support of Brendon. We may not agree with you on that marriage issue, but at the same time everybody has got the right to speak.’ And then I’ve had a couple teammates come up and say, ‘We agree with you, we think you did the right thing, and that was a great letter you wrote.’ ”

Chris Kluwe is unique.  He not only wants to speak out but he has the ability to do so and for that supporters of marriage equality should be grateful to him –  and to Brendon Ayanbadejo.

NFL player Brendon Ayanbadejo at the 2007 Pro ...

Monty gets political

The comic strip, Monty, by Jim Meddick is not one of my favorites.  The main character is Monty a loser who has never really grown up.  He and his pal Moondog with assorted robots, a hairless cat and a parrot have various adventures mostly to do with trying to pick up women.  Anyway it runs in the Boston Globe so I generally glance at it to see what the new storyline is.  I guess it is a guy thing because my husband likes it. (And this post is for him.)

One of the recurring characters is Sedgwick Nuttingham IV who is the spoiled rich kid who lives somewhere near Monty.  Sedgwick is always accompanied by his butler, Jarvis.  Sedgewick is often cruel and always has to win.  You always knew he was the spoiled rich kid, but he and the strip were never political.  Until now.  Monty and his pals are clearly part of the 47%.

A series about Sedgewick and his love of Mitt Romney has been running for a few days.  Here is a sample.






Another sign we are in a tight race and the election is close.

About that Gallup poll

The most recent Gallup Daily Tracking polls have Mitt Romney up by 6 or points.  When I saw that I almost had a heart attack!  I mean how can that be when President Obama has a lead in all those individual state polls.  Then last night I read Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight blog post Gallup vs. the World and I calmed down.  I know that Romney supports are probably convinced that Nate manipulates everything so that Obama comes out ahead, but somehow I doubt that and you might want to actually read the post.  Silver begins

The Gallup national tracking poll now shows a very strong lead for Mitt Romney. As of Wednesday, he was ahead by six points among likely voters. Mr. Romney’s advantage grew further, to seven points, when Gallup updated its numbers on Thursday afternoon.

The Gallup poll is accounted for in the forecast model, along with all other state and national surveys.

However, its results are deeply inconsistent with the results that other polling firms are showing in the presidential race, and the Gallup poll has a history of performing very poorly when that is the case.

Other national polls show a race that is roughly tied on average, while state polls continue to indicate a narrow advantage of about two points for President Obama in tipping-point states like Ohio. The forecast has Mr. Obama as a narrow favorite in the election largely on the basis of the state polls. (You can read my thoughts here on the challenge of reconciling state and national poll data.)

Our database contains records from 136 distinct pollsters that have released at least one state or national survey at some point in this election cycle. Of those, 53 are active enough to have issued at least one survey since Oct. 1.

With so much data to sort through, it will usually be a counterproductive use of one’s time to get overly attached to the results of any one particular poll. Whether you look at the relatively simple averaging methods used by Web sites like Real Clear Politics, or the more involved techniques in the FiveThirtyEight forecast, the Gallup national tracking poll constitutes a relatively small part of the polling landscape.

After a lengthy explanation of how the data is used (I have to say it is long, but readable) Silver says

Over all, the Gallup daily tracking poll accounts for only about 3 percent of the weight [for the FiveThirtyEight calculation] in this stage of the calculation. The national tracking polls collectively, including Gallup, account for only about 10 percent of it. Most of the weight, instead, is given to the state polls.

Silver also recounts the history of the Gallup tracking polls (they have often missed the mark) and concludes

It’s not clear what causes such large swings, although Gallup’s likely voter model may have something to do with it.

Even its registered voter numbers can be volatile, however. In early September of this year, after the Democratic convention, Gallup had Mr. Obama’s lead among registered voters going from seven points to zero points over the course of a week — and then reverting to six points just as quickly. Most other polling firms showed a roughly steady race during this time period.

Because Gallup’s polls usually take large sample sizes, statistical variance alone probably cannot account these sorts of shifts. It seems to be an endemic issue with their methodology.

To be clear, I would not recommend that you literally just disregard the Gallup poll. You should consider it — but consider it in context.

The context is that its most recent results differ substantially from the dozens of other state and national polls about the campaign. It’s much more likely that Gallup is wrong and everyone else is right than the other way around.

Then this afternoon my other favorite wonk, Ezra Klein, also weighed in.

According to Real Clear Politics, Mitt Romney is, on average, up by one point in the polls. According to both Nate Silver and InTrade, President Obama has a better-than-60-percent chance of winning the election. I think it’s fair to say that the election is, for the moment, close.

But not according to Gallup. Their seven-day tracking poll shows Romney up by seven points — yes, seven — with likely voters. But he’s only up by one point with registered voters.

It gets weirder: Dig into the poll, and you’ll find that in the most recent internals they’ve put on their Web site  — which track from 10/9-10/15  — Obama is winning the West (+6), the East (+4), and the Midwest (+4). The only region he’s losing is the South. But he’s losing the South, among likely voters, by 22 points. That’s enough, in Gallup’s poll, for him to be behind in the national vote. But it’s hard to see how that puts him behind in the electoral college.

If Gallup is right, then that looks to me like we’re headed for an electoral college/popular vote split. Last night, I spoke with Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of Gallup, to ask him if I was missing something. He said I wasn’t. “That’s certainly what it looks like,” he says.

But Newport was cautious in interpreting his numbers. Gallup’s poll cheered Romney supporters because it showed Romney gaining ground even after the second debate. But Newport didn’t see it like that. Remember, he warned, it’s a seven-day poll. “I think we’re still seeing leftover positive support for Romney and I don’t think we’re seeing impact yet from the second debate,” he says.

It turns out the Gallup’s likely voter model includes a measure of enthusiasm which might explain why the large swings and the differences from the other polls.  Nate Silver is right:  it is the likely voter model.  He is probably also right when he said on the Daily Show that we tend to follow polls much too obsessively.  But I can’t help myself.

And if you support Obama you can take comfort in the figures posted late last night on FiveThirtyEight:  Obama 291.6 electoral votes with a 70.6 chance of winning.

Cartoons, Women and Mitt

I’m not sure why any women would vote for Mitt Romney.  His positions are flipping all over the place.  It is not clear he is for equal pay and his position on the right to choose is also changing daily.  Despite the liberal/progressive mocking of  “binders full of women”, I don’t think a lot of women get it.  The bottom line:  if Mitt Romney is elected you can kiss Roe v. Wade good-bye.  Don’t forget that Mitt has said that he believes that life begins a conception.  Will the Republicans in Congress let him support abortion in the cases of rape, incest, and to save the life the women?  I doubt it.  I hope most women continue to get it and that women who are wavering waver back toward President Obama.  I don’t understand it and I’m getting anxious since women are a big key to the election.

So to cheer us up, here is some election humor.

Nick Anderson on the Multiple Mitts.

Nick Anderson's Editorial Cartoons 10/18

Mike Luckovich Binders.

And Matt Wueker

Matt Wuerker

You have to keep laughing.