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Thursday September 27 2012

If I were a betting man, which I am not (or only in the form of blog postings like this one), I would bet that Obama is not just going to lose his forthcoming election, but lose it big.  I am not that confident about what follows, which is why it goes here rather than here).  It may be wishful thinking, but it is what I have been thinking, and I wanted to get it written down, so that later I can’t strengthen it in my mind if I am right, or blur it if I am wrong.

This guy also thinks this, as do others I have read saying it but have now forgotten the names of.

Of my immediate circle, Michael J has already commented, here, to the effect that he now sees no evidence of a landslide, and that Romney will probably win, but small.  What do others of the sort inclined ever to comment at this tiny little ticking-over personal blog think about this?

My reasons are, in no particular order (this is only a tiny little ticking-over personal blog):

The polls are bent towards Obama, by Democrat intimidation.  The Dems calculate that if they can persuade Repubs that Romney will lose, some Repubs will say what’s the use? - and stay home.  Voters love a winner and are less likely to vote for a loser, or so I keep being told.  No doubt this will diminish the Repub vote a bit, but not enough to make the polls an entirely self-fulfilling prophesy.  They are still several percentage points out.

The polls are also out by personal inclination.  Most of the people who work for these operations are Dems, because Dems are obsessed with politics, Repubs less so.  Repub kids get proper jobs like lawn mowing or pool cleaning, or if grown-up, they get actual proper jobs doing regular round-the year stuff for serious money, and if not that is what they are trying to do.  These Dem pollsters hear, even if they genuinely try not to, what they want to hear, not least because people tell them what people think they want to hear.

Polls have, in general, been getting ever more inaccurate, as people learn that they can say whatever they hell they like to pollsters, most definitely including nothing.  Even the ones sincerely determined to resist pro-Dem bias are still biased thus, somewhat.

In particular, this time around, people still don’t know how to answer the accusation that being anti-Obama is racist.  Which is why the Dems keep on using this accusation.  People know it isn’t so, but are unpractised at making the necessary subtle distinctions.  So, to avoid some presumably pro-Obama person even thinking they are racist, they either lie, or fluff, rather than speak their minds.

All of these polling distortion effects are quite slight, but each is enough to ruin a process where one or two per cent can make all the difference.  But, crucially, almost all these effects now point in the same direction.  That’s a big effect.  I think the polls will be more wrong this time around than ever before.

The economy is not good, and Obama has no story about how to improve it.

In particular, the economy is horrible for young educated people, the ones who voted for Obama in their millions last time around.  These people are pissed off, big time.  Quite a lot will blame Obama, and will stay at home.  Some, under the influence of cool libbo Ron Paul memes, may even switch to Romney.  Many are ashamed of how they voted for Obama with such enthusiasm last time, and are not telling the pollsters about this.  (See above: the polls are very wrong.)

Obama is pissing all over the Jews.  This never works.

The bias of the mainstream media is becoming more obvious now, to a lot of American people.  Last time, media bias went with the grain of American opinion, and the media have thus had eight uninterrupted years to degenerate into blatant propaganda operations, and the internet has had eight years to tell everyone that this is so.  More than ever before, media bias is now believed in .  Again, a matter of degree.  But like I say, these degrees all add up.  In particular, more now distrust those predictions of Obama victory, and will accordingly refuse to be influenced by them into not bothering to vote.

Romney is not nearly as big a jerk as a lot of disappointed Libbos and Conservatives seem to think, or as Dems hope.  He keeps on winning.  I think he will do much better in the debates than most others seem to, because he has a story to tell, to and about an opponent who does not.  Romney is indeed not a genius debater, but he knows it, and knowing also that he is winning, he will prepare hard and go in with exactly the right amount of and kind of confidence, like a winning sportsman.  He will surprise many by how well he does.

Meanwhile Obama, surrounded by yes men, and fatally arrogant, and tired, a fed-up and probably knowing he is going to lose, and having nothing to say, will not prepare well enough for the debates.  He faces a near-impossible task, and will not be up to it.

The Dinesh D’Souza movie is hurting Obama, as will stuff like this (Arab money and support to pay for Obama’s career).  Americans are now ready to be told what sort of man Obama really is, this time around.  First time around, they just voted for the cool black guy, on the grounds that it was damn well time America had itself a cool black guy as President.  This time, policies and opinions will count, along with the (very bad) record of the last four years.  Obama’s policies and opinions are hurting and will continue to hurt him.

Romney is a cunning bastard politician.  His campaign will not only consist of the damaging things about Obama that he himself says.  He probably will stay fairly positive.  But the negative stuff will get out there, like that Arab money thing.

Romney now has a ton more money than Obama has.  Obama has spent most of his trying, and failing, to stay in the race.  Romney is about to spend similar quantities drawing ahead.

At some point between now and the election, some who now want Obama to win and are still propagandising for him will realise that he will not win, and will say why, if only to keep their own credibility in place, a bit.  They will want, as the saying goes, to keep (some of) their powder dry, in order to (e.g.) trash President Romney and all his works.  Obama will respond to these betrayals not with a spirited public rebuttal, but with a resigned shrug, which also will not look good.  (A public meltdown is probably too much to hope for, but I hope for it nevertheless.) How pronounced this effect will be is very debatable.  Maybe very obvious, maybe almost undetectable, but it will, to some degree happen. Already, to a tiny degree, it is happening.

Well, that’s enough to be going on with.  I just wanted to place my little bet, so that if it turns out right I can say: I told you so.  But much of the above is guesswork, so, Americans (especially Americans but also all others), please feel free to tell me I am wrong.

And then, we’ll see.

None of the above says that I think that this is the most important political battle in the world right now.  Its only major importance would be if Obama were to win.  But when (I think) Romney wins, the big questions will remain.  How bad are things going to get?  How unbadly can President Romney be persuaded to handle them?

For me, the big hero of all this is absolutely not Romney, or even Paul Ryan.  It is the collective hero that is the Tea Party.

I don’t see it.
I don’t know if there are enough of us yet, but I know more and more people are just not going to vote.  McCain was the first obviously unacceptable candidate- the first lesser evil who was just too evil to vote for regardless of the evilness of Obama.  Romney is unacceptable too, and he shut down the Ron Paul people at the convention.  The GOP changed rules and strong armed people- there is another group of people who are simply not going to vote Republican, and probably not at all. 
I have a great personal dislike for the man, which I do not have for Obama.  I just think Obama is an idiot socialist; but I think the Republicans have been lying to me for a very long time.  The pretend to believe the stuff I believe, but even Paul Ryan voted for the bailouts.
The GOP deserves to go out of existence.
If Romney were remotely competent he’d be ahead in the polls since 9/11/2012, but he’s got some sort of personality disorder and he appears to have screwed up the political edge the Libyans handed him. Maybe he ekes out a win- no one is particularly enthused with Obama, but it seems to me traditional racial/class warfare tactics the democrats tend to employ will get more dumb people to the polls than Romney can pull- though the old folks still tend to vote religiously.

Posted by August on 27 September 2012

The polls are likely to be false because of the following mechanism: one of the questions asked is “do you consider yourself a Republican or a Democrat” [and variations of this]. Also questions about gender, occupation, race and religion. Then, the pollster takes the demographic data of how the various genders, ethnic groups and income levels voted *IN 2008* and guesses how different turnout will be this time.

Frankly, that’s not easy to do. But when you have a landslide election in 2008, estimating how different it will be is likely to be wrong.

The best way to poll would be 100 random people from each of the 435 congressional districts of the USA plus another 100 from Washington DC. Apart from checking that they are local I would ask three questions:
1) “Who do you think will win in your state?”
2) “Who do you think will win nationally?”
3) “Who would you like to win?”

I don’t believe anyone has ever tried this. Because the sample would be a) large and b) asks a non-partisan question, it wiouldn’t need demographic weighting (Wisdom of Crowds would come into play).

The election is based on an electoral college with 56 districts (50 states, DC, and the separate congressional votes in Maine and Nebraska). The local question would help forecast the actual result. The national one would help gauge the popular vote overall. And the “who do you want to win” especially compared with how people predict the outcome would make a good measure for turnout and enthusiasm.

Posted by Antoine Clarke on 28 September 2012

While sympathetic to the “Let it bleed” argument that says it would be better for Obama to win so his socialistic policies would “own” the coming crisis, I’d still like Romney to win. Not so much because of anything to do with him, but because I am so sick of the smug dishonesty of the mainstream media.

In favour of the idea that Romney will win: what you said. Basically a repeat of the “shy Tory” effect from the UK 1992 election (which some US commenters are aware of and discussing). Possibly, also, the MSM attempts to depress Republican voters might instead fill them with vengeful vigour. It would be fun if the R’s won precisely because of this!

Sites like have plausible sounding reasons to suppose that the pollsters are using a turnout model too close to the historically unusual 2008 election.

However, against that -

Both that “47%” video as a gaffe and the on-the-ground fact that what he said there is, unfortunately, largely true. There is a vast class of dependants who will vote for “free” goodies to continue. It works. Gordon Brown did surprisingly well in our last election in part because he had created and expanded his client class.

I know you posted some good reasons to suppose that not all the dependants want to stay that way, but I can’t help thinking that these admirable people may be a small minority.

My bet: Romney by a squeak. But I would not bet much.

Posted by Natalie Solent on 28 September 2012

Just to back up your comment on voters in ‘08 thinking it was about time for a black president, the Guardian writer, Gary Younge, who is quite observant despite his daft politics, said something along the lines of “You can only vote for the first African American president once.”

Posted by Natalie Solent on 28 September 2012

Meant to say in my last comment “Just to back up your comment on voters in ‘08 thinking it was about time for a black president but this effect being a one-off

Antoine, can you think of anyone whose interests would be well enough served by your “wisdom of crowds” poll to pay for it?

Are the Romney campaign sure enough in their claim that the turnout estimates are wrong to want to pay for a poll such as you describe?

Posted by Natalie Solent on 28 September 2012

When I saw all the emails for these comments, I just assumed it was all spam.  But it was all genuine!

Natalie: strongly agree about the reason for Romney winning being to kick the mainstream media in the gonads, rather than expecting anything of Romney.

Also: I actually said, on the afternoon of the 1992 election, when I breezed into the ASI to announce my finding, that Major would win with an absolute majority of 50 seats.  The consensus then being: hung Parliament or Labour win.  Final count: nearer 30, but not bad.  My thinking was as you describe.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait on 28 September 2012

The moment one stops looking for an African American with a PhD living in Idaho or a Baptist gun-owning single mother of five in San Francisco, opinion polling should be a lot cheaper. Perhaps if the polls get it badly wrong this sort of approach might get tried out.

One of the curious problems pollsters have is the system for charging people for mobile phones: you pay to receive calls (only happens in the EU if you’re “roaming"). As a result, pollsters aren’t allowed to call cell phones therefore making it harder to get a demographic spread: younger voters are less likely to have a land line.

So they “adjust” the results, or as Michael Crichton put in in State of Fear “make a guess.”

Posted by Antoine Clarke on 28 September 2012

I think Perry is right ("let it bleed” as Natalie says). But I struggle to actually *want* Obama to win. I honestly have no idea. Isn’t there some sort of betting market that would make better predictions than polls?

Posted by Rob Fisher on 02 October 2012

Rob: the Iowa Electronic Market is often cited. It’s essentially a futures market in which you can buy or sell election outcomes. It is small sums only market principally for research purposes, but its record is reasonably good. It’s presently showing Obama slightly ahead.

You can just go to a betting exchange such as Betfair. This is presently showing Obama miles ahead. However, it is a British market, on which which it is illegal for people resident in the US to bet on, so this might be showing foreigners’ biases more than prospective outcomes. (I wonder if it is possible to arbitrage between the two markets. I must try it. Even if you can’t - a return of better than £5 for a £1 bet on Romney is surely a good bet).

On the post, though, I see two factors slightly helping Romney compared to the last election. The first is the “This is my historic opportunity to right historic wrongs by electing the first black president” factor that existed last time and does not exist this time. Quite a few people with politics nowhere near as left as Obama and who should have known better decided to believe that Obama was in fact something more moderate than the Chicago machine politician with far left roots that he is. That was a factor that would only help Obama once, and many of these people have thought better about this since and will not vote for him again. 

The second is possibly my imagination, but the main US media seems so obviously and preposterously biased this time to the point that it is laughable, and to an extent I have not seen before. It could be that I have changed rather than the media, though, so I am not sure how much credence I should give this. However, it feels that at least some people are going to respond to the media bias with “Don’t insult me.” rather than believing it. But as I said, I may be deluded on this one.

In Obama’s favour though, you have the advantages of incumbency, which are considerable. There is no better way to look presidential than to be president, as the trappings of office are designed to make the holder look presidential. Any challenger has to fight this, which is why most American presidents do in fact get elected to a second terms.

The media is presently reporting that Romney is running a terrible campaign. Most of the media would report this whether or not he actually was running a terrible campaign, but I am seeing it in places like Fox News and various Republican sympathetic blogs too, which makes me thing he might actually be running a terrible campaign. And let’s face it, he is an unpleasant man and a fairly bad candidate.

So on those general feelings, I see Romney with a chance but with various factors against him. And one really must go state by state, look at the local and vested interests, and do the electoral math (as the Americans say). Do that, and I can’t find a Romney landslide. In fact, a Romney landslide is preposterous. He might win, although I am less confident of this than I was when I last spoke to you about this (as you quoted at the top of the post). I am thinking Obama by a small to smallish margin at the moment.

Posted by Michael Jennings on 03 October 2012

On the other hand, you called the debate right.

Posted by Michael Jennings on 04 October 2012

Is it online somewhere? I have a couple of long train rides today.

Posted by Rob Fisher on 04 October 2012

It’s still listening to politicians talk, and I can’t generally bear that any more.

Posted by Michael Jennings on 04 October 2012

I could get something like 5.05 for Romney on Betfair last night, and it’s now down to 3.85, so certainly that debate had an impact. I could have made good money just by betting on Romney last night and against him this morning.

Posted by Michael Jennings on 04 October 2012

Sometimes I think that Obama doesn’t actually want to win.
It is very possible to get Romney angry, flustered, and have him say things he doesn’t really want to say. 
From what little I’ve heard, (because I can’t watch them lying anymore) it sounds like Obama didn’t even try.

It wouldn’t seem to much of a stretch to me to think Wall Street is running the whole show now.  Obama got in because he’s a complaint tool, but now he’s up against one of the finance world’s own.  They’ll lock down the private profit, public risk/losses model and keep making us pay for their mistakes until there isn’t anything left.

Posted by August on 04 October 2012

Michael - shame about those odds. The only reason I didn’t bet yesterday after reading your comment is that I’ve been having trouble logging in to my account.

Posted by Rob Fisher on 04 October 2012

You can only get 3.05 on Romney now. Buying at 3.85 after the debate would have been a good buy, too. (And obviously, so will 3.05 if he actually wins). I think the debate was the moment when the mainstream on this side of the point discovered that Romney might actually be a chance of winning the election). The Iowa market has hardly moved, though, so it might still be that it is perception outside the US that has moved more than the actual election. I am still personally saying it will be close by which I mean an electoral college margin probably of less than 50 votes and certainly less than 100 - for reference Obama had a 208 vote margin in 2008, and George Bush a margin of 35 in 2004.

And lord. Did we really get this close to President John Kerry. It’s frightening.

Posted by Michael Jennings on 11 October 2012
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