Friday, November 7, 2014

Thoughts on the 2014 Election Results

The dust has settled sufficiently and I have a few moments to jot down some thoughts on the aftermath of the drubbing that the Democrats suffered in the mid-term elections.

First of all, a self-critique in that my predictions, written in haste due to time and computer constraints.  I too was off by a matter of some degrees, though like the others mine didn't suffer as much as the national posse of pundits in the 2012 vote with the shocking re-election of Obama.  It will take some time to determine whether this year's overall victory was primarily the result of good Republican get-out-the-vote effort or whether it was a conservative uprising which drew along the votes of the independents who hoped for change.

As for pollsters, the Real Clear Politics combination of the most popular polls only accentuated the error of the predictions of close-run races and the Democrats holding on to prevail.  This modern fad of meta-analysis – taking a number of studies or polls and combining them to arrive at a greater number of data points (n), which then supposedly arrives at a more accurate guess – is again born out to be a more massive version of "garbage in, garbage out".  This collection of polls is heavily influenced by the appeal of "sexing up" the conclusions (in what seems to be a new British term of art as it relates to political science) or cheerleading for the guy who brought you to the dance.  (Academics suffer this same discrepancy in areas where there are abundant numbers of studies in whatever happens to be stylish or PC at the moment.  The Global Warmists are an incandescent example of this fallacy.)

In case anyone cares to notice (and I haven't seen much evidence of it at the moment) Nate Silver, the wunderkind of the 538 poll that nailed the 2012 presidential result for Obama, was one of those out in the wilderness this year.  Rasmussen, on the other hand, did much to restore its tarnished reputation, and thus over the long haul remains the victor in a group that has no real champions.

Polling continues to degrade as a predictive tool.  It still primarily relies on telephone calls to accumulate its data, and those from home telephones.  This is becoming increasingly inaccurate as a random data base due to the fact that the people at home who actually answer the phone (how many of us still have a home phone number that is used exclusively as a means to obtain internet access?) are not a representative sample of the voting public, such as stay-at-home moms and the unemployed or self-employed.  It also relies on people who are politically aware and involved to the extent that they would want to spend the time answering the droning questions of the pollsters.

Some have delved into the area of social media, tracking the number of times that a subject (like a candidate or party) is mentioned, but the ability to discern the positives from the negatives doesn't exist, nor does it take into account the seemingly endless supply of trolls who apparently live to track these subjects online and make never-ending snipes.  These people truly lack the ability to understand the command "Get a life."  We have also seen how some have taken advantage of the technology to create large waves of supporters out of thin air.

Another admonition of poll taking weighs against the man in the street interview (i.e., people who are motivated to talk to you as opposed to the far greater number who refuse), but again, few commentators seem to notice that exit polls are exactly that.  Exit polls are further attenuated by not taking into account the number of absentee voters or mail-in ballots.

Finally, no poll can take into account the actual turn-out.  People may say early on that they will definitely vote, or will declare that they aren't particularly interested, or fall into the 'pox on both your houses' category, but nothing can take into account who actually shows up at the polls or mails in their ballot.

So this election showed up these discrepancies in spades.

Supposedly safe elections for the Democrats turned into squeakers, like the down the wire loss of Scott Brown in New Hampshire and the shocking near-upset of John Warner in Virginia by Ed Gillespie, who just minutes ago conceded the election, less than 17,000 votes shy of victory among over 2.1 million cast.  Both Governor Brownback and Senator Roberts in Kansas were due for a drubbing but both Republicans won handily.  Democrat Governor Hickenlooper of Colorado was buoyed enough by the time-honored tradition of last-minute votes flooding in from urban bastions of Denver and Boulder to overcome his challenger (NB: Hickenlooper relied exclusively on positive campaigning), but Senator Mark Udall was soundly defeated by Republican Cody Gardner.

David Perdue blasted past Michelle Nunn in Georgia in what was supposed to be a tight race, to retain the seat for the Republicans, and to such an extent that it eliminated the need for a state law-imposed run-off. 

The only US Senate seats left to decide is Louisiana, where another required run-off pits beleaguered Democrat dynast Mary Landrieu against the combined conservative vote for her Republican challenger Bill Cassidy on 6 December, and the electoral black hole of Alaska where incumbent Democrat Mark Begich is trailing Dan Sullivan by some 3.6 points.  Votes trickling in by snowmobile and dogsled aren't expected to be finally tallied until 11 November.  As for Louisiana, news has trickled out that the DSCC is pulling funding for Landrieu's run-off campaign.  It appears likely that the Republicans will ultimately gain nine Senate seats when it's all over.

Republicans were elected governor in such deep indigo states as Illinois, Massachusetts and Maryland with vote totals beyond the margin of error and, more importantly, beyond the margin of fraud.  Scott Walker was elected or re-elected governor of Wisconsin for the third time in four years, draining huge resources from government bureaucrat unions such as SEIU in their literally desperate attempts to unseat him.

As for the House of Representatives, time and space constrain me from listing detailed results, but the Republicans at the moment have picked up twelve seats for a current total of 245 versus 181 for the Democrats, with 9 races still undecided.

More importantly for the future, though, is looking at the more local campaigns for the states.  Republicans now have 31 governorships against the Democrats' 19, and of the 98 state legislative bodies, Republicans now control 69 of them, or 70%.  (Nebraska doesn't count in the tally since it has a unique unicameral legislature that is officially non-partisan, but conservatives dominate in that body.)  For those states where one party controls both the governorship and both state legislative bodies, Republicans have 24 against the Democrats with six.

The press is not acting favorably to Obama's press conference, where he refused to pony up to the fact that the Democrats have taken another "shellacking", as he phrased the previous mid-terms in 2010.  The best he could do was to admit that "the Republicans had a good night", but his voice rose perceptibly in speaking of how he heard the "two-thirds of voters who chose not to participate in the process yesterday."  How the Great One can divinely discern their thoughts is left unexplained, but let me offer this observation: to refuse to decide is to decide.  Voter participation in America has typically been well below the totals in other Western countries in Europe (or Australia, where people are compelled to vote by law, odd in a democracy).  Even in presidential election years, voter turn-out usually is no better than 60%.  But those who refuse to vote either are satisfied with the expected outcome (and despite how much the polls were off, the Republicans were expected to win anyway, just not to this degree) or simply don't want to vote.  I'd say leave them alone – attempts to compel them to vote against their will are pernicious. 


  1. I was very pleased to see the pollsters go down in flames along with the Progs. But, you know, if they keep relying on land-line calls (and how can they not?) they're going to be sampling more and more old folks, who tend to vote Republican, anyhow. Not all but most. Could be interesting

    1. The old joke is that retired folks have nothing better to do than to drive around looking for polling places, just in case there might be an election that day. And true, just like Winston Churchill said, older people trend right.

      The pollsters compensate by "weighting" Democrats heavier in their responses, which simply adds more speculation. Too clever by half, I say.


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