Monthly Archives: October 2012

The (possible) effect of Hurricane Sandy on the 2012 election

Anyone curious about the effect that Sandy might have on the upcoming election should give a thorough read to this NPR write-up:

Some highlights:

  • Depressed turnout in New England could lower popular vote totals for Democrats, increasing the possibility that Obama could win the Electoral College but lose the popular vote.
  • The extent to which turnout might (or might not) be affected is unclear.
  • On one hand, voters tend to punish incumbents for natural disasters beyond their control. On the other hand, they tend to reward incumbents who are seen as effectively responding to them.
  • Bad weather on Election Day historically depresses turnout, and in a way that gives a slight advantage to Republican candidates.

P.S. Props to NPR for extensively citing and discussing political science research in their report.

Also, this ABC story discusses why it’s possible, but not very probable, that Election Day could be postponed due to the storm:

Eggheads donate to Obama and businesspersons donate to Romney

Via The Monkeycage blog via Open Secrets:


Just to emphasize the note at the bottom of the graphic: this is showing where each candidate’s top donors work, not which companies are donating the most to the candidates.

The general trend seems to be that smart people are donating to President Obama while rich people are donating to Governor Romney.

This is, of course, an over-generalization, as being smart and rich are not mutually exclusive (indeed, they are highly correlated). However, the figure displayed above is interesting nonetheless.

My reactions to the second Romney-Obama presidential debate

Here are a smattering of my quick reactions, in no particular order:

  • Obama clearly did better than he did in the first debate (although the bar was not very high…). He had his talking points down and delivered more or less solid answers to the various questions. He fixed what was broken from the first debate. At one point I actually thought he was showing some backbone (during the Libya exchange)! And he did a better job of making the case for the accomplishments from the first term.
  • That being said, Romney didn’t have a bad night. He was generally strong, I thought. The only misstep was the Libya question… that got fact-checked in front of millions of Americans by the moderator. But on the whole I thought it was also a strong performance on his part.
  • The tax exchanges drive me crazy. Obama’s right that Romney’s numbers don’t add up,  but Romney is right if you take the assumptions of classical liberal economic theory. In theory, tax cuts stimulate the economy and thus it’s possible that a 20% tax cut across for the wealthy will result in them paying the same quantity of taxes, even if they’re paying at a lower rate. But that’s a very, very, very, VERY strong assumption that very likely may not actually happen. Both candidates understand that, but neither of them make it clear.
  • As a person who is very personally interested and invested in the immigration issue, I was glad to see the question brought up. I agree with Romney that Obama has been weak on the immigration issue. For immigrant rights advocates, Obama has been a major disappointment. (He’s even deported more immigrants in 3.5 years than Bush did in eight!) However, the criticism for Obama is that he has not done enough on the issue. Romney’s preferred policies would make the outlook much, much bleaker for undocumented immigrants in the U.S. 
  • During an interview last week I said that I thought that Romney wouldn’t bring up the religion issue unless asked specifically by a moderator. Shows what I know! He voluntarily brought it up himself. 
  • If either candidate says that they’ll “bring Democrats and Republicans” together or that they’ll be able to “bridge the partisan divide” or “cross the aisle” – do not believe them. Political science research shows fairly convincingly that polarization is caused by the public ideological and partisan self-sorting over the last fifty years. Until the public realigns, they’ll continue to elect polarized representatives to Congress who don’t feel like working together.
  • I’ll be very curious to see what the polling looks like 4-5 days from now. My educated guess is that perhaps Obama will get a 1-2% increase over the next few days because the Democratic leaners might jump back on board. But I could be totally wrong. We shall see.
  • My final verdict: Obama pulls out a small win. Very good show by both candidates, but Romney’s Libya answer and Obama having his head in the game this time give a slight Obama win. 

Fun infographic on social media

For those who enjoy social media, politics, and infographics:

Social Media Election


Ezra Klein is my favorite journalist

I would say that the last week has been an object lesson in why it’s worth paying attention to the evidence gathered by political scientists and tuning out some of the more excitable pundits. Pundits have every incentive to make sweeping pronouncements based off incomplete data. The work political scientists have done gives us some body of past evidence against which we can check those sweeping pronouncements. It’s too early to say how much this debate mattered, but the wild reaction it’s generated among political pundits has convinced me, more than ever, that political science matters. 

Full article here:

WEKU interview and post-debate analysis links

My summary Huffington Post article on the vice presidential debate at Centre College:

The podcast of my Thursday WEKU interview with NPR’s Don Gonyea, BBC’s Bill Simon, and McClatchy’s Lesley Clark is available here:

Downloadable MP3 file:




My reactions to the 2012 vice presidential debate: a quick summary

NOTE: An updated and revised version of this post is now available at Huffington Post:

Here is a summary of my thoughts, comments, and reactions to the 2012 vice presidential debate, held here at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky on October 11, 2012, presented in no particular order:

“Who won the debate?”

I think both candidates did a pretty good job of doing what they needed to do in this debate. Joe Biden of course had to come out swinging and be on the attack. Democrats were widely disappointed in President Obama’s performance last week and Biden needed to do everything that Obama did NOT do last week. This included being aggressive, direct, confrontational, and challenging. He needed to give demoralized Democrats a reason to stay energized. I think he accomplished this goal. Of course, it’s a fine line between being assertive and coming off as a bully. I don’t know that he definitively crossed the line, but he certainly straddled it the entire evening.

For Paul Ryan, he essentially need to show that he was confident and able to hold his own on the national stage. He needed to show that he could talk about policies other than Medicare. In all of these things, I think he did about as well as could be expected. He started off a little shaky in the first ten minutes or so, but then found his footing and did very well the rest of the evening.

Thus, I score this debate more or less a toss-up. Democrats will likely say that Biden won and Republicans will say that Ryan won. They both got done what they needed to get done.

“What effect will this have on the election?”

Historically, vice presidential debates have had a smaller effect on the ultimate outcome than the presidential debates. That being said, I don’t think this debate will be completely irrelevant. I think that the positive momentum for Romney-Ryan will be slowed somewhat and that Democrats will be a bit more energized. (I also think that most Democrats in America tonight are wishing that Joe Biden would be the one to handle the last two debates against Mitt Romney!) I think that the campaign narrative will even out a little bit more going the next debate next Tuesday evening. And the campaign narrative is what has been shown to affect public opinion moreso than actual candidate performances.

“Is there anything else you’d like to share?”

Yes! I’m glad you asked. First, I think this debate was a bit too “wonky.” Not that it’s necessarily a bad thing to focus so much on numbers and statistics and all that. BUT 95% of the people watching this debate (many of which are very politically sophisticated individuals) simply don’t have the specialized knowledge base necessary to critically evaluate the accuracy or merit of many of the arguments and evidences presented by the two candidates. In this, I think that both candidates could have done a better job of making their case in a way that was more accessible to American voters. That being said, there is some upside to showing voters that you know what you’re talking about and that you have a wealth of information to draw upon.

Second, I think the big winner in this debate was the moderator Martha Raddatz. She was firm and did a great job of pushing the candidates and holding their feet to the fire. And she asked my question.