So What Did Silver Opponent Jay Cost Have to Say?

More griping about poor analysis.

Interestingly, Jay Cost (the Weekly Standard’s supposed numbers guy) is a lot less gracious than was Dean “UnSkewed” Chambers.  Instead of just flat out admitting he was wrong about things that were demonstrably untrue (such as his fantasies about Pennsylvania), his first post-election post is called “Barack Obama and the Triumph of Identity Politics” which appears to focus on the fact that he thinks the Obama campaign was mean by trying to draw contrasts with Romney (which I seem to recall reading somewhere is what happens in campaigns) and the fact that identity politics were more important than anything else (which comes across, as is often the case in these types of discussions, as an argument that  minorities don’t really vote based on rationality, but instead on skin color and such).  I note, again, my post from yesterday on demographics (this year’s post-election buzzword)  because it is a major mistake to chalk up the Democratic advantage amongst women, African-Americans, Latinos, and Asians as simplistic identity politics.  The reason for those numbers has to do with policy differences.

For example, Cost writes:

The idea was to maximize turnout for the president’s core groups by focusing on identity politics, encouraging them to come out and vote against a fictitious GOP bogeyman who would suppress their rights to vote, deport their friends and neighbors, deny them Medicare, ship their jobs overseas, raid their pensions, and eliminate their access to contraception. And it worked.

But here’s the deal: that list is not about identity, that list is about policy.    There were policies put into place by Republican-controlled states that could have suppressed votes, the immigration policies passed in Arizona, Alabama, and elsewhere (by Republican-controlled governments) did, in fact, threaten to deport friends and neighbors, the Ryan plan did contain provisions that would have altered Medicare as we know it, and there were policies supported by Romney and other Republicans that would have denied some persons in certain circumstances access, at least via insurance, to contraception.

One can debate these policies as well discussion whether they were properly portrayed during the campaign, but to pretend like these issues were made up, or that opposition to them was based on identity politics rather than, well, opposition to the policies makes no sense (or is simply denial).

In regards to some other items in the list, I will note that there were claims about jobs going overseas, and I think that both sides played on these fears.  The pro-Obama commercial with Romney singing “America the Beautiful” (or whichever patriotic song it was) as well as the pro-Romney ads in Ohio about Jeep shipping jobs to China come to mind.  The Obama ad was somewhat atmospheric, but clearly played unfairly (I would argue) on some of Romney’s actions, and the Jeep ad was actually false.

I don’t recall much about pension raiding, so I will leave that one alone.

BTW, I thought this took, well, some balls (I think that is technical political science term):

Team Obama worked assiduously on turning Mitt Romney into the “other.” The message to these voters was essentially: you don’t like me, but this guy is worse. They got the point, and a shockingly large number stayed home. My back of the envelope estimate, assuming 2008 turnout levels and steady population growth, suggests that almost 10 million white voters did not show up this time around.

This is remarkable only because there has been no president or candidate more cast in the role of the “other” than our first Muslim, Kenyan-born, communistic socialist, terrorist of a president, yes?

Romney was certainly painted as a mega-millionaire who was out of touch with common folks.  Now, this may or may not have been a fair characterization, but it hardly a reach and in the realm of “other” creation hardly moves the needle.  This was no different than the treatment that John Kerry received (and, in honesty, I thought it was fair line of attack in both cases).  The real “other” issue with Romney (at least vis-a-vis Evangelicals) was his Mormonism, but that seemed to be a non-issue as far as I could tell. It certainly wasn’t part of the Obama campaign strategy, or even any of it surrogates.

I also find this following almost LOL funny (at least the first part):

one might be able to win reelection by ruthlessly splitting the country in half, hoping to collect a fraction of the vote more than your opponent, but one cannot govern after having made such a mess. Much like Truman, Obama enters a second term with no mandate to speak of, and with roughly half of the country intractably opposed to his policies.

For a supposed political analyst, Cost appears not to have been paying attention, but the way one typically wins two-persons elections, especially in a country with clear partisan divides that are close to 50/50 is to “hop[e] to collect a fraction of the more than your opponent”—what does he think Romney was trying to do?  Further, has he not been paying attention to US elections since, oh I don’t know, 2000?  They have more often been tight than not.

Now, does Obama lack a mandate?  This is actually a tricky question that probably deserves its own post.  At a minimum, it is true that he still has to deal with a divided Congress and an empowered minority in the Senate.  As such, mandates one way or the other may not mean much anyway.

I recognize that this post is a bit of a mess, but I think that this, in part is because Cost’s argument is a bit of a mess.

To bring this to a point:  I am sincerely curious about how those who got the election profoundly wrong are reacting and I am especially curious about those were wrong and who claim to be true students of politics.  Cost made himself out to be such, and both made some bold claims and laid down some pointed critiques of the stats geeks (Nate Silver in particular).  Those predictions were wrong (because the underlying analysis Cost based them on were wrong) and the critiques ended up being unfounded.  I think that someone who believes in empirics and science (broadly defined) has to take into account both successful and failed experiments.  The way people react to the failures therefore says a lot about themselves as analysts, but it also matters because if the GOP is going to get on track, it needs to listen to the right people, and those right people need to be people who learn from failure and glean data therefrom. Those who can’t do that should be ignored (unless, of course, all one wants out of political writers is entertainment and confirmation of one’s preferences…).

And yes, I will endeavor to move on from this hobby horse soon.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. al-Ameda says:

    The idea was to maximize turnout for the president’s core groups by focusing on identity politics, encouraging them to come out and vote against a fictitious GOP bogeyman who would suppress their rights to vote, deport their friends and neighbors, deny them Medicare, ship their jobs overseas, raid their pensions, and eliminate their access to contraception. And it worked.

    Jay Cost is as delusional as Michele Bachmann or Allen West.

  2. michael reynolds says:

    The average Republican believes that Mr. Obama is not an American citizen. Why would you expect them to be capable of a rational assessment of data?

    I think that up until (maybe) now, when I’ve said that Republicans are mentally unbalanced, living in a fantasy world, willing participants in their own brainwashing, people thought I was being a partisan. I wasn’t.

    I think James Joyner, for example, thinks the party is basically sane people like him with a fringe of nuts. And I’m sure when I would tell him no, James, it’s a party of nuts with a few self-deluding “rational” people on the fringes, he would also dismiss me as a partisan.

    It wasn’t partisanship. Not pretending I’m not partisan, but I don’t call people crazy for disagreeing with me. I call them crazy for being crazy. And the crazy is not the fringe. The crazy is the core.

  3. de stijl says:

    one might be able to win reelection by ruthlessly splitting the country in half, hoping to collect a fraction of the vote more than your opponent, but one cannot govern after having made such a mess.

    Apparently Cost has never heard of Karl Rove.

  4. Janis Gore says:

    Science is only science when it rejects the wrong. You, Steven, and James, are political scientists.

  5. Anon says:

    Where were the Republican Nate Silver critics when he published this prediction in 2010? Or was that the “good” Nate Silver, who didn’t turn “bad” till 2012?

  6. Mr. Replica says:

    Obviosly it’s Obama’s fault. Obviously it’s his fault for making people realize that republicans wanted to outlaw abortion and make it so rape victims had to carry the pregnancy to term. Obviously it’s Obama’s fault that Romney was caught on tape saying he wasn’t about to care about 47% of the population due to political reasons and that they consider themselves victims. Obviously it’s Obama’s fault that Christie decided to actually act as a leader before, during and after a natural disaster. Obviously it’s Obama’s fault that republicans think that everyone who is not republican just wants free stuff. Obviously it’s Obama’s fault that the majority of the people that voted didn’t believe in magic unicorn math that was Romney’s economic plan. Obviously it’s Obama’s fault that republicans look down on anyone that happens to be gay, Latino, or of the female gender. Obviously it’s Obama that engages in class warfare for wanting to tax the rich and not get rid of the safety net for the poor and elderly. Obviously it’s Obama’s fault for not trying to make voting harder for everyone outside of those in republican leaning districts. Obviously it’s Obama’s fault that people like Nate Silver who like to use math and science showed people like Rove, Lost, Morris, Will and the unskewed polls guy were absolutely 100% wrong. Obviously it’s Obama’s fault that Rove took hundreds of millions of dollars and completely flushed it all down the toilet.
    Obviously it’s all Obama’s fault.

    When will Americans/the world realize that Obama had done nothing but divide this country, all because he is a Kenyan socialist communist elitist terrorist sympathizer anti-American un-American racist that only wants to radically transform this christian nation into a godless brown people paradise with nothing but homosexual baby killing single mothers that do nothing but suck of the teet of the government?

    How is this so hard to understand?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AG7LjVCj50Y

  7. PJ says:

    @Steven Taylor:

    Another excellent post-election post on polls and predictions.

    For a supposed political analyst, Cost appears not to have been paying attention, but the way one typically wins two-persons elections, especially in a country with clear partisan divides that are close to 50/50 is to “hop[e] to collect a fraction of the more than your opponent”—what does he think Romney was trying to do? Further, has he not been paying attention to US elections since, oh I don’t know, 2000? They have more often been tight than not.

    Romney and the 50.1%:

    “You know, I don’t agree with all the people who support me and my guess is they don’t all agree with everything I believe in,” Romney said. “But I need to get 50.1% or more and I’m appreciative to have the help of a lot of good people.”

    That’s from when he defended appearing with Trump.

  8. Mr. Replica says:

    @Mr. Replica:

    Cost, not Lost.

    Sorry for that Steven, I must have burst something in my brain after reading all the bullshit/spin coming out in the last two days. Great post.

  9. MM says:

    I always love the “Black Power McKenya is so divisive” argument. It lacks self awareness in an amazing way.

  10. David M says:

    I hadn’t mentioned this yet, but aren’t the predictions that Romney’s going to get over 300 EVs a bad idea? There was a small path for Romney to win, but it was going to be an incredibly narrow win and everything was going to have to break his way. Shouldn’t his supporters have known they were going to have to work harder and they desperately needed every vote? Seems to me that predicting a landslide is the wrong move in that situation, as it gives the wrong impression to everyone working on the campaign.

  11. Crusty Dem says:

    @David M:

    Given the quality of their GOTV planning (http://www.businessinsider.com/romney-project-orca-disaster-2012-11), I think they needed all the overconfidence they could get.

  12. de stijl says:

    @David M:

    I hadn’t mentioned this yet, but aren’t the predictions that Romney’s going to get over 300 EVs a bad idea? There was a small path for Romney to win, but it was going to be an incredibly narrow win and everything was going to have to break his way.

    Confirmation bias is a harsh mistress.

    That is, if they truly, in their heart-of-hearts, believed their own prediction. Otherwise it’s just schoolyard, testosterone braggadocio.

    If they did believe their own BS, well then whether that lesson will be learned or nor amongst Republicans is the interesting question.

  13. Argon says:

    Keep f**king that chicken, Cost.

  14. grumpy realist says:

    If I ran a marketing division and Cost had come to me with a similar explanation about the failure of our company to pick up Cost’s predicted market share, I would have fired him within a nano-second.

    Clueless, self-justifying, and stupid ain’t no way to go through life, son. The measure of a true scientist/intellectual is not just the accuracy of his predictions; it’s how he reacts when he discovers that his theory is wrong.

    As a Dreaded Demoncrat, Cost’s comments couldn’t make me happier. It looks like the Republicans want to remain in their hermeneutical enclosure of Fox-land with the sweet nothings of Rush singing them softly to sleep. Great. They’ll just lose by a bigger margin next time.

    Reality is real, bitchez.

  15. grumpy realist says:

    (Oh, and a big shout out to the OTB posters. Although we may disagree with Doug on some things and pound his head in the sand when he is demonstrably incorrect, the posters here all are members of that tribe called “people who think rationally and admit when they are wrong.” I think the bulk of the Republican tribe will have to undergo a long period in the desert before they discover that just because Fox claims something is true, it ain’t necessarily so.)

  16. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Mr. Replica:

    Cost, not Lost.

    Nahhh, you didn’t blow an aneurism . It is called a “Freudian slip” in the truest sense, because Cost, whatever else he might be, is truly Lost.

  17. sam says:

    That guy is just one more data point in support of the hypothesis that the modern Republican party is so untethered to reality, so thoroughly fvcked up, that, in the words of George Costanza, “there’s not enough voltage in the universe to electroshock” those losers back to reality. Die and be done with it.

  18. sam says:

    one might be able to win reelection by ruthlessly splitting the country in half, hoping to collect a fraction of the vote more than your opponent, but one cannot govern after having made such a mess

    Gee, too bad someone didn’t counsel Romney on this before he shot his mouth off about the 47%.
    See previous comment.

  19. Scott says:

    A couple of random thoughts:

    The right wing defines the term psychological projection.

    Isn’t going almost exclusively after white male votes called identity politics?

    I think the reference to pensions was to the machinations of Bain capital type take overs where after stripping companies of their assets, they declare bankrupcy and dump pensions onto the taxpaper.

  20. gVOR08 says:

    @michael reynolds: Misquoting John Stuart Mill – ‘I never meant to say that Conservatives are generally crazy. I meant to say that crazy people are generally Conservative. I believe that is so obviously and universally admitted a principle that I hardly think any gentleman will deny it.’

    The crazies are the periphery, not the core of the Republican Party. The .01% rich old white guys are still the core of the party. The guys who bought Romney the nomination against largely crazy conservative opposition. Their policy is nothing more than that their corporations should be subsidized and unregulated, and only other people should have to pay taxes. Aside from the .01%, who’s going to vote for this? They need anyone they can get, any way they can get them.

  21. Tony W says:

    The Republicans are still the masters at uniform talking points, Rove said essentially the same thing on his Fox News interview, when he had to be reminded that Obama won the election.

    If only they could harness this skill for good, rather than evil.

  22. rudderpedals says:

    The intransigent right’s positions appall me so, and given the results a few days ago I just don’t see the value in correcting their election misgivings and tactics. Contrast with pointing and laughing which is always OK.

  23. Lit3Bolt says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Rick Moran, happily, did ask the serious question right after the election. Kudos to him.

  24. Barry says:

    Stephen, another way to put it is that the Standard doesn’t carry any political analysis; it’s a 100% propaganda rag.

  25. stonetools says:

    Frankly, I hope they remain in their self-deluded bubble. The Democrats have the House to win back in 2014.

  26. john personna says:

    @stonetools:

    The Republicans, or at least the RINOs, have my sympathy for now. If they screw up on the fiscal cliff though, they’ll have thrown away that mood affiliation.

  27. Geek, Esq. says:

    Jay Cost is the dollar store version of Karl Rove. He’s a pretentious hack, more like Dan Riehl than Sean Trende.

  28. MBunge says:

    You might not like someone who plays hardball, but you can at least respect them if they’re willing to get as much as they give. When someone tries to stick it to you, then whines when you try to stick it right back, that’s something quite different.

    I’d have to disagree with michael reynolds. The crazy we have always had with us. The problem with the GOP is a lack of intellectual and emotional maturity produced by a sheltered upbringing in right wing media. They’re adults who’ve never grown up or have actually regressed to the point where they don’t know how to play well with others.

    Mike

  29. Geek, Esq. says:

    @David M:

    Purely from anecdotal evidence, some were so confident they were considering not voting. The ones I’ve heard of live in . . . Virginia.

  30. Geek, Esq. says:

    @gVOR08:

    Rich old guys also tend to be crazy since no one challenges anything they say to their face. See Trump, Donald; Adelson, Shelly. Cf. the plutocrats who thought they were Jews to Obama’s Hitler.

  31. Geek, Esq. says:

    PPP’s Tom Jensen summed up Cost et al pretty succinctly.

    These supposed polling experts on the conservative side are morons. Jay Cost is an idiot.

    http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2012/11/polls-in-the-end-ended-up-making-sense.html

  32. john personna says:

    @MBunge:

    I’d have to disagree with michael reynolds. The crazy we have always had with us. The problem with the GOP is a lack of intellectual and emotional maturity produced by a sheltered upbringing in right wing media. They’re adults who’ve never grown up or have actually regressed to the point where they don’t know how to play well with others.

    We were talking “anti-intellectualism in the Republican party” here, years ago.

  33. john personna says:

    Related:

    Yale Economist Defends Model That Predicted Romney Win

    The model relies on just three pieces of information: The per capita growth rate of gross domestic product in the three quarters before the election, inflation over the entire presidential term and the number of quarters during the term when GDP per capita growth exceeded 3.2%.

    Amusingly:

    But the standard error on Mr. Fair’s model — a measure of the average size of the typical error it is likely to make — is 2.5 percentage points. Since the results fell within the standard error, from the perspective of an academic economist like Mr. Fair, the model worked.

    So he had a stunningly simplistic model, but luckily it was also sloppy enough that it “worked.”

  34. Murray says:

    @Lit3Bolt:
    Money quote of the piece you link to

    “It is an open question how large this segment of “conservatives” might be. Being in a better position than most to hazard an intelligent guess, I would put the percentage at more than 25% but less than 35%. I don’t believe any polls on the matter for the simple reason that the way questions about birtherism or socialism are formulated sweeps up many on the right who have questions about such things, but don’t give them much credence. ”

    Sure. His gut tells him the crazies are just the fringe so the polls must be wrong.

  35. george says:

    @gVOR08:

    The crazies are the periphery, not the core of the Republican Party. The .01% rich old white guys are still the core of the party. The guys who bought Romney the nomination against largely crazy conservative opposition. Their policy is nothing more than that their corporations should be subsidized and unregulated, and only other people should have to pay taxes. Aside from the .01%, who’s going to vote for this? They need anyone they can get, any way they can get them.

    Actually those guys tend to give heavily to both parties, and don’t really care that much which of the two wins. Why take a chance in backing only one, when for a few pennies more (so to speak) you can own both?

    I’ve noted several conservative site lamenting that big business gives funds to both parties – and I’ve always wondered why they found that surprising. Isn’t covering all the bases whenever possible standard business practice?

  36. MBunge says:

    @john personna: “We were talking “anti-intellectualism in the Republican party” here, years ago.”

    Yes, but what is it that sustains and extends that anti-intellectualism? It ain’t religion, ’cause Rush and Sean and a whole bunch of right wing elites have no more interest in living in Pat Robertson’s America than your average tranny hooker.

    You know what Sean Hannity said this week? That Obama should be ashamed of how he ran for re-election and should apologize for his campaign tactics. A grown up doesn’t say that.

    Mike

  37. swbarnes2 says:

    @gVOR08:

    The crazies are the periphery, not the core of the Republican Party.

    Obviously that’s false. 40% of Republicans are birthers! That’s not a fringe. That’s the base.

  38. gVOR08 says:

    @george:
    @swbarnes2:

    Good replies, thank you.

    IIRC the financial rich guys support both parties, although this year they pretty much went all GOP. The arts and tech guys tend Dem, but hedge their bets. I think the energy people like the Koch’s are pretty much all in for GOPs, EXXON Mobile for instance I believe has long been 100% GOP. Adelson’s a special case. All GOP this year. Next year it sounds like wanting friends in high places above the DOJ may outweigh trying to get a BFF for Netanyahu.

    The base may be the majority, but they are not the core. (Admitting there’s a real chance of them taking over the asylum some day.)

  39. Nick says:

    Nate Silver > Sam Wang > Sean Trende > Markos M. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Jay Cost, Michael Barone > Jim Geraghty > Ed Morrissey > Dick Morris

    The quality of GOP poll analysts is extremely poor. Only one half-way decent is Sean Trende.