Diary

Mid-Term Elections -- Ignoring the Chaff

As the mid-term elections approach one might be tempted to feel some sympathy for the hapless Democrats as they sit frozen at the controls, wiping flop-sweat off their brows and fighting the growing panic that comes with realizing the high-pitched whine they keep hearing is actually a missile-lock warning. Anyone who appreciates the stakes involved doesn’t dwell on this very long however, and certainly doesn’t let it deter him from the important work of hacking them out of the sky.

This is particularly important now because they haven’t given up (because — and I may get some coasters inscribed with this — they never give up). With election day (or in Democrat parlance “impact”) fast approaching, and no discernible weapons to bring to bear – certainly not the record they don’t dare run on, or a president they don’t dare refer to – their only remaining option is to fill the air with flares and tinfoil. This is what you do when a big can of whoop-ass is headed your way and you have no way of stopping it – throw up lots of chaff and hope the weapon prefers Reynolds Wrap to you.

Accordingly, despite the fact the Democrats have outspent the Republicans in this election, and in the face of confirmed accounts of blatant campaign financing irregularities of their own in 2008, the Democrats have filled the airwaves with wholly unsubstantiated charges that the Republicans and their corporate confederates (like the thoroughly demonic Chamber of Commerce) are siphoning anonymous foreign donations into the campaign.

When challenged to provide evidence, the most compelling argument they can bring to bear—and one can only speculate how much midnight oil they burned on this one—is “well, do you have any evidence that it is not?”

(I must remember this line of reasoning when next trying to convince my bank manager that I am the actually the great grandson of Tsar Nicholas II and worth a bazillion rubles once we get the paperwork sorted out.)

On a smaller scale, but perhaps more perfectly in keeping with a diversionary cloud expelled from the rear, we have Alan Grayson, soon to be former congressman from Florida, whose depiction of opponent Daniel Webster as “Taliban Dan” amounted to an outright forgery – albeit with the relative sophistication of a hand-drawn five dollar bill. Rep. Grayson seems to have forgotten, while cutting and pasting video clips together (kind of like letters in a ransom note, which for all I know was his Plan B — do you have any evidence that I am wrong?) that this wasn’t 1961, there is an Internet and people had the means to check out the original.

Doh!

Grayson ad and Daniel Webster original below:

(Full FactCheck.org article here.)

Grayson, at the time of this writing, is down seven points, proving yet again the wisdom of not deploying chaff into one’s own cockpit. (I see another coaster opportunity here, but let’s move on.)

Having just cited polling numbers let me completely undercut myself by stating that I don’t believe them. I think Webster will actually win by 12-15 points — prompting a big “Home Alone” face and collective “who knew?” from pollsters, pundits and self-appointed experts alike.

I also happen to think the Delaware senate race (you know, the one with the witch) is much closer than reported and if Christine O’Donnell wins outright – or loses by single digits because the elders and betters in the Republican establishment listened to those helpful polls and gave up on her – we will get an even bigger Macaulay Culkin moment from the pollsters.

Ann Coulter provides some valuable insight, not only on the tendency of pollsters to get it wrong in the last month before an election, but to invariably get it wrong in a leftward direction.

Reviewing the polls printed in The New York Times and The Washington Post in the last month of every presidential election since 1976, I found the polls were never wrong in a friendly way to Republicans. When the polls were wrong, which was often, they overestimated support for the Democrat, usually by about 6 to 10 points.

[…]
In 1980, Ronald Reagan beat Carter by nearly 10 points, 51 percent to 41 percent. In a Gallup Poll released days before the election on Oct. 27, it was Carter who led Reagan 45 percent to 42 percent.

In 1984, Reagan walloped Walter Mondale 58.8 percent to 40 percent, — the largest electoral landslide in U.S. history. But on Oct. 15, The New York Daily News published a poll showing Mondale with only a 4-point deficit to Reagan, 45 percent to 41 percent. A Harris Poll about the same time showed Reagan with only a 9-point lead. The Oct. 19 New York Times/CBS News Poll had Mr. Reagan ahead of Mondale by 13 points. All these polls underestimated Reagan’s actual margin of victory by 6 to 15 points.

[…]

In 1992, Bill Clinton beat the first President Bush 43 percent to 37.7 percent. (Ross Perot got 18.9 percent of Bush’s voters that year.) On Oct. 18, a Newsweek Poll had Clinton winning 46 percent to 31 percent, and a CBS News Poll showed Clinton winning 47 percent to 35 percent.

So in 1992, the polls had Clinton 12 to 15 points ahead, but he won by only 5.3 points.

In 1996, Bill Clinton beat Bob Dole 49 percent to 40 percent. And yet on Oct. 22, 1996, The New York Times/CBS News Poll showed Clinton leading by a massive 22 points, 55 percent to 33 percent.

It is not for me to suggest anything sinister in the fact that the numbers always seem to skew Democrat in the last days before an election, or that this could influence voter behavior in any number of predictable ways, but if I were looking to disinform and distract the electorate in a way that would be very difficult, if not impossible, to trace, this would be a powerful contender. If it’s not chaff, it should be treated that way. Consider it Universal Sterile Precautions against pundits.

In the spirit of preaching to the choir (or more importantly, the neighbors of the choir) I propose we all vote—and encourage others to vote— as if the TV’s broken, all pundits look like Pinocchio and all polls are accompanied by a disclaimer saying “Just Kidding.” Anyone disturbed by the latest report that Christine O’Donnell was not only a Druid but actually built Stonehenge should be asked pointedly if this will be one of his or her top ten concerns the day after the election.

Because wherever the Democrats have power I guarantee you it won’t be one of theirs.

(Cross-posted at NewsReal Blog.)