Charles Pillsbury III

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Probably the last political post for a bit

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Largely because I’m sick of hearing about it, even if I’m not sick of thinking about it. This is basically an e-mail I sent to Nate Silver who does some fascinating statistics on baseball, and applied that knowledge to the election this time around. There are a few things from the original e-mail edited out because they were more specifically related to my asking him to do some statistical analysis (if possible).

The problem with most of these questions is finding valid means of measuring vs speculation. I appreciate your time in reading this e-mail (and fully understand if it’s just too silly or long-winded to undertake).

These questions are largely interesting to me because while the race was a decisive electoral win, very few battleground states were huge blowouts and even popular vote was ‘only’ 53/46ish, which all ads up to “what, if anything, could McCain have done to win this?”. I ask not because I wanted him to win or lose, but because I like that sort of question.

Here are the questions I have.

1) How much did the ‘fear-mongering’ ads from the McCain camp effect his results (one assumes it brought in a certain segment of voters and turned off a certain segment)? This wouldn’t be so much about the “Joe the Plumber” sort of ads as much as the Ayers/Acorn/Iran segment of ads. I assume somebody could find out which markets aired which ads and how many times, but I don’t know, and then compare that to the polling and voting in those areas (well, if I knew how to calculate it and had access to the information I wouldn’t be trying to beg you into doing it would I?). From a strategic running of the campaign sort of thing I think he would’ve been smarter to let the Sean Hannity/Rush Limbaugh’s of the world do the fear-mongering for him because the segment of the population most influenced by those ads are also most likely to be listening to those people anyway (and Hannity/Limbaugh are going to fear monger either way because it’s what keeps them in ratings and money).

2) Much harder to quantify would be how, what might be classified as indirect “fear-mongering”, ads from Obama might have effected things. These would be ones in which Obama equated McCain to Bush, which for a not-insignificant portion of the voters is essentially calling McCain evil because to so many Bush = evil. (I’m sure there’s a great discussion to be had on if this was intentionally thought of in this terms as part of strategy or if it was a tertiary benefit, but that’s another story).

3) How much effect did Palin have in the end? She was, I think, much like the worst of the campaign ads a +/- (brought in one segment of voter, alienated another). The offshoot question would then be: “Was there a better VP choice to be made?”.

4) How did the Obama spending level effect the end results? Obviously whoever wins wants to claim some sort of mandate from the public, but if the popular vote is only 53/46 one assumes that the advertising probably played some part in the final vote (why else advertise?).

My suspicion is that McCain alienated a significant number of independents with his attack ads and VP choice, but brought in a few of the republican base with both. I think if he had ‘kept things clean’ (and picked a better VP) it would’ve been closer than it was, and if Obama had stuck to public funds it would’ve been possibly too close to call (or at least predict). This is not to discount Obama as a candidate (he’s charismatic and likable, and plays the political game well), nor to discount the dislike of Bush and the way republicans ran things, I’m really just interested in the political game and how it is played (probably too much Demosthenes and Locke in the Ender’s Game books).

I’m not sure why I’m posting this here, because I know how few people actually READ my blog anyway, I can’t expect a conversation or answer to come from it. Maybe I’m just hoping that a few people will see it and the question may get passed around. Thoughts?

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November 24th, 2008 at 10:46 pm

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One Response to 'Probably the last political post for a bit'

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  1. Palin was it the final nail in the coffin for McCain. I’m not sure who would have been better, but he went to the wrong side of the mavericky spectrum. I really think he needed to find someone like the yr2000 McCain. Someone uninterested in pandering to the religious right. Someone who was a true centrist. That’s just me. A question: Why can 95% of people not talk about this stuff without getting PISSED?

    Jeff Luce

    25 Nov 08 at 9:41 am

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