In an election year gift to Democrats, Sunday’s "60 Minutes" pointed out GOP failings in Congress on the eve of a crucial midterm election, hitting the Republican Congress over failure to control spending and in particular, earmarks. "60 Minutes" has a history of running stories like these on the show preceding an important election. In 2002, correspondent Morley Safer provided a forum for liberal columnist Molly Ivins to hype the candidacies of two Texas Democrats running for state wide office, while providing no counterpoint from a conservative or Republican in the piece.
On Sunday, Safer profiled Arizona Congressman Jeff Flake about earmarks and government spending, unfortunately Safer portrayed earmarks as the only wasteful spending in Washington. In an attempt to discourage conservatives and demoralize the GOP base, "60 Minutes" attacked the Republican Congress over its failure to limit spending. Safer invoked the name of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and equated earmarks with corruption while lamenting Congress’ wasteful spending.
How accurate are polls at predicting a winner? Not too. So long as a candidate is within 10 points, most polls shouldn't be readily relied on as predictors for who will win. Charles Franklin, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin has an interesting post today about just how important the "margin of error" really is.
On a graph, Franklin compares poll results with actual election results, resulting in several observations, one of which is the importance of realizing that polls cannot reliably predict races that are less than 10 points apart.
One interesting feature is that a margin of zero (a tied poll) produces
a 50-50 split in wins with remarkable accuracy. There is nothing I did
statistically to force the black trend line to go through the
"crosshairs" at the (0, .5) point in the graph, but it comes awfully
close. So a tied poll really does predict a coin-flip outcome.
probability of a win rises or falls rapidly as the polls move away from
a margin of zero. By the time we see a 10 point lead in the poll for
the Dem, about 90% of the Dems win. When we see a 10 point margin for
the Rep, about 90% of Reps win. That symmetry is also not something I
forced with the statistics-- it represents the simple and symmetric
pattern in the data.
More practically, it means that polls rarely miss the winner with a 10 point lead, but they DO miss it 10% of the time.
5 point lead, on the other hand, turns out to be right only about
60-65% of the time. So bet on a candidate with a 5 point lead, but
don't give odds. And for 1 or 2 point leads (as in some of our closer
races tomorrow) the polls are only barely better than 50% right in
picking the winner. That should be a sobering thought to those enthused
by a narrow lead in the polls. Quite a few of those "leaders" will
lose. Of course, an equal proportion of those trailing in the polls
So read the polls-- they are a lot better than
nothing. But don't take that 2 point lead to the bank. That is a
failure to appreciate the practical consequences of the margin for
On Friday night, the PBS news show "Now" wrapped up its last show before the election by bringing on so-called "conservative" blogger Andrew Sullivan to explain why he’s telling everyone to vote Democrat. Apparently, voting Democrat is the right way to get low taxes, small government, and a competent defense. What? That’s odd, considering the show began by quoting this "conservative iconoclast" claiming "We're talking not so much about an election anymore; we're talking about an intervention. We're talking about getting these people to recognize reality."
"Now" host David Brancaccio gave viewers no shred of a clue that would make Sullivan look less than conservative, from being an editor of the liberal magazine The New Republic in the 1990s, to blogging now for Time magazine online, to his rabid support for John Kerry in 2004, to his most obvious crusade -- as a fervent lobbyist for the gay-left agenda. (The screen only read he was a blogger for the "Daily Dish," the title of his blog on Time.com.) It began with a compliment:
Brancaccio: "What is a nice conservative like you doing telling your friends and your readers to abstain from voting next week or worse?"
Sullivan: "I've done more. I've said 'vote Democrat.' Look, I'm an old-fashioned conservative. I believe in small government. I believe in low taxes. I believe in balanced budgets. I believe in individual liberty, personal responsibility, states' rights and a strong competent defense. So, on all those issues, I have no choice but to oppose this president. The only way to get him to acknowledge reality and grapple with reality is by backing the Democrats."
Like today's election, British writer Christopher Hitchens says in The Times that the media spun what issues were important for the 1960 election. Despite the raging Cold War, the media determined that the most important issue was "Nixon’s unshaven jowls as exposed in the first televised debate."
It has been a quarter of a century since I moved to the United States but now it comes back to me how I used to resent the way in which Americans made up their minds. In the first election I was able to follow — the Nixon-Kennedy race in 1960 — there were American nuclear bases in Britain, and great American decisions to be taken about free trade and other matters that affected us all directly. Yet from the American press I learnt that the whole thing hinged on Nixon’s unshaven jowls as exposed in the first televised debate.
These days I spend a good deal of my time defending my adopted country from what I have to call anti-American attitudes, many of them based on what seem to me a mixture of envy and ignorance. But, yes, I tell the BBC man when he finally calls back, there is quite a lot of argument this fall about whether or not American schoolchildren should be exposed to the ideas first promulgated by Charles Darwin in the mid-Victorian epoch. Indeed, the subject has begun to open a split in the Republican Party, as well as between it and its critics. There is a brief silence on the line.
Chris Matthews just couldn't wipe that grin off his face. Interviewing him on this morning's 'Today,' Meredith Vieira began by suggesting that despite the tough electoral environment for Republicans, polls over the weekend were showing movement in their direction. She started to pose a question, but so distracting was Matthews' mugging that she couldn't continue, asking instead "why are you smiling?"
"Because I think it's going to be a wipe-out. I think the Democrats are going to carry the House by 20-some, high-20s and I think the Senate seats are perhaps not six, but five, and I can see a big victory for the Democrats."
In Monday's Media Notes column in the Washington Post, Howard Kurtz found the media are attracted to polls like crack cocaine, and they've "grown addicted to the GOP-in-trouble narrative." Kurtz says it isn't about liberal bias, but the desire for a change in story line. Riiight. Journalists confirm that Democrats have been boasting of a takeover:
"If you mention something enough times, you make it seem as if it must be so," says NBC's Williams. But, he says, "if the media are guilty of beating the Democratic House takeover drums, the media share that guilt with prominent Democrats, who in on- and off-the-record settings have indeed been all but measuring the drapes."
This reminds me of something blogger Ace of Spades mentioned to me some time ago about how it's not just the words, it's the pictures. Seemingly without exception, stories about the economy durng the 1990s had images or video of machines producing currency, cash registers ringing, and heavy traffic inside shopping malls. When's the last time anyone saw any of this in a news report about this very good economy?
Here's an antidote from an unlikely corner for all the Dem outrage at the 'November surprise' of the Saddam verdict. On this morning's 'Today,' none other than Chris Matthews just pronounced his considered opinion that the verdict actually helps . . . the Democrats.
According to Matthews, given the unpopularity of the war, anything that draws attention to Iraq hurts Republicans. Apparently that even extends to a good-news story such as the Saddam verdict. Opined Matthews to host Lester Holt:
"One general rule would be anything that brings attention to Iraq is bad for the Republicans. I think Iraq's become a four-letter word for the voter. And this trial and condemnation of Saddam Hussein is probably going to remind us of Iraq again. It's probably going to help the Democrats to some extent."
On shows aired Friday and Saturday, the journalists and political pundits on the McLaughlin Group, FNC's Beltway Boys and Inside Washington, a local Washington, DC program, made predictions for what will occur in Tuesday's elections. All presumed that Democrats will win enough seats to takeover the House and most forecast that Democrats will win a majority of the most-contested Senate seats.
Below is a rundown of the specific predictions issued by columnist Pat Buchanan, Newsweek writer Eleanor Clift, Washington Times editorial page Editor Tony Blankley, Democratic political veteran and television producer Lawrence O'Donnell, John McLaughlin, Weekly Standard Executive Editor Fred Barnes, Roll Call Executive Editor Morton Kondracke, columnist Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post editorial writer Colby King, columnist and PBS analyst Mark Shields and NPR reporter Nina Totenberg.
On NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday, the network’s senior "news analyst," Daniel Schorr, offered a typical liberal pundit’s take that John Kerry’s remarks about bad students being "stuck in Iraq" wouldn’t harm the Democrats in the midterm elections, but somehow has a serious impact on his ambitions of running for president again. NPR also featured, on the last weekend before midterm elections, a novelist restating bitter charges that George Bush and the Republicans stole the 2000 election in Florida.
Substitute host Lynn Neary described the Kerry remarks: "But will these words have lasting effect on this congressional race, do you think? Or on his career?" Schorr replied:
The MSM has had a field day trumpeting an impending editorial in "military newspapers" calling for Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's resignation. But as NewsBusters John Stephenson and Michael Bates have documented here and here, here's what the liberal media didn't disclose:
Despite the official-sounding ring of "military newspapers," these are commercial, private-sector operations owned by Gannett, the chain whose leading outlet is the left-leaning USA Today. The editorial is roughly as representative of the official military view of the Secretary as an anti-Rumsfeld rant by the New York Times.
While the MSM tried to multiply the significance of the editorial by mentioning that it was carried in four separate papers, representing the various branches of the military, again they are all just fellow members of the Gannett stable. It's as misleading as claiming that an article published in the various regional editions of TV Guide appeared in "hundreds of magazines."
Now the Pentagon has weighed in. Staying above the fray as to just what those "military newspapers" are - and are not - the DoD has offered a systematic rebuttal of the various allegations contained in the editorial. Highlights:
Thanks, Bob Kuttner. You might doubt my sincerity. But really, I mean it. With Nancy AWOL, and Charley Rangel coyly claiming at his age he doesn't buy green bananas let alone speculate what he would do as Way & Means Chairman, perhaps Americans have lost sight of what the Dems have up their sleeve if they get back the majority. So in all sincerity, thanks for telling it like it is.
"We are about to get something all too rare in Democratic politics lately -- some progressive leadership . . . With a little gumption on the Democratic side, the lopsided distribution of wealth, security, and opportunity in America could come roaring back."
Since I'm in the habit of recycling items from the Sixers blog today, NFL junkies will enjoy the latest news from the Austin American-Statesman that New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees does not want to be seen as endorsing his mom's campaign for a Texas judge spot:
Drew Brees wants no part of his mother's political aspirations.
The NFL quarterback and Westlake High School graduate has told Mina Brees, an Austin attorney, to stop using his picture in TV commercials as she runs for a spot on Texas' 3rd Court of Appeals, saying their relationship is now "nonexistent" after souring six years ago.
Via the Sixers blog on NRO, we learn that the George Stephanopoulos pledge that the Mark Foley scandal would resonate in every congressional race sometimes comes true. Consider that in upstate New York, the shoe is on other foot, the Democratic foot, embarrassing the challenger to first-term Congressman Randy Kuhl. The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reports:
(November 2, 2006) — CORNING — Democratic congressional candidate Eric Massa fired his campaign manager in June and has accused him of providing alcohol to underage boys and inviting a teenage boy to spend the night with him.
Karmic balance? The Dow Jones hits a new high. The 'Dowd' Jones hits a new low. In her pay-to-read column this morning, Maureen Dowd of the New York Times analogizes the relationship of Vice-President Cheney and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld to that of preacher Ted Haggard and a male prostitute.
Setting the titillating tone with her headline, "A Wartime Love Story", Dowd writes:
At the heart of every administration, there is one relationship above all others that shapes history . . . W. is the hood ornament, but Cheney & Rummy are the chitty chitty bang bang engine of this administration.
It’s a beautiful love story, really, even more touching than Ted Haggard, the evangelical preacher and Bush White House adviser, asking a male prostitute for crystal meth, or Borat putting a bag over the head of a squealing Pamela Anderson and carrying her off.
In his culture column this week, Brent Bozell wonders why on Earth the GOP doesn't have the wherewithal to attack the sleaze in Hollywood entertainment? Polls show a sizable majority are disgusted. But maybe it's because Hollywood is the big Democratic beehive you don't want to disturb. Or maybe by picking on TV network entertainment divisions, you're also picking on TV network news divisions. Or fussing about indecency makes you look square to independents? Whatever the reason, it's another season of never mind:
Looking back at the fall campaign, it’s yet another cycle in which the Republican political brain trust sidestepped the issue of America’s growing concern for indecency oozing out of almost every perfumed pore of Hollywood. This time it may have been the fatal mistake.
On CBS’s Early Show Friday morning, political correspondent Gloria Borger declared the usual disdain for political ads: "They started out innocently enough, but political ads this season quickly turned brutal. And in some cases, downright nasty." The only clip shown to illustrate: the "Call me, Harold" GOP ad in Tennessee. But "call me" jokes are nothing compared to what the three network morning shows did with the brutal and nasty news stories the networks aired on Rev. Ted Haggard this morning, rushing to air with allegations from a gay male prostitute and drug dealer that the Reverend paid him for sex and methamphetamines.
Whatever happened to the networks trying to develop a story and answer investigative questions for themselves before running allegations? It’s four days before the election, and apparently there are conservative Christian voters to demoralize. When female accusers suggested that President Clinton was guilty of sexual harassment or rape – certainly a case of hypocrisy by liberal feminist strictures – the networks and national print media waited, and waited, and waited...
With less then a week before Election Day, members of the mainstream media are doing everything they can to elect Democrats. MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann has stepped up his fevered attacks, referring to President Bush as both "stupid" and a liar. Later on in the week, he included Media Research Center President Brent Bozell in the November 2 "Worst Person in the World" segment.
Speaking of cable networks, an analysis of the CNN "Broken Government" special shows that Lynne Cheney was right in denouncing it as nothing more then left-wing Daily Kos-style propaganda.
Over on CBS, "The Evening News" featured a laudatory segment on "trend setting" California. Not so coincidentally, all the trends were liberal. On the subject of morning bias, "Today’s" David Gregory turned over a segment to Michael J. Fox and his promotion of Democratic candidates.
Completing the network trilogy, ABC’s "Good Morning America" talked to a group of "real-life actual voters"in a Ohio diner. Oddly enough, none of these hungry citizens seemed to like Republicans very much. Perhaps this was a Democratic diner.
One of the side effects of the left's control of the media is that Democratic politicians often have trouble dealing with criticism because they aren't subjected to the 24/7 scrutiny that Republicans usually face. This leads them to fall apart when they come into contact with a reporter that doesn't defer to them like usual.
Minnesota's Democratic nominee for the governor's office, Mike Hatch, provided an example of this yesterday in the face of questioning about his running mate's apparent lack of knowledge about the subject of the gasoline additive ethanol.
Mike Hatch’s aggressive reputation showed through Thursday for one of the few times in this year’s heated gubernatorial race.
NPR's weekend program "On The Media" ran several interviews on Obama-mania in their last edition, including a talk with National Journal media writer William Powers. After discussing the many steps of national media hype, Powers suggested Obama was really a black Kennedy:
NPR host Brooke Gladstone: "In this recent round of what a lot of people are calling Obama-mania, would you say that there is now a media consensus about Obama, that he's just a natural?"
William Powers: "Oh, I think there's a consensus that he is The Natural, the most preternatural political figure we have seen since the Kennedys. The Kennedys come up constantly in these comparisons.
Gladstone: "The Kennedys or one particular Kennedy?"
I was just beginning my read of Ellen Goodman's Boston Globe column today, which argues that Nancy Pelosi is being "demonized" and "used to frighten voters everywhere." Goodman gripes that, among other things, Pelosi is being depicted as a Michael Moore clone. By superb serendipity, at that very moment, Rush Limbaugh began a systematic catologuing of Pelosi's votes over the years proving that the possible Speaker-to-be is, well, a Michael Moore clone.
The new (November 13) edition of People magazine is out with a sympathetic profile of the embryo-destruction lobbyist Michael J. Fox, nice slanted reading for the weekend before the election. Reporters Susan Schindehette and Mike Lipton concluded with how Fox "at one point even raises the specter of what his ultraconservative Family Ties alter ego, Alex Keaton, might think about his support for Democrats. 'I think he's probably tell me to put my tie back on no matter how hot it is,' says Fox with a grin. 'But I think he would tell me I'm doing the right thing.'" (Conservatives who remember that show could say of Alex, "Ultra-conservative? A guy with a Richard Nixon lunchbox??")
As you might suspect, People's account largely drained the partisanship out of the Fox crusade. The word "liberal" is never applied to him, and the word "Democrat" is sparse. In photo captions, we learn Fox appeared at an event for "pro-embryonic stem-cell candidate Tammy Duckworth." In another, he's "at an Ohio rally for Rep. Sherrod Brown."
This is too good, folks: “Hardball” anchor Chris Matthews is getting lambasted for doing an abysmal job moderating a recent debate between gubernatorial candidates in Florida (hat tip to TVNewser). The St. Petersburg Times published an editorial on Tuesday that was highly critical of the MSNBC host (emphasis mine throughout):
The last debate between Florida's candidates for governor Monday night was supposed to give voters one final opportunity to size up Charlie Crist and Jim Davis on the key issues facing this state. Instead it was hijacked by a cable television windbag and a third-party candidate who had no business being on the same stage.
In an effort to resolve the recent brouhaha surrounding statements John Kerry made at a campaign stop in Pasadena, California, Monday, the junior senator from Massachusetts released a statement on Wednesday declaring, “I sincerely regret that my words were misinterpreted.” This is not the first time in Kerry’s career that he has used this excuse. Will the media report it?
As reported by the Boston Globe on June 19, 2003, during Kerry’s first run for the Senate in 1984, he revised answers to a questionnaire that he had filled out for a nuclear disarmament group called Freeze Voter ’84. Kerry had been outscored in this questionnaire by his opponent, Rep. James M. Shannon, seriously threatening his primary run. As a result, Kerry’s campaign manager at the time sent him a memo asking him to “explain how [his] position was misinterpreted.” As the Globe reported, this alteration and explanation likely saved his campaign (emphasis mine throughout):
On the heels of reporter Suzanne Malveaux saying "we hope" John Kerry’s gaffe goes away, another CNN employee is letting the personal political opinions fly. New CNN afternoon anchorman Don Lemon interviewed Rev. Jesse Jackson Wednesday on the occasion of his 65th birthday, and after noting Jackson’s adultery and asking pointed questions about whether he’s still relevant, Lemon lauded him as a major historical figure: "But for the most part he is an appreciated person in society, in America, and someone who most African-Americans, at least speaking for myself, think that he has made huge contributions, especially when it comes to civil rights." A few hours later, while informally gathering interviewing Jackson’s daughter Santita and Sen. Barack Obama’s wife Michelle for a chat, Lemon cooed: "Let me get you guys right here. Daughter of the great one who's turning 65. Wife of the great one now."
Apparently, the Times' headline wants readers to believe that these "fireworks" just happened on their own. Even the sub-headlines make no mention of Kerry's actual words from Monday. In fact, the Times baselessly drags the GOP into the mix. "New flap in Virginia race; Bush and Kerry battle like it's 2004." "Missouri could be the key." (bold added)
CNN has already made it crystal clear that the cable network is taking sides in the midterm election. Political reporter Bill Schneider reinforced that view with a report on Wednesday’s "American Morning" that sounded like something straight out of Democratic talking points. During the segment, he offered occasional asides that "spoke" for the voters. Here’s one example:
Bill Schneider: "When Americans concluded the Vietnam war was unwinnable, they turned against it. When they began to see Iraq as a civil war between rival Islamic sects, their frustration mounted. Why should that be our war? Six months ago 44 percent of Americans felt the United States would never accomplish its mission in Iraq. Now, a majority feel that way. The administration's response? Turn the question on the Democrats. What's their alternative?"
ABC World News anchor Charles Gibson visited the ladies of The View Wednesday morning to discuss a range of topics, from next week’s midterm election and John Kerry’s controversial remark to liberal media bias. Gibson argued that the controversy surrounding Senator Kerry’s recent statement that those who fail to make use of their education will end up "stuck in Iraq," was in reference to President Bush and that Republicans "grabbed" onto the statement to energize the GOP base. When asked by Elisabeth Hasselbeck about a perceived liberal bias in the media, fellow co-host Rosie O’Donnell laughed off the notion, while Gibson stated that balance is something he strives for:
Elisabeth Hasselbeck: "What do you think about the, the fact that a lot of people are talking about a media bias? You know, that they can see seventy-some odd percent of the news stories that come out have a liberal slant versus maybe twelve that, that have a more conservative slant? How do you respond to that?"
Rosie O’Donnell: "I would say that’s a Fox poll and I don’t think it’s accurate..."
Charles Gibson: "...There is no such thing as objectivity, there is just lesser degrees of subjectivity...And you have to, all the time, say to yourself, are we being fair? Are we being down the middle, as we can? And I simply can tell you that is something which, which I try to implant on everybody at World News."
The real fireworks on today’s chat fest, however, occurred prior to the segment with Gibson, between Hasselbeck, the View's token conservative, and liberal Joy Behar:
Wednesday’s "Early Show" on CBS highlighted Senator John Kerry’s disparaging remarks about the American military in three separate segments, but instead of expressing outrage at Kerry’s comments, CBS seemed more concerned that the Republicans may use them for political gain in the midterm elections. While CBS omitted mentions that some Democrats have refused to campaign with Kerry and others have asked that he apologize, the network pondered if the outrage expressed by Republicans was an effort to "fire up the base" or simply a "desperate" attempt to change the subject.
Co-host Hannah Storm inquired of White House Press Secretary Tony Snow if President Bush’s demand that Kerry apologize to the troops was genuine or: