Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Barone Admits He Was Wrong in his Prediction
But Doesn't Have Any Idea Why

Say this for Michael Barone: he is the only one (that I have noticed) of the "Obama will nail it" forces who has actually issued anything like a mea culpa.  Here is is in the Washington Examiner:

I was wrong because the outcome of the election was not determined, as I thought it would be, by fundamentals. Some fundamentals, I thought, favored Obama. Americans like to think well of their presidents (and Obama’s approval ratings rose, slightly, over the fall) and many, perhaps most, Americans believe it would be a bad thing for Americans to be seen as rejecting the first black president. 
On the other hand, most voters opposed Obama’s major policies and found unsatisfactory the sluggish economic recovery that seems to them to be the result—negative factors that seem to have been confirmed by responses to exit poll questions as they were by responses to poll questions for many months now. .... This is not, I think, a grand triumph for his ideas or ideology. It is a triumph for his campaign strategists. 
What happened? I think fundamentals were trumped by mechanics and, to a lesser extent, by demographics.
This is syntactically coherent, but once you give it a moment's thought, it's incoherent.   Absent any empirical justification, one could just as well say, "I was right about the mechanics, but wrong about the fundamentals."  Or more baldly: "gee, it looks like the voters' 'fundamentals' are not the same as my 'fundamentals,' and I didn't know that before."

Amidst these competing possibilities, how could we choose?  To answer that question, we'd need some evidence, and I don't see Barone providing any.  I suppose we could fall back on the fact that Barone is Mr. Ear-to-the-Ground, having spent his entire professional career as the accumulator and expositor of voting behavior data: Barone knows fundamentals,don't ask.    But if this is true (i.e., so he must be "right on the fundamentals")--if this is true, why didn't he also know what was going on with the mechanics?  Is there some kind of jurisdictional no-raiding pact that keeps a "fundamentals"  guy from learning about "mechanics."  

And you could go a step further.  If Barone knew nothing about mechanics on Monday, how does he know so much about mechanics on Wednesday?  Was there some great whoosh of empirical input that overwhelmed him on election day, like an untimely tropical storm?

Or further still.  When Barone talks about "mechanics" he seems to mean stuff that most people describe as ""ground game"--discipline, organization, getting out the vote.   Faithful observers (although apparently not Barone) have been reading/seeing/hearing for weeks that Democrats appeared to be pretty good at their ground game.  But they have also been hearing that Republicans were working hard to gin up an onslaught of voter suppression. If logical consistency is the goal here, couldn't Barone just as well have said "gee, I guess Republicans were just not at good as I expected at voter suppression"?  Actually, he might have been right on that one, but again--it would have required an inference that he just isn't as good a data man as would have us believe.

That throwaway about "demographics" I do not get at all.  Best way I can read it, he's saying "I didn't know there were so many (young voters) (old voters) (Latino voters) (one-armed nuns with sailing-vessel tattoos)."  But this "demographics stuff" is precisely what is supposed to be his stock in trade.

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