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Michael Barone - Why (maybe) the polls were wrong

Were the polls wrong? It's a question asked after every election. Sometimes, as in 1948, the answer seems as obvious as the answer to the question, "Why did Custer lose at Little Bighorn?" Sometimes the answer is less obvious, as it is this year.

"The polls were skewed toward the Democrats," writes Nate Silver, who as proprietor of FiveThirtyEight has earned the distinction of being the nation's most assiduous polling analyst.

Silver gives short shrift to partisans — Democrats this year, Republicans in 2012 — who complained that polls were systematically biased against their side. The skew varies unpredictably, he says, perhaps because pollsters overcompensate in response to previous mistakes. He finds polls skewed against Democrats in 2006 and 2012 and against Republicans in 2002 and 2014 — all winning years for those parties.

Silver measures the skew by comparing the percentage margin for candidates in his website's average of the most recent pre-election polls to the percentage margin for candidates in the actual results. He finds that Republicans this year won bigger margins than in the polls in 24 of 36 Senate races and 28 of 35 governor's races.

Here's another way of looking at it, concentrating on those races that were seriously contested. In seriously contested Senate races — the chief event of this election cycle — the polls were quite accurate in presaging the percentages received by seven Democratic incumbents. Those Democrats ran from 3.2 percent ahead to 1.7 percent behind their RealClearPolitics polling averages. Also, three of the four Democrats running in open Democratic seats ran within that range of poll results.

Where the polls missed was in projecting Republicans' votes in Republican-held seats. Pat Roberts ran 10.6 percent ahead of polls in Kansas, Mitch McConnell 7.2 percent ahead in Kentucky and David Perdue 5.2 percent ahead in Georgia.

There's a similar but not identical pattern in seriously contested races for governor. In seven states where Democrats were defending governorships, Democratic nominees ran very close to the polls in five. Only in two close New England races, where polls had high undecideds, did they run further ahead.

In nine states with Republican-controlled governorships, Republicans all ran ahead of their poll numbers, from 3.2 percent in Alaska (where final results are not in at this writing) to 7.4 percent in Kansas.

All this suggests that pollsters did a better job of finding Democratic voters than they did of finding Republican voters. That accounts for the Democratic tilt in polling Silver finds when looking at candidates' percentage margins rather than percentage totals.
One possible reason is that Republican-leaning voters were more hesitant than Democratic-leaning voters about committing to vote for their party's candidates. The bulk of those undecided in polls in Kansas, Kentucky and most of the states with Republican governors were Mitt Romney voters in 2012.

There has been a similar phenomenon when pollsters ask people to rate the two parties' members of Congress. During most of this campaign cycle (but less so toward the end), Republicans in Congress were getting lower ratings than Democrats in Congress because more Republican voters gave their own party's members negative ratings.

Another possible reason, advanced by Henry Olsen of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, is that pollsters are doing a poorer job of sampling opinion in rural areas than in large metropolitan areas. Outside their states' three major metropolitan areas, Roberts won 63 percent of the vote, and McConnell won 61 percent. Polls seem to have missed this.

A third possible explanation — and all three may be overlapping — offered by RealClearPolitics analyst Sean Trende is that local pollsters were able, because of their greater experience and understanding of their states, to spot Republican trends that national pollsters missed. Trende credits the University of Arkansas poll, Ann Selzer's Des Moines Register poll in Iowa and Charles Franklin's Marquette University Law School poll in Wisconsin.

Pollsters face an increasingly difficult task. Telephone polling techniques were developed in a nation with universal landline phones ervice and a population that answered the phone when it rang. We no longer live in such a nation.

Only 9 percent of pollsters' calls resulted in completed interviews, the Pew Research Center reported in 2012. Maybe rural Republican voters are harder to reach or maybe they're too grumpy to commit until they have to.

In 1948, Gallup famously stopped polling eight days before the election, and "Dewey Defeats Truman" became one of history's most famous headlines. Gallup stayed in the field later after that had happened. The good news is that today's pollsters too can learn from experience.

(Michael Barone, senior political analyst at the Washington Examiner, where this article first appeared, is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics.)

Last Updated on Saturday, 22 November 2014 12:03

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Froma Harrop - Democrats are a depressed lot

"Smiles at the gas pump," my local headline reads. The price of gasoline has fallen below $3 a gallon.

When the national average rose last year to $3.51, Rep. Roger Williams, R-Texas, complained that "the liberal anti-free market policies of the Obama administration discourage the exploration of American sources of energy and hinder production and job growth."

Now it's below $3. By the way, U.S. production of oil and gas is at record levels.

So where is the brass band? This is a question for Democrats.

And we won't get a good answer until Democrats shake off their chronic depression. Democrats tend to internalize the relentless attacks against them. Constantly on the defense, they explain rather than proclaim. When they ignore their successes and avoid the president who oversaw them, voters think that perhaps the other side has a point.

"You cannot win if you're afraid," former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, a Democrat, said after his party's recent electoral losses.

To be honest, presidents have little power over the price of gasoline. And to be evenhanded, when Barack Obama ran for president in 2008, he blamed $4-a-gallon gas on George W. Bush. Yesteryear's gas price wasn't Bush's doing, and today's isn't Obama's.

But if one's political foes smash this particular ball over the net, the other side surely has a right to return it under favorable circumstances. If people are smiling at the gas pump, why isn't the Obama administration smiling with them? Where are the tubas?

Last year, we heard the baloney that Obama's reluctance to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, expand some offshore drilling and back the Keystone XL pipeline had caused gasoline prices to surge — 86 percent from the day the president took office.

Firstly, Obama started his presidency in the jaws of an economic meltdown. The prices of a lot of things were collapsing then, among them gasoline.
Secondly, from 2002 to 2008, when Bush was president, gasoline prices exploded 397 percent, to $4.11 a gallon. Would anyone have accused George W. of being hostile to energy development?

It was not Obama's genius but the revolution in drilling technologies that opened up the new production. Nevertheless, under Obama, the United States has replaced Russia as the largest non-OPEC supplier of gas and oil. Suffice it to say, Obama has hardly stamped out energy development in this country.

Sadly, Obama has never been much for cheerleading, an important skill for a president. He never mastered the art of the bully pulpit. Democrats are justifiably frustrated by these failings.

But this habit of abandoning their president under assault by the right-wing noise machine is nothing new. Recall the 2000 presidential campaign, when Democratic candidate Al Gore distanced himself from the sitting president, Bill Clinton. The economy was bubbling, and the budget overflowing with surplus. But Gore had bought into his enemies' line that Clinton, because of his foolish tryst, had become despised across the land. Never mind that Democrats had made significant gains in the midterms after the scandal broke. Never mind that Clinton would leave office with a higher approval rating than did Ronald Reagan.

Fast-forward to today. Unemployment has fallen below 6 percent. Stocks are hitting all-time highs. And the deficit has been cut by more than half in less than six years.

It's true that Americans in the middle and lower economic tiers still suffer from stagnant wages, but Democrats could tell them: "You're next. This recovering economy is set to serve you. And don't forget that you now have the security of guaranteed health coverage."

But Democrats don't talk that way. What a depressed lot they've become.

(Syndicated columnist Froma Harrop writes for the Providence Journal.)


Last Updated on Friday, 21 November 2014 12:05

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Sanborn — The home seller's merrythought

Thanksgiving is but one of the holidays that center on the home. Kids always come home on the holiday making it one of the busiest travel days of the year. Gotta go to Grandma's house! It is a tradition. Home is where the heart is... and the turkey and stuffing. That's a tradition, too. Two helpings of everything and then a nap in that overstuffed chair.

There are other traditions on Thanksgiving starting with the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade with endless marching band, floats, and giant helium filled balloons in the shape of Snoopy, the Grinch, Pluto, Mickey, and a bunch of other characters that had nothing to do with Thanksgiving but now are a tradition. Of course Santa is a part of the parade to usher in the Christmas gift buying season which starts before your meal is completely digested.

Football has become a huge tradition on Thanksgiving. The Cowboys and the Lions have traditionally played on the holiday and recently the NFL increased the number of games two to three. Seems like a little too much tradition there. I think they did that so the men can stay on the sofa freeing up the ladies to go get an early start on the shopping.

Breaking the recently devoured turkey's wishbone is another holiday tradition that must be mentioned as this could be very helpful to any home owner trying to sell his house. The custom is that two contestants each grab the end of a bird's wishbone and pull. The lucky person getting the bigger piece is granted a wish. This tradition is much older than Thanksgiving itself and goes back many centuries originating with the ancient Italians called the Etruscans. The bone is technically called the furcular, which is formed from two clavicles fusing together. Clavicles are also known as collarbones and a few of them might get broken as well during one of the three football games this day.

The Etruscans really thought chickens were almost magical and that they could tell the future. Where that comes from no one knows. They used to draw a circle in the dirt, divide the circle into wedges, and assign each wedge a letter of the alphabet. Then they put chicken feed on the wedges and placed a chicken in the center of the circle. As the chicken ate the feed, a scribe would write down the corresponding letters in the exact order and the resulting message would reveal the future.

Anyway, when a chicken was killed they would put its wishbone in the sun to dry thereby preserving it so that they would still have access to the bird's fortune telling powers long after they ate it. This tradition was passed on to the Romans and then to the English who would rub the bone and make wishes. The English called this bone the "merrythought."
So if you are trying to sell your home this holiday season here's a fool-proof tip. Let your turkey's wishbone dry for three days (that is very important because the number three is very magical.) Then you get your realtor to come over and pull on the wishbone with you. No matter who gets the bigger half, you both (theoretically) will have wished for the same thing: a successful sale of your house. Now see, wasn't this a helpful tradition...

There were 112 homes that sold in the month of October in the towns covered by the real estate market report. The average sales price came in at $314,131. That's a pretty good month overall! There have been 839 residential homes sales through Oct 31 of this year at an average price of $315,000. That total is slightly off the 878 units sold last year for the same period at an average price of $305,806. Maybe we can make up the difference before the end of the year if everyone with a house for sale makes that wish.

Please feel free to visit www.lakesregionhome.com to learn more about the Lakes Region real estate market and comment on this article and others. Data was compiled using the Northern New England Real Estate MLS System as of ​11/19/14.​ Roy Sanborn is a realtor at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-677-7012.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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Pat Buchanan - Did we vote for war?

How do you like the Journal's war?"

So boasted the headline of William Randolph Hearst's New York flagship that week in 1898 that the United States declared war on Spain.

While Hearst's Journal, in a circulation battle with Joe Pulitzer's World, was a warmongering sheet, it did not start the war. Yet the headline comes to mind reading the Wall Street Journal, whose editorial pages seem to have concluded that on Nov. 4 America voted for new wars in the Middle East, and beyond.

On Nov. 13, the Journal's op-ed page was given over to Mark Dubowitz and Reuel Marc Gerecht of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Assuming nuclear talks with Iran conclude unsuccessfully by the Nov. 24 deadline, they write, we have four options.

Two involve continued or tougher sanctions. The other two are a preemptive war featuring U.S. air and missile strikes on Iran's nuclear facilities, or a U.S. attack to bring down Bashar Assad's regime. "Taking Mr. Assad down would let Tehran know that America's withdrawal from the Middle East and President Obama's dreams of an entente with Iran are over."

It would surely do that.

But taking down the Syrian regime could also lead to a slaughter of Christians and Alawites, an al Qaida-ISIS takeover in Damascus, war with Iran, and attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq and across the Middle East.

Which raises a question: What is this FDD?

Answer: A War Party think tank that in 2011, according to Philip Weiss of Mondoweiss website and Eli Clifton of Salon, took in $19 million from five rabidly pro-Israel givers. Home Depot's Bernard Marcus gave $10.7 million, hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer $3.6 million. Sheldon Adelson, the Vegas-Macau casino kingpin, chipped in $1.5 million.

Last week, Adelson and media mogul Haim Saban spoke of plans to dump hundreds of millions into the presidential campaigns of 2016.

What does the pair want from our next president? According to the Washington Post's Phil Rucker and Tom Hamburger, action on Iran: "Saban said that fundamentalist Iranians represent a real threat. If necessary to defend Israel, and as a last resort, he added, 'I would bomb the living daylights out of the sons of bitches.'"

Echoed the 81-year-old Adelson, "I would not just talk. I would take action."

Last year, at Yeshiva University, Adelson, who pumped $150 million into the 2012 campaign, said the U.S.
should fire a nuclear missile into the Iranian desert as a warning to end their nuclear program, or the next atom bomb would be dropped on Teheran.
This billionaires boys club wants to buy U.S. foreign policy and a U.S. war on Iran. And the propagandists of FDD are paid to produce that war, in which they will not be doing the fighting and dying.

Back to the Journal. On Nov. 15, its lead editorial declared that the great "question before President Obama and Europe is how to stop the Napoleon of the Kremlin."

Putin is Napoleon? Has the Journal lost it?

Vladimir Putin is 62. By age 40, Napoleon's empire encompassed nearly all of Europe. France had swallowed Belgium, Holland, parts of Germany and the Italian coast to Rome. The emperor had alliances with Austria, Russia, Denmark, Sweden and a truncated Prussia. Virtually all the resources, industries and populations of Continental Europe were at the service of the French Empire.

Putin has reacquired Crimea, which belonged to Russia before the United States was a nation, and is about the size of Vermont.

Napoleon made it to Moscow. Does the Journal think Putin will make it to Paris, as Czar Alexander I did, or to Berlin, as Stalin did?

The Journal hails the Senate Foreign Relations Committee 18-0 vote to arm the Ukrainians, and urges Congress to do the same.

And what would be the result of U.S. heavy weapons arriving in Kiev? Would Putin recoil in shock and awe and scurry out of Crimea?

Probably not, as the Journal itself concedes, "In 15 years running Russia, Mr. Putin has never stood down."

And if Putin, seeing U.S. weapons arriving in Kiev, sent in the Russian army to annex Luhansk and Donetsk, took Mariupol on the Black Sea coast, established a land bridge to Crimea, and then offered to negotiate, what would Kiev do?

Even with U.S. weapons, Ukraine cannot defeat Russia.

What would we do? Accept defeat? Send U.S. advisers or troops into Ukraine? Launch strikes on Russian forces? Blockade Crimea? Are we really prepared for war with Russia, over Donetsk?

Since Nov. 4, the Journal and its neocon allies have been cawing for U.S. troops to fight ISIL in Iraq and Syria, for U.S. air strikes on Assad's regime, for bombing Iran, and for arming Ukraine to fight the Russians in a war that Kiev would surely lose.

Was this what America voted for on Nov. 4?

Is this what the Grand Old Party has on offer — endless war?

(Long-time conservative commentator Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of the new book "The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority.")


Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 November 2014 11:07

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Bob Meade - By the company he keeps . . . (FOR NOV. 18)

Soon after he was elected to his first term as president, Barack Obama was asked how he was to be judged. He replied that we could judge him by the people he has around him. Fair enough. Now let's look at just three of those who are part of his inner circle — Jonathan Gruber, MIT professor of Economics, Ezekiel Emanuel MD, physician, and the Reverend Al Sharpton. These three, and a number of others, have worked behind the scenes, helping the president manage his "shadow" government. No need to involve the President's Cabinet, which is made up of people who have been vetted and senatorial "Advice and Consent" granted. The people working in the background, without Senate confirmation and accountable only to the president, have aided in the development of "Regulations" that have the force of law but have not undergone the rigor of congressional debate and approval.

Article II, Section 2. Of the Constitution gives the president the ability to make cabinet-level appointments provided at least two-thirds of the Senate provides their Advice and Consent. The same holds true with the president's ability to make treaties with other governments, subject to the same two thirds majority Senate approval.

Former Alasda Governor Sarah Palin was ridiculed by Democrat leaders and the press when she said the there was a "Death panel" built into Obamacare. As things evolved, shadow government insider Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, a key figure in developing Obamacare, now tells us that we should all die when we reach the magic age of 75. He says at that age, people have lived long enough, and should be willing to die as their continuation of life would present a financial/medical burden on society. Really?

In the last few days, Dr. Jonathan Gruber, like Dr. Emanuel one of the architects of Obamacare, has been shown telling the world that the Obama administration had to lie to the public about different aspects of the plan because the public was simply "too stupid" to understand it. He admitted that instead of the cost of health care going down, those financially able would be taxed significantly in order to subsidize those less financially able. As part of the hidden strategy, Dr. Gruber stated that the plan would tax the insurance companies, who would then pass on those costs to the consumers, and that would allow our devious politicians to demonize the insurance companies. He also said that if they had told the truth, the bill would not have passed — even in the Democrat-controlled Congress. However, once the bill was passed, with guidance from Dr. Gruber, regulations were written to include abortion services. Outrageously, those "regulations" called for the imposition of substantial financial penalties on religious institutions that refused to provide abortion coverage to their employees . . . even though to do so would violate the tenets of their faith. Those issues are still being litigated. It needs to be understood, that twenty percent of all hospital beds in this country are provided in facilities owned and operated by Religious entities. A crisis awaits.

The Supreme Court now has another issue pertaining to the plan under review. That is, the fact that the law, as written, identified that subsidies would be paid by the exchanges in each state, and no mention was made that if there was no exchange in a state that the subsidy would be paid by the federal government. In a number of situations, the president has arbitrarily changed the law, without allowing Congress and the Senate to change or amend the law as the rules dictate. The president moved various dates specified in the law in order to avoid any political consequences during election periods. In this case, he arbitrarily changed the law to allow for federal subsidies to be paid when there is no state exchange. Essentially, Constitutional provisions for enacting laws have been by-passed as the president has dictated his will be done.

The Reverend Sharpton has been consulted many times with regard to naming a replacement for Attorney General Holder. Sharpton has a history of inflaming racial tensions by making unjust and untrue claims. In the Twana Brawley case, he named a police officer as one of the alleged rapists and the officer committed suicide, even though Brawley admitted she had made up the whole story. In the same case, Sharpton was found guilty of defamation when he falsely claimed a prosecutor was at the alleged crime scene. He was also the instigator of two anti-Semitic hate crimes — one resulting in the death of an innocent Jewish student visiting from Australia, and the other resulting in the deaths of seven people and the wounding of several others. Now isn't he just the kind of person we want offering counsel to the president?

Our democratic republic was founded as a government of, by, and for the people. The actions of this administration's shadow government have continually abridged the freedoms belonging to the people. Such actions put us on the path to a dictatorship. If you disagree, please consider that the president has been and is now preparing to by-pass the Congress on the matter of immigration. Be prepared to cede our nation's sovereignty to a dictatorial "open borders" policy.

(Bob Meade is a Laconia resident.)

Last Updated on Tuesday, 18 November 2014 12:36

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