2012 - %3, November

Sheldon Adelson Is Partying With Mitt Romney on Election Night

| Tue Nov. 6, 2012 10:37 AM EST
Sheldon Adelson.

It's the least Mitt Romney could do for his biggest backer.

Casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, will attend Romney's election night party in Boston Tuesday evening, CNN reports. The Adelsons are the largest donors of the 2012 election cycle, giving more than $53 million in disclosed donations to candidates and super-PACs. That includes a staggering $20 million (that we know of) to Restore Our Future, the record-setting super-PAC devoted solely to electing Romney president.

The Adelsons' entire record of giving in this election cycle is likely far greater. In April, Sheldon Adelson said that he planned to give millions more to dark-money nonprofit groups that don't disclose their donors. Adelson later said in June he could give as much as $100 million to defeat Obama, and insiders familiar with Adelson's giving told CNN that the Adelsons will come "very close" to meeting that goal.

Forbes puts Adelson's net worth at $20.5 billion, making him the 14th-richest American. Ironically, no other American has gotten richer during Obama's first term in office than Sheldon Adelson.

To better understand Adelson's influence on the 2012 elections, check out these nifty charts.

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A Creepy October in the Arctic

| Tue Nov. 6, 2012 6:13 AM EST

View from the 05 Deck on USCG icebreaker Healy on 15 October 2012: Julia WhittyView from the 05 Deck on USCG icebreaker Healy on 15 October 2012: Julia WhittyThis was the view at sunrise from the 05 deck five levels above the main deck of the Coast Guard icebreaker Healy three weeks ago. (For more about this science cruise check out my Arctic Ocean Diaries.) It was a balmy 27°F (-2°C). On the same cruise last year temperatures fell to -20°F (-29°C). Last month the ocean was relatively calm. There wasn't much of anything to indicate we were actually in the Arctic. It looked a lot like South Pacific sunrises I've watched from open boats in a shorty wetsuit. Frankly it was creepy.

Arctic sea ice extent for October 2012 was 2.7 million square miles (7 million square kilometers). Magenta line shows 1979 to 2000 median extent for that month. Black cross indicates geographic North Pole. Yellows shows seas within the Arctic Ocean: National Snow and Ice Data CenterArctic sea ice extent for October 2012 was 2.7 million square miles (7 million square kilometers). Magenta line shows 1979 to 2000 median extent for October. Black cross marks geographic North Pole. Yellow names mark the seas of the Arctic Ocean: National Snow and Ice Data Center

Yesterday the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) released their monthly overview of Arctic sea ice for October 2012, which explains a lot of what I saw. The map above shows October 2012 ice in white, compared to the median sea ice extent from 1979 to 2000 (pink line). Here's what the NSIDC report says:

Average ice extent for October was 7.00 million square miles (2.70 million square miles). This is the second lowest in the satellite record, 230,000 square kilometers (88,800 square miles) above the 2007 record for the month. However, it is 2.29 million square kilometers (884,000 square miles) below the 1979 to 2000 average. The East Siberian, Chukchi, and Laptev seas have substantially frozen up. Large areas of the southern Beaufort, Barents, and Kara seas remain ice free.

That's less ice in the Arctic this October than an area of Alaska and Texas combined.

My cruise covered the entire eastern extent of the Chukchi Sea and the entire southern extent of the Beaufort Sea. These are the Alaskan parts (and some Canadian parts) of the Arctic Ocean. The fact that they remain largely ice free even now could bode poorly for ecosystems accustomed to a cap of sea ice most of the year.

a snapshot of how ocean depth in the Arctic influences sea ice extent. Sea ice cover for August 28, 2012 is shown in semi-transparent white; ocean depths are indicated in blues, with deeper blues indicating greater depth: National Snow and Ice Data Center courtesy Jamie Morison/Applied Physics Laboratory, University of WashingtonA snapshot of how ocean depth in the Arctic influences sea ice extent. Sea ice cover for 28 August 2012 is shown in semi-transparent white, ocean depths in blues, deeper blues indicating greater depth: National Snow and Ice Data Center courtesy Jamie Morison/Applied Physics Laboratory, University of Washington

Really interesting in the NSIDC report is an analysis of what forces may affect sea ice formation:

Research by our colleagues Jamie Morison at the University of Washington Seattle and NASA scientist Son Nghiem suggests that bathymetry (sea floor topography) plays an important role in Arctic sea ice formation and extent by controlling the distribution and mixing of warm and cold waters. At its seasonal minimum extent, the ice edge mainly corresponds to the deep-water/shallow-water boundary (approximately 500-meter depth), suggesting that the ocean floor exerts a dominant control on the ice edge position.

They note that in some some cases sea ice survives even in shallower continental shelves because of water circulation patterns. The shelf of the Greenland Sea is nearly always ice covered because of southward-flowing Arctic currents that keep it cold. Meanwhile other shallow areas like the Barents and Chukchi seas lose their ice cover due to warm ocean waters and freshwater runoff from rivers—two forces that are increasing in strength as the land warms too.

9 Incredible Campaign Money Stats

| Tue Nov. 6, 2012 6:08 AM EST

We're about to wrap up the most expensive election in US history—and also the first presidential election awash in unrestricted super-PAC cash and dark-money. Some stats (read on, Bieber fans):

1. Estimated amount of disclosed spending in the 2012 election: $6 billion

2. Amount of dark money (money with no donor disclosure) spent in the 2008 election: $70 million

Minimum amount of dark money known to have been spent on the 2012 election: $213 million

3. Amount super-PACs, dark money groups, and other outside groups spent in October: $526 million

4. Percentage of all super-PAC money from just 163 people who gave $500,000 or more: 70 percent

5. Percentage of outside spending coming from disclosed donors in 2004: 96.5 percent

Percentage in 2012: 40.5 percent

6. Amount the Koch brothers are known to have donated to candidates and parties in 2012: $411,000

Amount of dark money they have pledged to spent to defeat Barack Obama: $60 milion

7. Percentage of dark money spent on federal elections that went to electing Republicans and defeating Democrats: 80 percent

8. Percentage of the 1 million-plus ads run by the Obama and Romney campaigns and their allies between April and October that were negative: 87 percent

9. Number of news segments about outside spending groups on Milwaukee stations in the two weeks before Wisconsin's June recall election: 0

Number of news segments about Justin Bieber during that time: 53 

Californians Started the Tax Revolt 34 Years Ago. Will They End it Today?

| Tue Nov. 6, 2012 4:45 AM EST
California Gov. Jerry Brown, now and then

The great American tax revolt got its start in June 1978, when California voters passed Proposition 13, a ballot initiative that cut and capped property taxes and required a two-thirds vote to pass any future tax increases. Jerry Brown was governor back then, and initially he opposed Prop. 13. Once it passed, though, he became such a fervent apostle that four months later Howard Jarvis, the father of Prop. 13, was cutting campaign commercials for Brown's reelection bid. Today, at age 74, Brown is no longer the Gov. Moonbeam that Garry Trudeau famously dubbed him back in the '70s, but he is governor again. And guess what? In a Groundhog Day kind of way, Proposition 13 is back on the ballot again too.

Naturally, there's a backstory here. The Golden State has had a rocky past decade, starting with over-optimistic spending during the dotcom boom; red ink as far as the eye could see during the dotcom bust; and finally, in 2003, a special election that propelled movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger into the governor's mansion. Schwarzenegger won largely because of a second, mini-tax revolt, this time over an increase in the vehicle license fee, which he promised to roll back. He kept his promise, immediately plunging California back into deficit, and then passed a revenue bond that papered things over for a couple of years but, in the long run, just made California's problems worse.

Still, for a couple of years toward the end of Schwarzenegger's second term, the state budget started looking a little better. But it was just a mirage. California's structural deficits had never really been addressed, and when the Great Recession hit in 2008 things went pear shaped fast. And while Republicans may be a fading force in California, they maintain just enough members in the Legislature to prevent any tax increases—thanks to Prop. 13's two-thirds requirement—something which has left Sacramento with no choice but to slash the budget brutally. In current dollars, California spent $3,100 per resident out of its general fund in 2007. Today that's down to $2,400. (Raw numbers here.)

Because of this, schools have suffered, universities have suffered, and, of course, the poor have suffered. Further cuts this year would cause even more devastation, so Brown is resorting, once again, to California's initiative process to fix things. Ironically, though, this time he's campaigning hard for Proposition 30, a measure that would temporarily increase income taxes on the rich and sales taxes on everyone. The money would mostly be earmarked for K-12 schools and community colleges. If it doesn't pass, automatic triggers in the 2013 budget will take effect, slashing $6 billion in planned spending.

So here's the question: Will California voters, who so famously started the tax revolt 34 years ago, agree to Brown's plan to bypass the two-thirds requirement they themselves put in place and raise their own taxes? If Prop. 30 passes, it would symbolically mark an end to the tax revolt, and for this reason it's attracted more than just the usual opposition from within California. It's also attracted huge amounts of opposition funding from outside the state. Huge and mysterious: An Arizona outfit called Americans for Responsible Leadership has committed $11 million to the fight against Prop. 30 (as well as the fight for Prop. 32, a union-busting measure), but has steadfastly refused to disclose where the money came from. Under a court order, they finally revealed the source of the money on Monday, but they still had the last laugh: The source they revealed was just another mysterious organization, and it's too late to force that organization to reveal the real source of the money. Andy Kroll has the whole story here.

So will Prop. 30 pass? It's on a knife edge. The most recent Field Poll, the gold standard in California polling, shows that all that outside money has had an effect. Support has dropped substantially over the past month, and now stands at 48 percent to 38 percent. A separate poll from PPP put Prop. 30's support at 48 percent to 44 percent. That may seem like a comfortable lead, but conventional wisdom says that once an initiative drops below 50 percent, it's in trouble. The undecided voters almost always end up voting No in large numbers.

So that's where we stand. Today, at the behest of the same governor who came to personify the start of the tax revolt in America, Californians will decide whether they've had enough. After watching school funding and basic service funding atrophy for over a decade, is it finally time to call off the tax revolt? In a few hours, we'll find out.

Romney Closes Dirty

| Tue Nov. 6, 2012 3:52 AM EST

Mitt Romney had a choice this election: He could surf the bubbling froth of right-wing rage against the president all the way to the White House, or he could discard the racialized narrative of the Obama presidency put forth by the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich.

Throughout the campaign, much of his party was pushing him in one direction: Some Republicans still believed the president was not born in the United States; conservative media figures presented everything from Obama's economic policy to the Affordable Care Act as seeking racial vengeance, accused him of lying about his religion, and argued that he secretly sympathizes with America's enemies. As National Journal's Ron Brownstein dubbed it, the 2012 election is a battle between the gray and the brown, the GOP's aging white base versus the Democrats' increasingly diverse coalition. Relying almost exclusively on the white vote, however, is a strategy with an expiration date. It's a move that cuts against the demographic tide. As one Republican adviser put it to Brownstein, "This is the last time anyone will try to do this."

In a weak but growing economy, mobilizing the base would not be sufficient for Romney to eke out a win; he couldn't alienate voters with fond feelings towards the president who nonetheless might be open to voting Republican this year. And this is not 1970s, when Ronald Reagan could get away with invoking "strapping young bucks" buying "T-bone steaks" with food stamps. If Romney wanted to harness that rage at all, he had to take a more subtle approach for most of the campaign, never fully embracing the racialized narrative pushed by Limbaugh, Beck, and others.

Unlike Gingrich, Romney never called Obama the "food stamp president" or insisted that Obama could only be understood as an adherent to "Kenyan anti-colonialism," which is just a fancy way of calling the president a scary black foreigner. But Romney did embrace reality TV star Donald Trump, who fixated on conspiracy theories about Obama's birth certificate and promoted the notion that the president, who graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law, is a simpleton who coasted through the Ivy League thanks to affirmative action. Instead of the "Kenyan anti-colonialism" shtick, Romney asserted that America was somehow beyond Obama's understanding. He falsely charged that the president was "gutting" Bill Clinton's welfare reforms, updating Reagan's old racial code. One of his chief surrogates, former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu, alternately called the president "lazy," "not that bright," and asserted that Obama needed to "learn how to be an American." Sununu then accused former Republican Secretary of State Colin Powell of endorsing Obama just because they're both black. When four Americans were killed in an attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, Romney accused Obama of sympathizing with their killers, a rationale that could have come straight from conservative writer Dinesh D'Souza, who argues the president sees "Muslim jihadists" as "freedom fighters." 

It's true that Romney eschewed the more explicit racialized attacks offered by some of his allies. His campaign sprinted away from a third-party group's attempt to revive the Jeremiah Wright controversy, and it elected not to amplify a similar attempt by Tucker Carlson and Matt Drudge to mischaracterize (for the second time) a widely reported Obama speech from 2007 as an endorsement of racial violence. He never said the word "Obamaphone."

A different Republican candidate might have tried to persuade the relevant sections of the right to shake off its vision of the Obama presidency as a bleak racial dystopia—in Limbaugh's words, a place where "the white kids now get beat up with the black kids cheering." Sen. John McCain made an attempt to do so four years ago. In 2008, the temperature at some McCain-Palin rallies reached a boiling point, alarming veterans of the civil rights movement like Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga). McCain memorably corrected a supporter who called Obama an "Arab," with the shamefully attendant insinuations. There have been no such scenes from Romney's 2012 campaign. When a questioner at a rally accused Obama of treason, Romney simply answered the question.

In the waning days of the campaign, Romney chose to come closer to owning fully the far right's race-influenced effort to deligitimize Obama as not a true American or legitimate leader, deliberately exploiting Republican obsessions with the president's background. Romney revived his bogus charge of Obama gutting welfare work requirements in ads airing in Ohio. The ad also paraphrased Gingrich's attack on Obama as the "food stamp" president. His campaign made robocalls starring Trump. Romney's vice presidential candidate, Paul Ryan, told evangelical supporers the president was a threat to "Judeo-Christian" and "Western" values. After Obama tried to silence a group of booing college students by telling them "voting is the best revenge," Romney began telling his supporters that Obama was advocating "revenge"—a line many conservatives understand as having the Limbaughian racial subtext—and that they should vote for "love of country." Limbaugh certainly picked up on it. "One month into his presidency," Limbaugh said Monday, "I told you it was about revenge."

Obama can dish it out too of course. But the forces Romney has at times invoked shape not only perceptions of the man he is seeking to defeat Tuesday, but those who share his background. Conversely, while some on the left have shamefully tried to raise Romney's Mormonism as an issue, the Obama campaign has never, even subtly, attempted to do so.

If Romney wins the presidency, he will have done so embracing watered-down manifestations of an explicitly racial anti-Obama narrative popular in corners of the right: that the president is not merely wrong but practically foreign, a traitorous neophyte whose rise to the highest office in the land will be soon rectified. If Obama loses, the narrative of Obama as the affirmative-action president will prevail widely among Republicans, even as they use his first term as proof that America has transcended its ugly racial past. It's not a narrative Romney wrote himself, but it's one he refused to reject. 

Given the privileged perspective history assigns to victors, how Romney wins matters. If he loses, well, let's hope that Republican consultant was right that this is the last time anyone tries to win an election this way.  

8 Candidates We Can't Believe Are Actually Going to Win

| Tue Nov. 6, 2012 3:35 AM EST

Certain things are generally to be considered to be deal-breakers in electoral politics—reading a letter in defense of a radical who murdered two FBI agents, for instance, or sleeping with your patients and then asking them to get an abortion. Or going AWOL for almost one-third of an entire congressional term. Except for these guys:

Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.)

Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) Michael Grimm/FlickrMichael Grimm/FlickrStaten Island could really use an effective congressman right now. Instead, New York's 13th congressional district is poised to reelect Grimm, an embattled freshman whose 2010 campaign is now the subject of an FBI investigation into whether Grimm knowingly allowed a fundraiser and an Israeli rabbi to solicit illegal cash donations from foreign nationals. That's not the only stain on his short record: In 2011, Grimm went on a privately funded trip to Cyprus, which he neglected to report in his congressional disclosures until 2012, when his host was arrested on corruption charges. And per the New York Times, Grimm's business partner, Bennett Orfaly, with whom he started a restaurant, allegedly "has ties to a member of the Gambino organized crime family, Anthony (Fat Tony) Morelli, who is serving a 20-year prison sentence for racketeering and extortion in an elaborate tax fraud." 

As you'd expect from a congressman who is just two degrees of separation from someone named "Fat Tony," Grimm's campaign has, at times, been somewhat nasty. Grimm attacked his opponent, Democrat Mark Murphy, for "liv[ing] in his father's basement" (true), and for being a failed actor. See below:

And again:

Grimm's ethics woes were enough to get him booted from his role as a Romney surrogate, but he's held steady in the polls in New York City's most conservative district.

 

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.)

Jason Moore/ZumaPress.comJason Moore/ZumaPress.com That a well-connected Democrat in a safe-blue South Side district would cruise to reelection virtually unopposed isn't especially surprising. But Jackson has been AWOL from Congress for much of the last year. He went missing for a month last summer and hasn't held a constituent event or a campaign rally since winning the Democratic primary in March—an absence friends and advisers attribute to a severe case of depression. (In October, he announced he was returning to the Mayo Clinic for a second bout of rehab.) He's under FBI investigation for possibly using campaign funds to renovate his Chicago home, and by the House Ethics Committee for possibly attempting to purchase Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat in 2008. He voted by absentee ballot and isn't holding a rally on election night. But after beating back a Campaign for Primary Accountability-backed challenge in the primary, Jackson doesn't have much incentive to show up: He's all but clinched a victory.

 

Rep. John Barrow (D-Ga.)

John Barrow/FlickrJohn Barrow/FlickrThis was supposed to be the year white Democrats from the Deep South officially went extinct. After redistricting, Barrow, a 57-year-old Georgia Blue Dog, found himself in a district that gave 56 percent of the vote to John McCain in 2008—despite record African American turnout that year. But Barrow outspent his Republican challenger, state Rep. Lee Anderson, by a more than 2-1 margin, and managed to put together a patchwork coalition of black voters and white gun-owners (he's a rare Democrat with NRA backing). Ads like this one probably didn't hurt:

 

Kerry Bentivolio (R-Mich.)

Kerry Bentivolio/FacebookKerry Bentivolio/FacebookWhen Rep. Thaddeus McCotter resigned abruptly last summer after he failed to make it on the ballot (because his campaign apparently forged most of the signatures), it created an opening. Unfortunately for Michigan Republicans, the only GOPer who appeared on to the primary ballot was Bentivolio, a former high school teacher (more on that in a second), reindeer farmer, Santa impersonator, and co-star of a low-budget 9/11 truther film. He raised virtually no money, but got a boost from $500,000 in spending from a Texas-based super-PAC, and easily beat the establishment-backed write-in candidate. In August, the Detroit Free-Press reported that Bentivolio had been reprimanded at his Michigan high school for, among other things, telling students that they were "just a paycheck to me" and pledging to make them cry. In October, Bentivolio's brother told the Michigan Information and Research Service, "I believe that if he gets elected, he'll eventually serve time in prison." With national Democrats making little effort to back Bentivolio's challenger, Syed Taj, Bentivolio will likely get the chance.

 

Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.)

Raul Ruiz/FacebookRaul Ruiz/FacebookGOP Rep. Mary Bono Mack is the incumbent. Her southeastern California district has an R+3 partisan voting index. And Ruiz, her Democratic opponent, is basically the Matt Drudge version of Barack Obama. Per the Palm Desert Desert Sun: "Officials with Rep. Mary Bono Mack's campaign, at a press conference Thursday, released an audiotape in which her Democratic opponent, Raul Ruiz, can be heard reading a letter of support for Leonard Peltier, a Native American convicted in 1977 of murdering two FBI agents on an Indian reservation in South Dakota…Ruiz can be heard reading a letter to Peltier written by 'Subcomandante Marcos,' a Marxist leader of the Zapatista liberation movement for indigenous people centered in the rural Mexican state of Chiapas." But through it all, polls show Ruiz to be a slim favorite to pull off the victory on election day.

 

Rep. Scott Desjarlais (R-Tenn.)

Scott Desjarlais/FlickrScott Desjarlais/FlickrWho among us hasn't had extramarital affairs with multiple female patients at our medical practice and then pushed one of them to get an abortion before later advancing policies that would curtail women's reproductive rights? Oh, hmm, seeing a lot of hands raised. This is awkward. Despite being guilty of that exact scenario, Desjarlais is still the favorite to hold onto his Middle Tennessee seat. A poll commissioned after the ethical lapses/insane hypocrisy was exposed put the freshman up by 4 points.

 

Paul Broun (R-Ga.)

Jackie Ricciardi/Augusta Chronicle/ZumaPress.comJackie Ricciardi/Augusta Chronicle/ZumaPress.comThis man is running unopposed:

 

Roy Moore (R-Ala.)

Roy Moore/FacebookRoy Moore/FacebookYou may know Moore as the man who, after being removed from his post as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court for refusing to take down a granite monument of the Ten Commandments, proceeded to travel around the country in a flat-bed pickup truck with the slab in the back. Now, after two failed runs for governor—and a very brief flirtation with running for president—he wants his job back. Moore hasn't mellowed much with age—he said as recently as October that same-sex marriage could bring about the end of the United States—but has benefited from the near-total collapse of the Alabama Democratic party. His original general election opponent, Harry Lyon, had called for illegal immigrants to be hanged and, per ThinkProgress, was "once shot in the neck after a neighbor caught him pouring Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup on the neighbor's car." (He was replaced by the party in August.) Per the Montgomery Advertiser, Moore leads in the polls going into Election Day. Also: Chuck Norris endorsed him.

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Final Election Forecasting Update - 5 November 2012

| Tue Nov. 6, 2012 12:41 AM EST

Here it is: my final update on the status of the most popular presidential forecasting models. On the top are Nate Silver and Andrew Tanenbaum; on the bottom are Sam Wang and Josh Putnam. Three of the four have moved a bit in Obama's direction since yesterday, and all four models continue to predict a convincing Obama victory. The average forecast is 312 electoral votes for Obama vs. 219 for Romney.

So that's that. On Tuesday, the most consequential election in the history of Western civilization, pitting a radical socialist revolutionary against a misogynist plutocratic reactionary, will finally be over (God willing). On Wednesday, the backbiting and sniping will begin. Then, after a long weekend to cool down, we'll all start prepping for the next most consequential election in the history of Western civilization, the one that will determine the character of these United States for decades to come. I can't wait.

Karl Rove: For Romney to Win "Some Polls Have to Be Wrong"

| Mon Nov. 5, 2012 11:50 PM EST

Even Karl Rove, the political genius of the Republican Party, admits it: For Mitt Romney to win the presidential election on Tuesday, "some polls" have to be wrong. That's because those polls, especially in key swing states, show President Obama headed for victory, albeit a very narrow one.

Rove went on Fox News Monday night to give his final assessment of the Obama-Romney showdown. His prediction was that Romney would scrape together a win with 285 electoral votes, all but sweeping the president in the key swing states of Colorado, Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia, New Hampshire, and Iowa. And while Rove's own analysis of recent presidential polls put the presidential race at a dead heat, he conceded to Fox's Bret Baier that "some polls have to be wrong a little" for Romney to win.

FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver is far less charitable toward Romney: He predicts Romney will claim a miserly 224 electoral voters, and stands only an 8.6 percent chance of winning the election. The right-leaning RealClearPolitics says the race is a statistical tie at 48 percent for both candidates.

Here's the video of Rove (the segment starts at the 3:30 mark) followed by a transcript of the moment in question:

Baier: Bottom line: For Romney to win Tuesday, these polls have to be wrong.

Rove: Some polls have to be wrong a little, because the race is that close. Remember, take a look at the national polls. Just simply in the last week, 23 polls, you average them all together, 48.3 [percent] for Romney, 48.1 for Obama. That's as of 10 o'clock this morning. So it is dead even, knife's edge, long night, exciting outcome.

The way all the polls look, Rove's likely to be right about one thing: It's going to be a long night on Tuesday.

Note to the Columbus Dispatch: 84 Percent Is Not a Toss-Up

| Mon Nov. 5, 2012 7:30 PM EST

The Columbus Dispatch's final pre-election poll has Obama leading Romney 50 percent to 48 percent. Their headline calls this a "toss-up," and Robert Wright is unhappy about that:

Presumably the reason the headline writer felt justified in calling the race a toss-up was this paragraph in the story: "The final Dispatch poll shows Obama leading 50 percent to 48 percent in the Buckeye State. However, that 2-point edge is within the survey's margin of sampling error, plus or minus 2.2 percentage points."

That wording suggests that Obama's two-point edge has no meaning. And that's a common way for journalists to interpret results that fall within the "margin of error." For example, in September a conservative columnist in the New York Post asserted that Obama's lead in state polls didn't matter because the "polls separating the two candidates are within the margin of error — meaning that there is no statistical difference in support between Obama and Romney."

Wright is right. The MOE for a single poll represents a 95 percent confidence interval for each individual's percentage, but it doesn't represent a 95 percent confidence for the difference between the two. In fact, a 2 percent difference in a poll with a 2.2 percent MOE suggests that there's about an 84 percent chance that the guy in the lead really and truly is in the lead.

And guess what? Based on averaging lots of polls, and thus reducing the MOE, Nate Silver figures that Obama's chances of winning tomorrow are 86 percent—largely because he thinks those are Obama's chances of winning Ohio. So it turns out that everyone is saying the same thing, but the Columbus Dispatch just doesn't know it. Obama seems to have about an 84 to 86 percent chance of winning Ohio, and therefore an 84-86 percent chance of winning the election.

Even Polls Are Part of the Culture War Now

| Mon Nov. 5, 2012 6:20 PM EST

Numbers don't lie, the old saying goes: people lie.

Conservative blogger Dean Chambers has taken this lesson and "unskewed" it, whitewashing the data gathered across multiple national polls and casting the numbers in a light favorable to Republicans. He does this by re-weighting the polls in favor of Republicans—a happy little magic trick that they don't teach you in those liberal institutions of higher learning.

To Chambers, accurately predicting the outcome of the 2012 election is far less important than attempting to influence that outcome with propaganda.