Mojo - November 2012

CHART: In 2012, $8 out of $10 Dark-Money Dollars Supported Republican Candidates

| Fri Nov. 2, 2012 8:58 AM PDT

If on November 6 Mitt Romney wins the White House and Republicans retake the Senate, they'd be remiss not to thank dark money in their victory speeches.

That's because $8 out of every $10 in dark money—campaign cash whose source is hidden from the public—spent so far in the 2012 elections went to electing Republicans and defeating Democrats. Through November 1, dark-money groups, including politically active nonprofits, trade groups, and labor unions, spent $213 million on elections, and 81 percent of that money backed GOPers, according to a new analysis by the Sunlight Foundation. US Senate races attracted the most dark money, at $86.4 million; the Senate fights seeing the most dark-money seep in are Virginia ($19 million), Ohio ($13 million), Nevada ($12 million), Wisconsin ($10 million), and Montana ($7.5 million), Sunlight found.

All told, the amount of dark money spent by November 1 accounted for 22 percent of all outside cash in the 2012 elections. Here's a breakdown of dark money spending so far:

Dark-money groups have, to no one's surprise, ramped up their spending in the final weeks before Election Day. But the uptick in dark money is especially true for pro-GOP groups as they dump money into the presidential race and House and Senate campaigns:

And below is a breakdown of the biggest dark-money players in American politics. Shocker: Eight of the top 10 biggest spenders back Republicans. Not only that, but those top five players—Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS, the US Chamber of Commerce, Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, Americans for Job Security, and American Future Fund—account for 64 percent of all dark-money spending.

Sunlight Foundation's entire analysis is worth the read. But as Sunlight's Lee Drutman notes, his report doesn't fully capture the extent of secret spending in US elections. Dark-money groups not only mask their donors; they fail to even disclose all their spending. "Ultimately," Drutman writes, "we will probably never know where this dark money comes from, nor the true spending numbers."

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We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for November 2, 2012

Fri Nov. 2, 2012 7:11 AM PDT

Pfc. Charles Fox, a forward observer, with another soldier from Chopping Company, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, provide overwatch during a dismounted patrol in Gorbuz District near Combat Out Post Bowri Tana, Afghanistan, Oct. 12, 2012. U.S. Army photo By: Capt. Erik Alfsen.

2 Swing States That Swing on Felon Disenfranchisement

| Fri Nov. 2, 2012 3:08 AM PDT

A new infographic from the Prison Policy Initiative (cropped version below) does a nice job of illustrating the massive vote-suppression tactic we wrote about previously—one that could hand two crucial states to Mitt Romney. While most states forbid people to vote while in prison, and many extend that ban to people on parole, only a handful make it next to impossible to regain your right to vote if you've ever been convicted of a felony. Do the crime, and you'll never vote again.

Among that handful of states are two where Obama and Romney have been running neck and neck—Florida and Virginia. (Nate Silver's model shows Romney leading in Florida and Obama ahead in Virginia.) According to PPI's data, a full 9 percent of Florida's voting-age population is disenfranchised because they have at one time been incarcerated. In Virginia, the figure is 6 percent.

Given that a disproportionate number of disenfranchised ex-felons are people of color, and that Obama polls far ahead of Mitt Romney in the black and Latino communities, the assumption is that a majority of the missing votes would favor Obama—possibly enough to win him these states even if only a fraction of ex-felons voted. The results of this election may therefore hinge on the denial of a basic right to men and women who have long since paid their debt to society, but remain permanently excluded from the democratic process.

Click on image to see the full poster. Prison Policy InitiativeClick on image to see the full poster. Prison Policy Initiative





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Romney Weighs in on FEMA, Finally, Sort Of

| Thu Nov. 1, 2012 11:08 AM PDT

In the aftermath of superstorm Sandy, Mitt Romney has spent much of the last few days dodging questions about his 2011 comment that he'd like to see some of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's services privatized. "Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that's the right direction," Romney said at the time. "And if you can go even further, and send it back to the private sector, that's even better."

On Thursday, the GOP presidential nominee broke his silence, releasing this statement to the press:

I believe that FEMA plays a key role in working with states and localities to prepare for and respond to natural disasters. As president, I will ensure FEMA has the funding it needs to fulfill its mission, while directing maximum resources to the first responders who work tirelessly to help those in need, because states and localities are in the best position to get aid to the individuals and communities affected by natural disasters.

That's all well and good, but it doesn't really answer the relevant question: What would happen to FEMA in a Romney administration? As MoJo alum  Suzy Khimm notes at the WonkBlog, under Romney's proposed budget, the agency could see its funding fall by about 40 percent. But we don't know for sure, because with the exception of a handful of appropriations like public broadcasting and Planned Parenthood, Romney hasn't specified how his cuts would be made and which programs might be exempted.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for November 1, 2012

Thu Nov. 1, 2012 10:13 AM PDT

Gunnery Sgt. John M. Warrenski attacks the obstacle course during the 2nd annual super squadron competition at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma Oct. 26. Warrenski is an aircraft mechanic with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265, Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force.
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Kasey Peacock.

7 Prognosticators With Good News for Nervous Obama Fans

| Thu Nov. 1, 2012 3:03 AM PDT

Freaking out about the supertight presidential race and the near-daily barrage of polls suggesting that Obama—no, wait, Romney—could, maybe, possibly, eke out a narrow victory? Sick of empty punditry and craving data-driven electoral analysis? Are you unafraid of mysterious nerdy things like math

If you answered yes to any of the above, check out these seven guys who crunch mountains of polling data so you don't have to. They don't have crystal balls, but they might just have the next best thing.

1. Nate Silver

(Referring to this.)  ; to this.) Nate Silver; quickmeme.comThe New York Times' statistics big shot has established himself as the gold standard for electoral prognostication. Romney fans are very upset with him for saying Obama has a strong chance of winning (and for being a sissy-man or something). Nail-biting Obama supporters hit his site for daily (or hourly) doses of reassurance. Both sides tend to ignore that Silver's model doesn't write off possibility of a Romney win.

Track record: Silver has built his reputation on the accuracy of his "Political Calculus": In 2008, his model correctly predicted the electoral outcome in 49 of 50 states, and long before the 2010 midterms, he forecasted a Republican sweep.

Current prediction: Silver's FiveThirtyEight gives the president a 77.4 percent chance of winning, with a estimated total of 299 electoral votes.


2. Sam Wang

Wang runs the Meta-Analysis model for the Princeton Election Consortium. Wang, who made a name for himself in neuroscience and biophysics, took the statistical analyses he'd applied in those fields and transposed them to the mess of electoral politics. He developed the model in 2004 initially to help predict the most strategic way to allocate of campaign donations. The model, based on a slew of state polls, calculates each candidate's probability of winning in the Electoral College if the election were held today.

siteElection.Princeton.eduTrack record: The group behind Meta-Analysis stakes out their election prediction street cred like so: "In 2004, the median decided-voter calculation captured the exact final outcome. In 2008, the final-week decided-voter calculation was within 1 electoral vote."

Current prediction: As of October 30, Wang gives Barack Obama a generous 92 to 98 percent chance of reelection, and an estimated 303 electoral votes.


3. Drew Linzer

Linzer, an assistant professor of political science at Emory University, runs the polling analysis and forecast site It tracks public opinion trends for the two presidential candidates in each state, and also "forecasts ahead to Election Day" using a unified model.

Track record: This is Linzer's model's first real election, but he vouches for its reliability. "I validated the model with state-level pre-election polls from the 2008 presidential campaign, using the benefit of hindsight to evaluate model performance," he writes. "In a simulated run-through of the campaign from May to November, the model was able to steadily improve the accuracy of its forecasts, ultimately mispredicting the winner of only a single state. By Election Day, the average difference between the model forecasts and the actual state election outcomes was just 1.4%, with more than half of states projected to within 1%."

Current prediction: As of October 30, Votamatic is predicting an Obama victory, with 332 electoral votes.


4. Andrew S. Tanenbaum

Electoral-Vote.comElectoral-Vote.comSince 2004, this noted computer scientist and professor at Amsterdam's Vrije Universiteit has run, which analyzes US federal elections. Also, the site has the option of watching the election with "Rasmussen-free maps."

Track record: Click here for a self-evaluation and breakdown of the website's commendable track record since the 2004 election. Initially anonymous, Tanenbaum revealed his identity after rampant speculation that he was, among other things, "a Clinton administration official, [or] a bored retired statistician." Tanenbaum describes himself as "a libertarian [who leans] towards the Democrats."

Current prediction: With a week to go, Tanenbaum's analysis has Obama up with at least 280 electoral votes.


5. Josh Putnam

FHQFHQPutnam, a visiting assistant professor of poli sci at Davidson College in North Carolina, runs the Frontloading HQ blog on state polls.

Track record: Putnam was an ace at delegate math during this year's particularly messy Republican primaries. (He teamed up with The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza to count delegates).

Current prediction: Putnam's model has Obama leading with 332 electoral votes.


6. Scott Elliott

Elliott (who goes by the nickname "The Blogging Caesar") runs the Republican-leaning, a site featuring his electoral vote formula and his own edition of "unskewing" the polls. He is a conservative political junkie who views "Jesus [as] my life and my purpose."

Track record: His track record and methods have been pretty solid—even winning him an endorsement across the aisle from Prof. Tanenbaum at For instance, in 2008, his formula projected an easy Obama win, but was off by two states (Indiana and North Carolina). In 2004, his model predicted Bush netting 289 electoral votes (he ended up with 286). 

Current prediction: His math shows a substantial lead for Obama, clocking in at 290 electoral votes, but with 48.9 percent of the popular vote versus Romney's 49.6 percent.


7. Thomas Holbrook

Holbrook, a professor of government at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, runs the Politics by the Numbers forecast.

Track record: He took his models out for their first spin during the 2008 election, estimating a big Obama win with 349 electoral votes, to McCain's 189 (Obama snagged 365, McCain 173).

Current prediction: Holbrook gives the president an 86.69 percent chance of winning reelection, with 281 electoral votes to Romney's 257.