Thursday, March 27, 2008

CNN and FOX's distorting lenses

Maluhia noticed something funny while she was flipping through the channels yesterday.

CNN and FOX were simultaneously broadcasting John McCain's foreign affairs speech, in full, sans commentary.  Except for the overlay text, they looked like pretty much identical broadcasts.  But, there was a certain dissimilarity in the video feed.  See if you can spot the difference (sorry, it's hard to take pictures of a television):

CNN's broadcast is much, much sharper.  You can clearly see the details of McCain's face and combover.  It's not flattering-- He looks, well, worse.  FOX's broadcast is zoomed out, and slightly blurry.  The audio feed was also much different-- CNN sounded very tinny and shrill compared to FOX which sounded warm and resonant.

Granted, considering the other (more flagrant) examples of bias between these two networks, this isn't anything too groundbreaking.  It does remind us, though, to be aware of the many subtle ways televised news can attempt to effect certain judgements without even saying a word.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

I don't like you anymore Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton on the state of the primaries:

"It'd be a great thing if we had an election where you had two people who love this country, who were devoted to the interest of the country and people could actually ask themselves who is right on these issues instead of all this other stuff which always seems to intrude on our politics."

I assume that the other person isn't Hillary.

Bill!  Remember when the whole country was happily united in grunge music, X-Files, and free Internet cash?  I loved the 90's, dude, and you were probably its most important hoarse-voiced, bulbous-nosed dignitary.  We used to be homies-- why are you borrowing from the republican playbook?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Clinton's Swing States

A recent Clinton memo to her supports claims the following:

"The path to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue goes through Pennsylvania so if Barack Obama can't win there, how will he win the general election?"

Generally speaking, Clinton's approach to the Primaries is to campaign aggressively in the large swing states. Her logic implies that a strong showing in these states means a strong showing in the general election. While the argument seems sound, the general election is a very different election with very different voters.

Is this a good strategy? On a state-by-state basis, should the same candidate be able to woo democrats in the same proportion as the general electorate?

I've tabulated data from the 2004 and 2000 Democratic Party Primaries in order to better answer this question. I would have liked to include other contests, but it's (shockingly) difficult to find primary data from 1996 and before.

Blue indicates a win, red indicates a loss. Data comes from

2004: John Kerry effectively clinched the nomination on Super Tuesday after runner-up John Edwards dropped out of the race, so I will only examine the pre-Super Tuesday swing states.

The numbers show that there is no distinct correlation between Kerry's performance in the primaries and in the general election. Though he virtually swept the swing states when campaigning against Edwards and Dean, he only won 8 out of 13 versus George Bush.

2000: Like 2004, this was also decided after Super Tuesday. Bill Bradley withdrew from the race after a resounding defeat by Al Gore. However, there were fewer swing states available during this election, so the sample size is much smaller:

Al Gore's commanding primary victory in Ohio (a state that Hillary has made the cornerstone of her campaign) resulted in a clear defeat during the general election. The only "battleground" state he won in both contests was Iowa, by only the slimmest of margins.

So what does this mean for Hillary?

The data shows that the elections are not simply decided by the state, but by the race at hand. Claiming to be able to win certain states simply by the primary results is a serious error, as common sense would indicate.

One last thing: Hillary's campaign promises a strong showing in swing states. But the current list of swing states doesn't seem to agree:

Not only is Hillary's logic flawed, she's not even winning the swing states! Of course, her campaign realizes this, and has declared that the states she lost are the "latte-sipping" boutique states. Regardless, even latte-sippers have delegates, and those delegates count at the national convention.

There's obviously a lot more that could be done with the election data, but I'm no statistician.

I'm only working with popular vote numbers-- Which, as we learned in 2000, is not always a clear indicator of who wins the contest.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Night Skiing

I went up for some leap-night skiing on Friday.  What started out as a beautiful day (I could clearly see Mt. Hood from my window at 2:00pm) turned into a huge snowstorm with 30mph winds.  It was interesting, especially without goggles. 

Pictures are up at Flickr.