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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Nearing the End (of Primary Spin?)

One of the disappointing aspects of this extended primary season has been the volume and idiocy of a lot of the spin. Some came from people who I expect more from, and some, well, was exactly what I would have expected. I'm still trying to follow my policy of non-agitation, because Obama really will be the nominee, and it's just not productive to inflame emotions over the primary at this point. However, as this primary draws to it's likely conclusion shortly after the last three primaries vote early next week, I would like to highlight some spin that I find, well, unconvincing.

So in no particular order, here are some frustratingly asinine arguments that I hear thrown about quite a bit.

1) Creative Metrics, ie. Fun With Numbers!

This particular line of attack popped up on my radar in early February, as some (prominent) Clinton supporters began parsing exit polls, census data, and primary/caucus results to "prove" that Clinton was the choice of the people, while Obama was stealing the nomination by exploiting "the rules." This line of argument was typified by this piece from (not written by her, but apparently approved by her), by Paul Lukasiak.

It includes many variants of which states "count," which states "need to be won," and which voters or voting methods are more equal than others. This includes the "if we were playing by different rules, I'd be winning!" ploy that makes for such delicious satire.

More recently, the impossible-to-underestimate Jerome Armstrong relayed the following chart on MyDD.

See what he did? Even if we stipulate that his numbers are accurate (and there is reason to suspect otherwise), the graph is scaled from 10200 to 12000. The difference of 1000 between Clinton and Obama appears to be greater than Obama's total, when in fact the difference between them is less than 1/10th of the total of either.

2) Specieous Electibilty Arguments

You may have heard (seen?) me say (write?) before, but I firmly believe that either Obama or Clinton can win the general election this year. This wasn't always so, through much of 2007 I feared that Clinton's high negatives and baggage were a dangerous wildcard, but she has proven her ability as a candidate and debater, and she allayed my fears. In this political climate we Democrats should be able to elect a dead horse. Certainly we can elect the most talented and charismatic politician in a generation. Between Obama's solid progressive yet pragmatic policy proposals, and his ability to communicate to Americans, the Democrats are in the driver's seat. The only thing that would threaten either candidate is intra-party tensions.

One of the most frustrating electibility arguments is the primary winner/loser argument. I'll type this slowly for some of you out there: primary results are not indicative of general elcetion results. Primary results indicate nothing of second choice preference, or crossover appeal. Please think before you argue that Obama will have a hard time winning MA or NY.

3) The Buyer's Remorse Gambit

This little gem has been floating around since Texas/Ohio, and has popped up a lot since West Virginia and Kentucky. In this case someone, either a paid shill or a devoted supporter argues that Obama's defeat in some state indicates that even though lots of Democrats voted for him in January/February, now that he is the frontrunner people have taken a closer look and said "No thanks." Like so many other head-slappingly stupid arguments, this one is built from a premise of dishonesty and innumeracy. Take this definitive example of the genre, from the same CorrenteWire joker from before.

By comparing the results from after March 4th with those before March 4th, Mr. Lukasiak attempts to demonstrate that Obama's support by demographic is slipping, except amongst African-Americans. The obvious fallacy, however, is that the presence of WV and KY skewed those catagories. Obama isn't having problems with "white voters" in general, just in Appalachia. The map below has colored purple all the counties that Clinton won with 65% of the vote or more. Notice that this is from before WV and KY voted.

Notice anything? Thought so. I won't beat this dead horse any more, other than pointing out that you shouldn't take seriously an argument about statistics from someone who "weighs" data, rather than "weights" it. (No joke, "weighed" or "unweighed" appears exactly 27 times in the analysis. Not a typo!)

Finally, this is not a definitive list. Off the top of my head I would also include almost anything that Lanny Davis or Terry Mcauliffe says, particularly on election nights. In the interest of fairness, I will also say ignore anyone who suggests that Clinton would like to have Obama assassinated, or engages in all too common sexist tropes to denigrate her.

Click "There's more..." for the offending arguments!