Tag Archives: florida

Super Tuesday II: everything’s coming up Trump

As promised, here’s the most important map in the US right now:

2016-03-16_1020(Counties sorted by winner: Trump in dark blue, Cruz in yellow, and Kasich in bright green. Candidates who have withdrawn or suspended their campaigns with a win include Carson in pale green and Rubio in red. Ties are in dark gray, counties that will hold contests later in the year are in light gray, and territories that elect strictly unbound delegates are in black.)

In a nutshell, it’s good news for Trump. Here’s a quick overview of what we can all learn from last night beyond that.

Region matters, but it’s only part of the story

A lot of commentary has focused on regional distinctions, in which Cruz is painted as successful in the West while Trump dominates the East and especially the South. That misses some nuances about where and how either of them dominate in various regions.

In the South, urban centers largely light up in contrast to the cold sea of largely rural, blue-coded, Trump-won counties. A large percentage of that were counties carried by Rubio, but Cruz’s showing in North Carolina maps surprisingly well to the more densely populated parts of the state too. Those voters in particularly may very well have been anyone-but-Trump votes, cast by somewhat more moderate and typically urban Southern Republicans. If North Carolina had voted earlier (like South Carolina), they may have gone with Rubio or a more moderate choice than Cruz, but this late in the process they were voting extremely strategically.

Missouri, hotly contested as a southern state, seems to have had a similar dynamic play out last night. Cruz won Jefferson City, Kansas City, Springfield, and Cape Girardeau, while Trump dominated the rural areas between each of those cities. Those who insist that Missouri has a distinctly un-southern feel to it might be right, as the second largest city, St. Louis, was narrowly carried by Trump. Bordering Illinois, those counties saw a dynamic more like those seen further north in the country.

Outside of the South, this urban-rural split is not only less dependable but also shockingly reverses, with Trump carrying Las Vegas, Detroit, Boston, and yesterday Chicago. As noted before, that oddity of him tending to win urban and suburban centers in blue states particularly speaks to his unique appeal to conservatives who feel “under siege” or similarly vulnerable. Where comparatively less populated parts of Illinois flip from Trump to Cruz might serve as an indicator of where a more southern cultural identity ends within the state. Trumps electoral success in Chicago – even though it’s with a small part of the total population there – was key in him pulling off that win.

Kasich wins, yet barely

If anyone pulled off a major victory in the Republican primaries last night outside of Trump, it was Kasich. While no one, Florida senator Rubio least of all, failed to step up and oppose Trump more or less steamrolling his way to victory in Florida, Ohio governor Kasich gave a surprisingly strong showing in Ohio. Cruz failed to capitalize on his appeal in certain rural parts of Kentucky bordering Ohio, but Trump’s wins along that border (and up along the boundary with Pennsylvania) were overshadowed by Kasich’s decisive if lean wins in virtually every other rural, suburban, or urban part of the state.

His win really was a bare minimum, however. Kasich, armed with electability, experience, and likability, only managed to win a plurality of Republican primary voters. To make matters worse he also had some pretty substantial conservative bona fides and benefited from a semi-organized campaign among Ohio democrats to crossover and vote for him. Even with all that, Trump trailed behind him only 9.1 percent – a meaningful loss, but not very much of one when Ted Cruz won 13.1 percent in the race in Ohio. The viability of Kasich outside of Ohio is dubious at best, and these fairly anemic returns under best case conditions may have a secured a key victory there but they mostly serve as a reminder of how limited his appeal has been.

The missing caucuses

Most coverage has sadly overlooked this, but the Northern Mariana Islands held their caucuses yesterday as well. Trump won decisively, with Cruz in a distant second. This is a bit of an upset of historical norms, actually, as they had previously cast their support even more overwhelmingly to Mitt Romney in 2012. In both cases, however, the territory saw wildly unrepresentative caucuses with fewer than scarcely a thousand participants representing its more than fifty thousand residents.

What next?

Within the immediate race, eyes will soon turn to Arizona, Utah, and American Samoa, which will all hold primary contests next Tuesday. That’s another 107 delegates – 58 of which will be awarded as a set by Arizonan primary voters. If Trump wins that primary, he would be more than halfway to a clear majority of delegates, suggesting that the Republican convention this summer will either be his to enjoy or a protracted mess of last minute deals to deny him the nomination.

Considering those exact possibilities, more than few Republicans are probably busily taking notes on this Bloomberg article which explores exactly how a brokered convention might be engineered. The key issue, particularly if Trump manages to win Arizona or similarly gain control over the majority of delegates is whether he can keep them completely loyal at a potentially rowdy convention. It’s unclear if this was tabulated with the aim to help Trump retain his delegates, Cruz target them for conversion, or for other reasons, but one list of who will appear at the convention as an unbound delegate (meaning, they can change their votes) has already popped up.

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Building Better Districts

Things are beginning to heat up not just in the Presidential primaries, but in more local elections around the US as well. While the writing has long been on the wall for some of the most effectively gerrymandered districts of Virginia Republicans, it wasn’t clear who would necessarily be the biggest loser in a similar campaign for better district boundaries in Florida.

It looked like Democrat Corrine Brown might actually be the most threatened sitting representative by the redesign of her district. As a “dump” district designed to absorb Democratic-leaning Black voters making most nearby districts more easily won by Republicans, her individual interest in keeping her familiar district aligned with those of the state’s Republican Party. Worse yet for the Democrats, the idea was floated that Brown’s district might be expanded into a neighboring district held by fellow Democrat Gwen Graham. In short, an effort to redraw Florida’s districts so there wouldn’t be such a marked difference between districts seemed like it might just exacerbate that problem.

The new congressional map has been released and Brown actually appears to have avoided that worst possible outcome. Her prior district contributes nearly forty percent of the population in her new one, but so does the former tenth district. Her personal political charm will be put to the test with a largely new electorate she has to appeal to. Whether it’s Brown herself or one of her primary challengers who becomes the Democratic nominee, the new district won’t have lost much of its Democratic-leaning character. By one estimate it will be at least a D+10 to the former district’s D+16.

There’s some similar shuffling of populations that will happen to other Democrat-held districts further south within the state, but the ultimate results are more or less the same. While this might disrupt individual Democratic office-holder’s local support, it’s unlikely to cost the Democratic Party as a whole any of these seats. In an odd way, the increased jockeying within the Party might create an environment in which better candidates rise to the forefront of the Democratic Party in Florida.

That is not an apt description of how the redistricting is going to affect Republican representative Daniel Webster. His tenth district doesn’t appear to move very far on the map, unlike Brown’s radically reinvented district. Some of the more rural western parts of it are shaved off, however, and the district incorporates parts of Orlando which were previously carved out of it. The subtle changes are in high enough density areas to make a huge difference: not even forty percent of its original population is still in it.

(Left – the former 10th District, Right – the new 10th District. From here.)

This isn’t the kind of situation that Brown finds herself in either, where her losing the district would almost certainly be to another Democrat. Webster’s district is, by most counts, going to be almost as Democratic-leaning as Brown’s new one, and at the cost of most likely zero current Democratic-leaning districts.

While an extremely moderate Republican might be able to shed their skin in classic Floridan political fashion, Webster is fairly fringe. Recently, he was the Freedom Caucus’ alternative to Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) for Speaker of the House. One of the Webster’s premier political accomplishments dates back to his years within the Florida state government, where in 2008 he pioneered a set of anti-abortion restrictions that would ultimately become the widespread requirement of a transvaginal ultrasound. Walking that back to appeal to a roughly D+10 district seems rather unlikely.

This might be the future of representative reorganization in the US: Democratic complacency getting a bit of a shake-up and Republicans falling by the wayside of an electorate that they don’t reflect.

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Some days there are no words

TW: racist criminalization, sexist invalidity

(Kiera Wilmot, a 16 year old Floridan high school student, is being charged with possession and use of weapons on her schools’ premises because of unsupervised experimentation.)

I don’t even know how to even start with this situation. Yes, Kiera Wilmot probably shouldn’t have mixed the chemicals that she did, but there’s honestly a difference between holding her responsible and treating her like a criminal. Having the police investigate to make absolutely certain she wasn’t building a chemical weapon when she’s been nothing but cooperative? That’s pretty much the pinnacle of racist criminalization. Refusing to acknowledge let alone validate Wilmot’s own account of what happened? That’s an unnerving sign of how invalid women’s words are within sexist societies.

Beyond how Wilmot is being penalized, there’s also something to be said about the way her very intellect has been treated during this whole situation. She caused a small explosion (even that word seems like slight hyperbole) and shouldn’t that be enough lesson in and of itself? If the school’s truly concerned that she didn’t absorb the danger in the type of action that she did, then what does that say about their evaluation of her intelligence (which, I have to say, is inseparable from their reception of her mind being within the body of a young Black woman).

There’s a petition being passed around for Florida to drop charges against Wilmot of possessing or discharging a weapon on school grounds. I think we might also need one against her school, asking them to cease treating her curiosity as an innately destructive force. I suggest politely but honestly emailing either her school’s principal (Ronald Pritchard – ronald.pritchard@polk-fl.net) or superintendent (John Stewart – john.stewart@polk-fl.net) as well as signing the petition.

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How many ways are our media failing?

What’s happened to the media? Something, that’s for sure. Yesterday over at Velociriot!, the brilliant Sam gave us all the lowdown on just how idiotic the coverage of the Boston Bombings really was. Sadly, she make a good case that because “the entire country sought information about what had happened” the normal process of confirming information and general values of skepticism disintegrated. Islamophobic attitudes went wild because the normal process of filtering at least a good chunk of them out went out the window – whether we’re talking about print, televised, or online media. It’s the phenomenon that gave us a stampede to call Florida for Bush in 2000 on steroids, and with numerous information networks now competing to instantly inform their audiences, it’s only going to get worse.

Today over there, the equally insightful Amanda pointed to a success story of sorts, where the Associated Press’s twitter account was hacked but was quickly called out as such. As much hope as there is in this reminder that even US media consumers aren’t as docile as we might sometimes think, it’s also a warning. The conditions in which modern media operate in the US aren’t conducive to the best reporting, but there’s also the various risks still posed by those that want to deliberately spread false information (in this case, that the White House had been attacked – following last week’s bombings, the intent to cause panic seems pretty transparent).

Of course, any such conversation about efforts to intentionally misinform the public has to acknowledge that it’s not just criminals. Sometimes these attempts are openly admitted to, and with perfect legality. Look no further than the Koch brothers’ interest in buying up the newspaper market.

(Of course, News Corporation owner Robert Murdoch proves you can have a hand in both of those cookie jars at the same time, from here.)

In this day and age, we can’t afford to not be skeptical of everything. Remember that.

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Just when you thought we’d gotten a break from the Bushes…

As this is the first Monday since “Spring Forward” for me, and will also be for any US-based reader, I’ll keep this post especially short and to the point. Jeb Bush has in a simultaneously hilarious and terrifying fashion, declared that Obama based his reelection campaign on dividing the country – primarily on the basis of class. This was, purportedly, unfair because Republicans understand and sympathize with US voters from all backgrounds.

That’s rich coming from the brother of the Republican President who was installed in office after every Republican justice on the Supreme Court voted to discontinue vote counting and inspections in Florida and simply declare him the winner. Likewise, while in office, that same close relative continually made statements to the rest of government and the population of the US and the world in the vein of- either “you are with us, or you are with the terrorists“.

Those acts had antecedents though, in the form of decades of such rhetoric from prominent Republicans. Remember how they used to talk about how great it would be if the US became a de facto one-party state? Remember the Moral Majority and how it spent the 1970’s and 1980’s advocating for the rolling back of newly gained rights for non-Christians, women, and queer people? Before that was the Southern Strategy, when Republicans prioritized the racial views of White southerners over the opinions and rights of others.

These are more than distant facts though – these are the political forces that have shaped and continue to shape the Republican Party. There’s a reason that in the past presidential election, it was the Republican candidate who took credit for expanding opportunities for women when scores of female activists had actually pushed for it and did all of the work in creating the system that he then used. Isn’t it divisive and belittling how he erased their work from his account of what happened? Besides that, there’s also a two word phrase that Romney popularized during the primary: “self deportation“, which is the concept of making life so miserable for undocumented people that they would leave the United States (how’s that for divisive?).

Perhaps that’s why there were no states that Romney won that Bush hadn’t won in 2000 or 2004. There’s precisely two that he picked up from Obama in 2008. In all, 21 of the 23 states that Romney won had been won by the Republican in every one of those three elections. That is not an indication of a broad, inclusive political brand or presidential campaign.

2012 usa presidential map showing the vast majority of the US being some shade of blue
(In this map which blends the percentage of the vote that was Republican [red] or Democratic [blue] along with population [color saturation], you can clearly see how inclusive the Republican brand is. From here.)

But this runs deeper than Romney – the entire party is culpable. As I pointed out last week, the only way Republicans can capitalized on Obama’s disastrous drone policies is by being concerned that the differentiation between targets who are US citizens in the US and all others isn’t strong enough. In a very literal sense, their grandstanding on the issue is based on worrying that there’s not enough legal division between citizens and non-citizens. Likewise, the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) has barred a group of gay activist Republicans from even sponsoring their event (cooties!) for the second year in a row (and in previous years, they were barred from various forms of participation while allowed to attend).

All signs point towards exclusion and division having become core Republican values.

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Why I don’t talk much about guns

TW: gun violence, racist criminalization, sexism

Obviously the United States has some sort of a problem with the availability of firearms. I don’t really even have to make an argument – I can just list geographic locations, from a movie theater in Aurora, to an elementary school in Sandy Hook, and to a gurdwara in Oak Creek. I don’t have to even reach back to older memories of a high school in Columbine or a certain street corner in Tuscon, because so many incidents of extreme gun violence have happened in the past few months alone. The difficulty we face is frankly undeniable.

That being said, I don’t like debating about guns. No, not because I don’t have opinions on it, but because there’s so little consistency in how even the same policies are or might be applied. We can’t have a substantive national conversation on the issue for a variety of reasons, but that’s the one that frankly sets me off the most. I’ve already talking about how many of us seem to search for some “other people” that can be restricted in new ways to prevent the next tragedy, but beyond that, the laws and principles that we all supposedly live by now are so easily reinterpreted and found to mysteriously apply differently based on a few principles.

In Florida, for example, many people know about how the radical Stand Your Ground laws have essentially forced mass protest to occur to hold one White Latino adult responsible for the death of a young man who was Black. Of course, the same laws were found by the same state police and same state courts to not apply in the context of Marissa Alexander’s self defense against her abusive husband. When the person wielding the gun was a Black woman, rather than a White man, somehow the laws don’t produce the same police and judicial procedures. In Zimmerman’s case, he almost didn’t even stand trial. In Alexander’s case, she’s been sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Marissa Alexander
(Alexander as she was being sentenced. From here.)

This is sometimes more subtly expressed though. As this recent batch of mass shootings was just beginning to heat up, the National Rifle Association (NRA) released in anticipation a list of people and organizations it “opposes” to its members (who, by definition, are owners of weapons that can easily kill). The list contained in some cases the work addresses and phone numbers of some of the people it listed. Can you spot the obvious security risk in an organization suggesting that these people are threats and then providing its members with information on how to reach them?

The discrepancy might not be as obvious, but the NRA has been the primary force in opposing a national database of gun purchases, as a means of monitoring the sale of weapons to catch illegal activities. Its reason for this should be clear to anyone remotely familiar with the NRA – the fear of information on gun owners being used to target them. The information the NRA puts out about other individuals, however, is seemingly of no concern.

In short, some of the people in this discussion are fighting dirty, and the real issue seems to be less about access to weaponry rather than whose access to firearms. This isn’t a conversation about rights, but privileges.

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Are charters the new mortgage market?

In the wake of the 2012 elections in the US, much of the media has been grappling with two major issues that must be understood: how did Obama and the Democrats win and where do the Republicans go from here? There’s a variety of answers to both, but there’s two key explanations that are striking if you pair them side by side.

Among the apparent causes for various progressive victories is that Republicans and conservatives overestimated their chance at winning, and didn’t invest their electoral resources very intelligently as a result. As part of analyzing that, in a recent interview with author Chrystia Freeland in the Washington Post, Ezra Klein chillingly notes:

“These folks, too, are purportedly very data focused, very good at assimilating new information. So I find it genuinely scary that neither Romney nor his super-rich backers had any idea he was going to lose. All the polls, all the models, all the betting markets said he was likely to lose. How did a group of people who, in their jobs, have to be willing to read and respond to disappointing data convince themselves to ignore every piece of data we had?”

Ms Freeland was promoting her new worrisome book.

So there’s the first worrisome problem right off the bat: there is a class of people in US society who are at once highly valued as financial analysts or something similar and yet, many of them do not seem to be able to analyze things, financially or otherwise. This is part of how the markets could so idiotically pour investment into patently toxic mortgages (causing the most recent recession), clearly overvalued homes (causing the housing bubble), and obviously worthless internet stock (causing the one before that). A sizable percentage of the financier class who are supposed to be intelligently running things seem to be doing anything but making the correct calls. That same poor ability to analyze reality or predict consequences reared its head politically on election day, when that group overwhelmingly anticipated a Romney victory, in spite of all evidence otherwise.

Chrystia Freeland eerily replies that it’s worse than that. Large parts of that socio-economic class aren’t merely convinced of their awesomeness at their jobs, but also believe that the perks of their position are more than personal but part of the greater good. She explains-

“They’re convinced that it just so happens that their self-interest coincides perfectly with the collective interest. That’s where you get this idea of the ‘job creators’. The view is that to seek a low tax environment or less regulation, that’s not special pleading for yourself, it’s not transactional politics. It’s that this set of rules is the most conducive to economic growth for everybody. It will grow the pie. Now, it also happens to be an incredibly convenient way of thinking. If you’ve developed an ideology that what’s good for you personally also happens to be good for everyone else, that’s quite wonderful because there’s no moral tension.”

So, if we’re going to keep the tab running here’s the situation we’re in. There’s a group of powerful people. Many of them are making decisions which notably have negative long term repercussions. But it’s alright, supposedly, because they should know what they’re doing. They’re the group of powerful people after all. Likewise, if their short term decisions result in personal gain, that’s only because their personal gain conveniently always coincides with the best of all possible worlds. Really, they’re doing this for everyone.

Now, momentarily put on hold that idea of social organization which has led us to where we are today politically, economically, and socially. It’s worth asking what the Republican Party’s various members are proposing as the road forward after their obvious loss earlier this month. Their answers obviously vary, but one of the major candidates for the next presidential run, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, has been running for years now on education reform. Doesn’t that sound bipartisan, forward-thinking, and nice?

But like almost everything proposed by Republicans the more you look the gift horse in the mouth, the more like a nightmarish ghoul it looks. As Reuters has reported, the fundamental mechanics of what he’s done in Florida and is now proposing on a national-scale look suspiciously similar to the disastrous No Child Left Behind policies of the early Bush years. Likewise, the improvement in test schools looks to mostly have been a short term fluke due to rising property tax returns from ballooning real estate sales, after which the state’s schools were left high and dry (and test scores began to drop again as funding declined). The only people who seem to have done well under these circumstances are the small number of for-profit charters who turned tidy profits under the new policies. But don’t worry, Jeb Bush is still insisted that we can apply this law on a national scale with no serious negative impacts.

In short, the new way forward for the Republican Party looks remarkably similar to the exact same organizational philosophy that’s impoverished this country by locking up investment in foolish gamble after foolish gamble (whether purely business or political in nature). But it made someone at the top money, so it’s still worth pursuing. It’s worth noting that similar policies are being implemented in Michigan. I only hope the United States as a whole figures out how this story ends before Jeb Bush can decide that for us.

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Which ones actually are swing states?

Yesterday, a lot of people suddenly seemed to notice that there are disagreements between various pollsters and politicos over what states are actually “up for grabs” by either Romney or Obama. On The Rachel Maddow Show, Maddow briefly covered it, noting subtle discrepancies between the two campaigns (as Obama continues to focus on Florida and Virginia, while Romney seemingly feels more comfortable there). She left it up to her viewers to deduce why the NBC predictions she also referenced were distinct from either of the major campaign’s focuses in including New Hampshire and Wisconsin as “swing states” (but dropping Nevada, too). Clearly, there’s some politics involved in simply deciding what states are vulnerable in the election.

Jonathan Chait earlier in the same day made a similar point, arguing that:

“[the Romney campaign] is carefully attempting to project an atmosphere of momentum, in the hopes of winning positive media coverage and, thus, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy [… while the race is somewhat close,] Obama enjoys a clear electoral college lead. He is ahead by at least a couple points in enough states to make him president. Adding to his base of uncontested states, Nevada, Ohio, and Wisconsin would give Obama 271 electoral votes. According to the current polling averages compiled at fivethirtyeight.com, Obama leads Nevada by 3.5 percent, Ohio by 2.9 percent, and Wisconsin by 4 percent. Should any of those fail, Virginia and Colorado are nearly dead even. (Obama leads by 0.7 percent and 1.0 percent, respectively.) If you don’t want to rely on Nate Silver — and you should rely on him! — the polling averages at realclearpolitics, the conservative-leaning site, don’t differ much, either.

The only problem with his statements is that while Real Clear Politics provides the polls to prove Obama’s small but consistent advantage, it also provides the predictions that keep insisting that Michigan and Pennsylvania are some of the “toss-up” states. Looking over their map of predictions, it’s hard not to see the “horse race” that gives the media the ratings it loves. After all, states they classify as “toss-ups” hold more electoral votes than all of Romney’s “safe” states, either Romney’s or Obama’s “likely” states, and their combined “leans”. It’s only smaller than Obama’s “safe” states by 11 electoral votes. Their list contains all of the states either campaign considers worthy or visiting right now, the two additional ones listed by NBC, and two more – Michigan and Pennsylvania. A full fifth of the states are being contested in their predictions.

(Behold the gray faces states that hold our future in their hands. The screen-shot of their electoral college prediction is from this morning.)

There’s a key word at the beginning there – they classify states. Based on what? That’s not really said – but given their job as an aggregate polling firm, which collects polls from different pollsters to give a broad overview of what races are looking like, it’s hard to believe that polling data are totally irrelevant to their classification of states. If that’s true though, that polls are at the center of their predictions – then they really look like they have a double standard between what gets classified as an identifiable preference for Romney and an apparent choice of Obama.

Focusing on just the “toss-ups”, there’s immense variation between states’ polling results within that category. Admittedly, some of them look like what you’d imagine. The recently collected polls for Colorado show low results for either candidate, with quite a bit of alternation between who’s leading. There’s been a mix of polls showing either Romney or Obama leading throughout October, and into the summer. It really is difficult to feel confident that the state will go one way or the other. There’s a few other states that also fit this overall pattern – New Hampshire, Florida, Virginia and Iowa.

Slightly distinct are the “toss-up” states with some mixed polling results, but a clear tendency towards Obama. Nevada, for instance, has consistently seen extremely small leads for Obama, with no polls in the past few months showing a Romney lead (although there were two ties). Looking at Ohio gives similar results, as there’s a clear imbalance between the campaigns in convincing voters to support them, but the difference is extremely small. While there is adequate uncertainty to question the victory of the incumbent in those states, labeling both of them “toss-ups” seems to imply a degree of equal opportunity that seems unfounded.

On the other hand, there are some “toss-ups” that seem to be anything but. Michigan hasn’t seen a tie or Romney victory in the polls since late August. Wisconsin hasn’t seen either since mid-August. Pennsylvania hasn’t seen one or the other since February. Multiple months have seen no polls indicating a Romney win or extremely close race. Over those weeks, there have been periods where the incumbent enjoyed double digit margins of victory. Those polls are provided by a diverse group of pollsters – from the right-leaning Rasmussen to left-leaning Public Policy Polling, but all of them have found substantial Obama victories in those states for at least a month and a half, if not more.

And yet, these are still “toss-ups”,  because apparently some one in Real Clear Politics head office still isn’t really sure if they can even modestly suggest that Obama will carry them. In contrast, North Carolina was reclassified from being a “toss-up” to being a  “leans Romney” state on October 18. If you bother to look at their state-specific polling data, they changed their prediction after 17 days without any Obama wins in the polls – and with only five polls showing single-digit support for Romney. Now, I actually agree with both Real Clear Politics and Five Thirty Eight that North Carolina is more likely to end up in Romney’s column than Obama’s, but Real Clear Politics’ standards for reaching that conclusion seem at odds with their choices for, say, Pennsylvania – which has 261 days without any Romney wins in the polls and 39 polls showing occasionally double-digit support for Obama.

So while Real Clear Politics polling aggregation might suggest the same conclusions as “biased” Nate Silver, their predictions don’t match, provided the prediction would be of an Obama victory. Sounds like Chait might have been too charitable there in attributing major media predictions of a Romney win to confusion, rather than willful intent.

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