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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Leave it to the professionals, indeed

by folkbum

When Brian Fraley wrote that "Blue collar white catholic swing voters, who may have been warming up to [Barack] Obama at one point, are running away from him in droves," and I calmly pointed to the exit-poll data to show where that was wrong, he eventually resorted to a sad kind of argument from authority:
Jay, I realize that while I’ve only been doing this for 16 years, you teach in MPS and stayed in a Holiday Inn Express last night, but let me try to explain.
First of all, Fraley should know that a teacher's salary cannot provide posh Holiday Inn Express kinds of lodgings--more like Motel 3-and-a-half. Second of all, he never answered my questions, which were simple and direct. What evidence did he have that these voters were leaving Obama, let alone "in droves"? Why was he not making a similar argument about Hillary Clinton, that black voters were "leaving" her "in droves"?

I mean, she lost the "black vote," if you want to call it that, by far more than Obama lost the "white vote." Obama won 90% of blacks and Clinton won only 63% of whites. (In Ohio, Obama won only 87% of black voters--clearly they are "running" away from Clinton!)

As I said, Fraley could not answer the question except to pat me on the head (electronically) and to say, "Trust me, I'm the professional." This was a theme picked up on by an ex-professional, James the Son of Wigder, in a post he actually had the nerve to title "Some things are best left to professionals":
I was really laughing when I saw Brian Fraley's response to an attempt by Jay "folkbum" Bullock to spin Pennsylvania for his candidate.
Wigderson did not read very carefully, since he didn't catch, apparently, that Obama was not "my candidate." He also didn't bother to offer an answer to my questions, either, or to explain to me how Fraley's statement that "blue collar white catholic swing voters [. . .] are running away from [Obama] in droves" was anything approximating the truth. Neither could say anything more than that Obama had lost a state primary that he was never predicted win, and that he lost constituencies in that primary that he was never predicted to win. And yet, somehow, that's the equivalent of voters "running away from him in droves."

Thick as thieves, these "professionals."

So let me offer a counter argument from authority, from the "professionals" at Real Clear Politics, who, more than anyone else out there, are providing thorough and invigorating coverage of the primary. Their numbers are cited far more often than just about anyone else's when it comes to primary and delegate analysis. Here's the "professional":
We might expect Obama to have improved relative to Ohio in the southeast [of Pennsylvania, the Philly area]. However, this does not appear to have been the case. When we control for race, income, and age, we get roughly the same results in Ohio and southeast Pennsylvania. The same goes for southwest Pennsylvania [Pittsburgh].

What is significant is the variable that captures counties in central Pennsylvania. This was surprising. The model indicates that, controlling for race, income, and age, Obama performed better in central Pennsylvania than he did in Ohio. Additionally, there is a modest statistical significance to the variables for the northeast and northwest segments of the state. However, when we use a more expansive definition of central Pennsylvania, re-classifying the counties in the northeast and northwest segments that abut the center segment as part of the center, this significance washes away.

What is the upshot of this? Obama did not improve relative to Ohio in Erie, Pittsburgh, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, or even Philadelphia. However, he did improve in the "Middle T" of the state. This improvement was not puny. [. . .]

This is not to imply that he did particularly well in central PA. Clinton still won the counties by an average of 25 points. The point is that, if this area were behaving like Ohio or the rest of Pennsylvania, she would have won them by something closer to 33 points.
That is nothing close to "running away from [Obama] in droves." Obama did better in Pennsylvania than he did in Ohio, almost completely across the board, even in demo- and geographical areas of Clinton's strength. But the McCain voters out there like Fraley and Wigderson--knowing, perhaps, that their guy runs really, really weak against Obama in places like Wisconsin--have to do everything they can to cut Obama down, even if it means fudging the truth.

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