Friday, January 11, 2008

Primary Failure

Apparently the television analysts and candidates learned nothing from the 2000 Florida election debacle. At 8:30pm on NBC, they showed a solemn Mitt Romney addressing his supporters with a 'we will move on from here' speech. I said to wifey, 'Wait, did he lose already?' At the bottom of the screen it showed the voting results for the New Hampshire primary. Romney was in second place by less than 3,000 votes.

Want to know how many precincts had reported at 8:30?

Try 8%. Eight fucking percent of the precincts had given their results and already Romney was waving the white flag. Are you kidding? I'll tell you this, if Romney wins the Republican nomination I will not be voting for him. He'll be handing the keys to the White House over to Al Queda if they threaten to key his Mercedes. What a putz.

At few minutes before 9:30, 'House' was interrupted (you're damn lucky it was a repeat, Fox!) in order for Obama to give his 'Darn it, we just couldn't do it' speech. At the time he was down by less than 4000 votes with only 25% of all precincts reporting in. My math sucks, but making up 4000 votes when there were 75% of the precincts yet to clock in didn't seem impossible. Hell, it wasn't even improbable.

In fact, at 9:50 or so on the Fox News channel still wouldn't predict a clear winner on the Democratic primary. Hillary - as we all know - won a narrow victory but it was down to the wire. Why would Obama, who only lost by around 3% declare a loss with plenty of time for the trend to turn?

Why would Romney declare defeat a mere 30 minutes after the polls closed? Even worse, why would Fox, MSNBC and CNN declare McCain the Republican primary winner at 8:10pm? That's right. McCain was the predicted winner 10 minutes after the polls had closed.

Why?

Because of exit polls. Exit polls are used to get a feeling for how people voted as they are leaving the voting areas. The problem with polls - as Obama so sadly learned - is they are accurate only some of the time. For example, polls taken in the weeks leading up to (including the day before) the primary showed Obama leading Clinton by 5%. Whoops. Guess a lot of people changed their minds. Silly us.

When analysts saw those pre-election poll numbers they jumped all over the Obama band wagon; calling his campaign a 'juggernaut' and 'unstoppable' and gushing over how charismatic he is during his speeches. It might have been true, but it's irrelevant to the actual votes.

On the flip side, the news people and election analysts took great pleasure slamming Clinton's campaign. Saying she was losing momentum and had lost touch with the voter. When Hillary had an early lead one Fox analyst said 'The statistical models are not yielding a clear winner'. Great. Don't rely on the votes, rely on a statistical model to declare a winner. My statistical model predicting you being a fucking douchebag turned out to be dead on! I must have used the new Chicago math.

Hillary Clinton's victory in New Hampshire is being labeled 'a comeback' and 'surprising', but it's neither of those things. Just because the analysts - and in some cases that candidates themselves - trusted the poll numbers didn't mean those trends were true. Christ, if anyone should know that it's the talking heads on TV. I still remember every single national news program going back and forth about who won Florida in 2000. Tom Brokaw declared Bush the winner at 11pm, then had to backtrack to it being undecided, then declared Gore a winner, then backtracked again. It was a joke. And it wasn't just him. Every news channel was riding the same seesaw.

It happened again with Ohio in 2004.

Look, I know that with all of these news channels and all of these experts they need to find things to talk about, but don't label your inaccuracies or bad predictions a 'surprise'. It's only surprising to you because you were the one trying to sell us your ideas in the first place.

I have my own idea. Don't declare winners anymore. It only makes everyone look foolish when things don't play out the way you are expecting. Why not wait until all the results are in and use the facts. You remember those things, don't you? It's what makes things true. You can still report on the trends that are developing (example: 'We have John McCain leading by 2,591 votes with 8% of the precincts reporting') but hold off on 'declaring' anything.

Elections are not for you to call. It's for the people to call. That's why we call it a democracy.

You are reporters. Just report.

Today's distraction: Check out Jack Cafferty's half assed defense of the polls following the primary, including insulting the New Hampshire voters by claiming 'less-educated New Hampshire voters may not have wanted to admit to pollsters that they wouldn’t vote for Obama, a black candidate'. Just admit you got it wrong. Take the high road for once. Please.


Bonus distraction: Interesting question asked by Katie Couric to a number of different candidates. The question is 'What was your biggest mistake?' Take a minute and read through the answers and tell me those in the political process don't talk like robots. They've been programmed to work in their political ideas and beliefs into every answer. I am going to vote for the first guy (or girl) that answers 'Oh, man, in college I had sex with this girl and she turned out to be a psycho of the first order. Couldn't get rid of her. The sad part was she wasn't even that good looking.'

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