Wake Up and Smell the Futures

Conservative-blogger triumphalism about Bush’s most recent debate performance ignores warnings from the Intrade and Iowa online political futures markets, which show the presidential race tightening. I hate to write this, because I want Bush to win and until recently I thought he would probably win in a landslide. Now I’m less confident.

Tom Smith has some interesting speculations here and here about why Bush’s re-election odds seem to have slipped. He thinks that forthrightly moralistic anti-abortion talk alienates liberal swing-voters. Could be. Unfortunately, we are not likely to know for sure until well after the election.

Bush’s fortunes may rebound, he may win big, and anyway I do not think that he should compromise his strongly-held positions to appeal to marginal voters. But I would feel more comfortable if his numbers were higher.

11 thoughts on “Wake Up and Smell the Futures”

  1. You can generally throw all triumphant talk (on either side) out the window, it’s cheerleading, nothing more. The fluctuations in numbers do not bother me nearly as much as the missed opportunities on Bush’s part. As to abortion, he really needs to clarify what the issue really concerns; the funding of abortion with taxpayer dollars. I do not believe it is realistic that Roe v. Wade will be struck down in the near future, so the argument becomes whether the average person approves of their tax money paying for this procedure. Bush has failed to frame the argument effectively. He should be stating his personal opposition to the procedure, while emphasizing his commitment and obligation to uphold the law. He should also parallel it with a similar fiscal situation everyone can relate to, for instance, if federal tax dollars should also be used to support private country clubs that restrict their memberships. I am sure there is a better analogy out there, as any of you are free to suggest.
    Another issue Bush could further elucidate is medical malpractice reform. He just hasn’t followed through with this, and it is such a simple picture to paint. He needs to illustrate how huge jury awards translate into jacked up insurance premiums, how the award money only temporarily comes out of insurance company coffers, before being fully passed-through to policyholders. He needs to lay out the foolishness of it all, how we as a society are essentially taking money from our one pocket and depositing it into our own other pocket, and the more times that is done (in sheer number of lawsuits), the more is skimmed off by third parties (trial lawyers). It becomes an issue of efficiency: the more efficient you can make the medical system, the better services you can offer to more individuals.
    The issue opportunities are there for Bush to address, and he certainly has more effective communications people than me to construct the arguments for him. I don’t understand why they haven’t done so yet.

  2. Yes, Jonathan, it is worrisome. I really don’t want to spend four years listening to Kerry speak, but that is an annoyance. I don’t want someone who isn’t serious: a serious person would show up for the meetings of the intelligence committee (especially after 1993); a serious person would have developed legislation in eighteen years in the senate; a serious person would have realized that some things are taboo – that our democracy is bigger than he is. Those taboos are disloyalty to your men at war, respect for the electoral process, respect for the truth.

    A. Bush has wonderful speechwriters – what are they doing? Where are they? His loyalty is famous and that is one group that deserves his loyalty.

    B. One of the problems with Bush’s position, it seems to me, are the large number of dogs that haven’t barked. The msm has taken to a disproportionate emphasis on chaos without noting what didn’t happen. They don’t note it because of their various biases – not just against Bush, but against quiet and for noise, against peace and for conflict. They want drama – plodding, muddle through and reach a consensus stories aren’t very interesting.

    Engineers building wells aren’t interesting; beheadings on television are. And, frankly, they don’t seem to understand because they haven’t been trained (don’t apparently have the ability) to see the big picture. (NPR lists the casualties this morning – a list that brings home how many other countries have joined us and suffered losses. There is no perspective, however, in terms of deaths under Hussein; there is no perspective of deaths in other wars.)

    These are people that still quote Ehrlich as if he understood environmental issues; they are still more likely to complain of a population explosion. They are people of simple and predictable perspectives.

    Bush can not make “no dog barked” arguments–that’s his job to make sure they don’t. For instance, he can’t say, well, there have been no terrorist attacks in America since 9/11 – what if there is one tomorrow? He can’t say, well, Iraq didn’t break out in civil war among the three factions – what if they did and how can you argue that something bad merely not happening is a good thing? No refugee problem but rather Afghan and then Iraqi refugees returning – yes, that is good but that flow is quiet, not the noisy one of encampments on the border. The sorties are no longer flown by our air force to protect parts of Iraq – but this was seldom remarked upon and wit ends in no dramatic conclusion.

    The lifting of sanctions that uncovers corruption on a grand scale is not discussed in the msm. (And it is harder to report; white collar crime always is.)

    Nor can he gracefully point to the graft throughout the U.N., France, and Russia. He has to work with those leaders. Could he (or his surrogates) actively speak out against Mark Latham as Kerry’s sister did against Howard? That would certainly be an inappropriate approach from the President.

    He points to the Libyan decision, he points to the smaller number of terrorist attacks in Israel – we know these are important, but it is hard to gauge how important an absence is. The absence of Libyan threats, fewer suicide bombs – well, that is, one would hope, not news.

    Incumbency may give a candidate lots of perks, but in wartime (with an opponent who doesn’t think we are at war and so does not feel inclined to present a united front on such international issues) it may well have more disadvantages.

  3. I’m nearly as distrustful of the electronic markets as I am of opinion polls. It will be interesting to see the actual result on Nov. 2 and how many of our very many oracles were anywhere in the ballpark, and how many of those that are, are there for the right reasons, and not simply because they got lucky with the old stopped clock idea.

    Polls indicated that Howard in Australia would either lose or be returned with a reduced majority. Instead his party increased its majority and took the Senate too. How many pollsters or electronic markets got this one right?

    The only possible advantage I see to all this constant polling is the attempt to create self-fulfilling prophecies, that is if enough people hear that so-and-so is trouncing his opponent in the polls, they’ll get convinced this is the wave of the future and go with the tide when they go to vote. Seems pretty dubious to me, but maybe there is this sort of effect. But as a predictive tool, it seems they are pretty sorry. And frankly I’ve got poll fatigue at this point, I must hear latest polling result quotes a dozen times a day. There seems to be incredible overfocus on the polls to the detriment of much else.

  4. And in any case, IEM looks pretty bad at the moment, but Tradesports as of this moment still gives Mr. Bush a respectable lead.

  5. Take heart Jonathan. Be strong, be strong, let us strengthen each other, (II Samuel 10:12).

    First. I still believe that the CW is, as usual, wrong. The election will not be close. I think Ray Fair is right and Bush will win and by more than 52%.

    Second. I think the trading markets trade derviatively and inversely to the price of crude oil, which was jacked up at the end of last week by Tropical Storm Mitch. Oil should fall as storm season ends in the gulf.

    Third. Austrailia, despite the MSM spin, was a dry run on the US election and was a strong showing for the Right and a failure for the left. kerry’s sister camapigned for the loosers.

    Fourth. Afganistan was an enormous win for the Bush strategy. Samara and Najaf have demonstrated the ability of the US military to reduce an insurgent stronghold in short order. The gating issue is our ability to train an Iraqi army. But Bush can point with pride and and say see I have a plan it works we can do it.

  6. Thanks, Robert. I hope that you and Fair are right. The most heartening datum that you cite is the Aussie election result. And Fair’s model has a good record, and the economy is generally strong, and Bush is the incumbent — all of these facts support the big-Bush-win thesis. The problem is that the online mkts are weak, and I think they’re probably telling us something. I’m not sure what it is, but I don’t think you can dismiss them. A market going against expectations is generally a warning rather than an aberration.

    One election factor that is, I think, unprecedented, is the degree to which the press is trying to boost Kerry and suppress information that is favorable to Bush. Look at how they report economic news. The economy is actually doing pretty well, but the MSM take their lead from the Democratic Party. The press generally either ignores good economic news, or dishonestly invokes outdated statistical measures (that ignore new job categories and the societal shift from manufacturing to services and self-employment), to pretend that the situation is bad. The guy I was arguing with in the VP-debate thread is typical of how a lot of people who get their news from MSM and left-leaning sources think. It’s a serious problem for Bush, and the Administration has done a poor job of countering it.

  7. I hope I can get an initial deposit made before the price goes up too much. I couldn’t use my card or bank account when I tried Friday so I guess I’ll have to write a check. I’m afriad the price will go up before this happens. Maybe I’ll write why if I get ambitious.

  8. Jonathan: Be of good cheer. I do not think that folks vote economic news, they vote their wallets. If they are happy, the headlines in the business section of the paper probably won’t dent them.

  9. AML statutes aaron. These online concerns are becoming very aware of them, and don’t want to leave themselves open to an FBI crackdown. Brokerages have been doing this for years now.

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