Monday, October 18, 2010

Assessing Delaware

It's not only extreme conservative ideology or hatred (steeped in racial bigotry) for our President that sets Rush Limbaugh apart from- well, no, other conservative talk show hosts are outrageous, but don't display as much of their program on the Internet. (Limbaugh's are not traditional transcripts, but fairly close.)

Therefore, it's easy to point out how Limbaugh frequently and grossly misleads his listeners. It may not be intentional but if not, would be due to ignorance or stupidity off the charts.

And so it was that Rush on Monday commented on one of the most high profile, and one of the least important, U.S. Senate races of this cycle:

Okay, we got a new polling result in from Rasmussen in Delaware. Before the debate, what was Christine O'Donnell down? Was it 20? Twenty or a little bit higher than that? It was 19 or 20, whatever it was. She's now down 11. Since the debate she's now down by 11. She nearly cut that gap in half, and that's why Obama and Bite Me are in Delaware today.

We can't accuse Limbaugh of lying- some polling did have Christine O'Donnell down by "19 or 20, whatever it was" (real attention to detail) before her debate with Democrat Chris Coons. Unfortunately for Rush's story, it wasn't Rassmussen- which does in fact have O'Donnell down by 11 now- that had her down by close to 20 points. Revealing results of his firm's survey, Scott Rassmussen reported on October 15 that

Coons posted a similar 49% to 40% lead three weeks ago when Congressman Mike Castle whom O’Donnell defeated in the state GOP Primary was still pondering a write-in candidacy. Five percent (5%) supported Castle at that time. Castle has since announced that he will not run but has not endorsed O’Donnell, a conservative activist who remains a long-shot candidate in the traditionally moderate state.

The previous lead in the poll now showing an 11% gap was "similar" (in fact, slightly smaller at 9%). Not only does the Repub-leaning Rassmussen observe the GOP nominee "remains a long-shot" but "the contest remains Solid Democrat in the Rasmussen Reports Election 2010 Senate Balance of Power rankings."

Whatever the motive for Obama and Biden to join the campaign to defeat the GOP nominee in Delaware- and for Biden, that he is a favorite son comes into play- it's surely not because "she nearly cut that gap in half." She did not cut the gap in half and will not win.

Christine O'Donnell is neither an underdog nor even a long-shot to win. She will not win. Will not. Five Thirty Eight's Nate Silver, who was until a couple of months ago writing a lone, though highly respected, blog but now is writing it for The New York Times, evaluates every gubernatorial and senate race. He has projected the vote for the Democratic and the Republican nominees for each Senate race, as well as the likelihood that seat will be lost by the party now holding it.

Silver estimates that Democrat Coons will garner 57% of the vote while Republican O'Donnell gets 40%. And after cranking up the computer for 1,000 simulations, he has concluded that O'Donnell's chance to win the election: 0%. (That's not a typo.) Apparently, O'Donnell came out on top no more than 4 times out of 1,000, assuming he would have rounded up at 5 out of 1,000.

Now for the bad news: there are 17 Senate seats now held by Democrats in which there is a better chance than in Delaware that the GOP candidate will win. But that also indicates the absurdity of Rush's theory (stated, of course, as a fact). After eliminating the five seats which Silver estimates have a 94% or greater chance of turning over (and thus an appearance by Obama/Biden presumably would be fruitless), there remain 17 contents which are more uncertain than the one in Delaware. (These consist, obviously, of ones in which the Democrat has very little, but at least some, chance of winning to ones in which the Republican has very little, but at least some, opportunity.)

Notwithstanding characteristics of particular races, trends move nationally. Do the math: if O'Donnell were to come behind and win, she probably would become not the critical 51st Republican vote. Or the 52nd. Or the 53rd. Or the 54th- or even the 58th Republican senator. She theoretically would become the 59th member of the Republican caucus.

Possible reasons for Obama and Biden to direct their attention to Delaware abound. Certainly, President Obama and Vice-President Biden are more popular in Delaware than in most states. And if Christine O'Donnell and 17 other Republicans were to win seats now held by a Democrat, the GOP would become, with 59 votes, a mere eight Blue Dogs away from overturning a presidential veto. (Laugh if you wish. No, laugh anyway.)

Admittedly, there are only so many times Obama/Biden can visit any one state, given the risk of over exposure and the risk of diminishing returns. And defeat of the Democrat in Delaware would be embarrassing to Joe Biden, who formerly occupied the seat. Meanwhile, if Silver is to be believed (as he normally should be), there is a 54% chance that the seat then held by United States Senator Barack Obama will be won by the Republican, Mark Kirk, in the state of Illinois.

Arising is the obvious question: why isn't Barack Obama, if loss of a Senate seat in Delaware would be embarrassing to the Vice-President, focused on Illinois?

Fast-forward to November 3- or, better yet, November 4, two days after the election, in which Senate Democrats will lose few seats, lose several seats but retain the majority, or lose even more seats and relinquish majority status. Members of the media will analyze the election in the context of the President's popularity, viewing it in part as a referendum on Barack Obama's leadership. They will do it in the simplest, most superficial manner possible, by creating a won-loss record. President Obama will be heralded as, perhaps, 7 and 4 (7-4); or diminished by, for example, 3 and 8 (3-8), the totals depending on the number of states in which Bideb/Obama campaigned. Being seen and heard in Delaware starts Obama off at 1-0, a nice start for the President (though probably insufficient for the San Francisco Giants).

Is this post, therefore, about the election in Delaware or about Rush Limbaugh's convenient, partisan fantasies? You already knew Christine O'Donnell is going to lose, didn't you?


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