Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Final thoughts on today’s vote

John Podhoretz mentions something we’ve been talking about for a while:

If Mitt Romney wins tonight, it’ll likely be because of something revealed by a little-noticed statistic released yesterday by the polling firm Rasmussen — following a similar statistic last week from Gallup.

Rasmussen revealed that for the month of October, its data showed that among likely voters, the electorate is 39 percent Republican and 33 percent Democratic.

This comes from a survey of 15,000 people taken over the course of a month. Yes, 15,000 people —15 times the number in a statistically significant poll.

This number might be discounted, since Rasmussen has a reputation as leaning Republican. Except that last week, Gallup — the oldest and most reputable national pollster — released its party ID survey of 9,424 likely voters. And it came out 36 percent Republican, 35 percent Democrat.

I’m not at all comfy with R+6 from Rasmussen. But what should be taken away from this is the fact that two major polling firms have surveyed likely voters extensively and come up with similar results about the mix of self-identified Republicans and Democrats.   And what they’ve found is a profound shift from 2008.

Why does this matter?  Check history:

Because never in the history of polling, dating back to 1936, have self-identified Republicans outnumbered Democrats on Election Day. Never. Ever.

Hmmm.  So indies are breaking for Romney by 7 points, 13% of those who voted for Obama last time say they’re not going to vote for him this time and for the first time since 1936 we’re pretty sure that it is R+something, but Obama is going to win?

Excuse us for being skeptical again, but sometimes the “numbers” just don’t add up.  And, then, as we’ve mentioned, there are the atmospherics, something polling companies really don’t plug into at all.  Sometimes, as in 2010, the gut comes through because the brain has assimilated a lot more than the numbers provided and ends up with a conclusion that is contrary to the conventional wisdom.

I still believe this is one of those times.

~McQ

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

EPA on crash drive to end coal use as we know it – and the jobs that go with it

Apparently they fear an Obama loss:

President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency has devoted an unprecedented number of bureaucrats to finalizing new anti-coal regulations that are set to be released at the end of November, according to a source inside the EPA.

More than 50 EPA staff are now crashing to finish greenhouse gas emission standards that would essentially ban all construction of new coal-fired power plants. Never before have so many EPA resources been devoted to a single regulation. The independent and non-partisan Manhattan Institute estimates that the EPA’s greenhouse gas coal regulation will cost the U.S. economy $700 billion.

More of that laser like focus on creating or saving jobs, huh?

One more in a veritable litany of reasons to get rid of this guy tomorrow.

~McQ

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

ObamaCare begins to have its predicted effect

A law the country didn’t want and upheld by a ridiculous Supreme Court ruling is now beginning to have it’s predicted effect:

Some low-wage employers are moving toward hiring part-time workers instead of full-time ones to mitigate the health-care overhaul’s requirement that large companies provide health insurance for full-time workers or pay a fee.

Several restaurants, hotels and retailers have started or are preparing to limit schedules of hourly workers to below 30 hours a week. That is the threshold at which large employers in 2014 would have to offer workers a minimum level of insurance or pay a penalty starting at $2,000 for each worker.

The shift is one of the first significant steps by employers to avoid requirements under the health-care law, and whether the trend continues hinges on Tuesday’s election results. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has pledged to overturn the Affordable Care Act, although he would face obstacles doing so.

That’s really going to help the job situation, isn’t it?

When is government ever going to learn that its intrusion into the private affairs of men always has consequences, and, when they are outside the legitimate function of government in a free society, the effect is usually negative.

Congratulations Democrats, you’ve done it again.

~McQ

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Observations: The QandO Podcast for 04 Nov 12

This week, Bruce, Michael, and Dale make their final election calls.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2010, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Prediction time (Update)

If you haven’t read Karl Rove’s analysis of the election, you ought too. Yeah, I know, Rove is partisan and all of that, but, like Michael Barone (who, by the way, has predicted a Romney win), he knows election demographics.

Rove makes a point that seems to be missed by a lot of people or, perhaps, ignored instead:

He maintains a small but persistent polling edge. As of yesterday afternoon, there had been 31 national surveys in the previous seven days. Mr. Romney led in 19, President Obama in seven, and five were tied. Mr. Romney averaged 48.4%; Mr. Obama, 47.2%. The GOP challenger was at or above 50% in 10 polls, Mr. Obama in none.

The number that may matter the most is Mr. Obama’s 47.2% share. As the incumbent, he’s likely to find that number going into Election Day is a percentage point or so below what he gets.

Why is that significant?

For example, in 2004 President George W. Bush had 49% in the final Gallup likely-voter track; he received 50.7% on Election Day. In 1996, President Clinton was at 48% in the last Gallup; he got 49.2% at the polls. And in 1992, President George H.W. Bush was at 37% in the closing Gallup; he collected 37.5% in the balloting.

If you can’t get above 47%, and your challenger is running above that number, chances are you aren’t going to win.

Then there are the polling demographics. Remember when I said that if a poll has D+ anything, it is likely wrong? I stand by that:

One potentially dispositive question is what mix of Republicans and Democrats will show up this election. On Friday last week, Gallup hinted at the partisan makeup of the 2012 electorate with a small chart buried at the end of its daily tracking report. Based on all its October polling, Gallup suggested that this year’s turnout might be 36% Republican to 35% Democratic, compared with 39% Democratic and 29% Republican in 2008, and 39% Republican and 37% Democratic in 2004. If accurate, this would be real trouble for Mr. Obama, since Mr. Romney has consistently led among independents in most October surveys.

So, assuming Gallup is right, and it is R+1 as we’ve been saying is likely here, what does that mean for the polling that’s going on?

Take a look at this handy little chart from RCP:

The chart makes the point about how important it is for the polling company to get the mix correct and the probability that many of them haven’t. If they’re not properly skewed, you aren’t going to get valid results. We know there are still polls being run out there with D+5 and up to D+8. Those were legitimate in 2008.

This ain’t 2008 (and you have to ignore 2010 to believe it is) by a long shot.

Then there’s this:

Gallup delivered some additional bad news to Mr. Obama on early voting. Through Sunday, 15% of those surveyed said they had already cast a ballot either in person or absentee. They broke for Mr. Romney, 52% to 46%. The 63% who said they planned to vote on Election Day similarly supported Mr. Romney, 51% to 45%.

So, what is happening is the Democrats are getting their most motivated voters to the polls early and they’re still running behind the GOP.  If, in fact, that’s the case, then who will the Dems be trying to turn out on Tuesday and how successful will they be?  It all comes down to enthusiasm, doesn’t it?  And as measured, that too resides on the side of the GOP (well, except for the NYT poll, unsurprisingly):

Finally, while looking that that chart, remember that independents have been breaking large toward Romney. More than for any GOP candidate in recent history.  Add all the other demographics that have shifted significant support from Obama in the last election to Romney in this one, not to mention the atmospherics that simply aren’t there for the incumbent and it is difficult to believe that Obama will win.

So, all that said, I’ll predict a Romney win with slightly over 50% and around 279 electoral votes.  I’ll also predict that Nate Silver will be donating $1,000 to charity and David Axlerod’s mustache will be absent Wednesday of next week.

UPDATE: A reminder for all the doubters out there who want to dismiss Rove – In 2008 Karl Rove predicted an Obama win with 338 EVs (actual: 365)

~McQ

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Benghazi bottom line

Two things we now know the President didn’t do.  First from CBS:

CBS News has learned that during the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Mission in Benghazi, the Obama Administration did not convene its top interagency counterterrorism resource: the Counterterrorism Security Group, (CSG).

“The CSG is the one group that’s supposed to know what resources every agency has. They know of multiple options and have the ability to coordinate counterterrorism assets across all the agencies,” a high-ranking government official told CBS News. “They were not allowed to do their job. They were not called upon.”

The second from a former SEAL officer who knows the protocol necessary to launch a rescue from outside Libya:

No administration wants to stumble into a war because a jet jockey in hot pursuit (or a mixed-up SEAL squad in a rubber boat) strays into hostile territory. Because of this, only the president can give the order for our military to cross a nation’s border without that nation’s permission. For the Osama bin Laden mission, President Obama granted CBA for our forces to enter Pakistani airspace.

On the other side of the CBA coin: in order to prevent a military rescue in Benghazi, all the POTUS has to do is not grant cross-border authority. If he does not, the entire rescue mission (already in progress) must stop in its tracks.

So, bottom line – He didn’t convene the CSG which would have been the lead agency to coordinate an attempted rescue from outside the country and he apparently never gave the CBA (which only he can issue) necessary to do so.

Or, in other words, he lied about doing everything necessary to save and protect the lives of those in combat in Libya.

Finally, the cover-up and attempting to deflect the blame:

Leon Panetta is falling on his sword for President Obama with his absurd-on-its-face, “the U.S. military doesn’t do risky things”-defense of his shameful no-rescue policy. Panetta is utterly destroying his reputation. General Dempsey joins Panetta on the same sword with his tacit agreement by silence. But why? How far does loyalty extend when it comes to covering up gross dereliction of duty by the president?

Great question.  Don’t expect an answer anytime soon.

~McQ

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Where will newspaper circulation and influence be in 2016?

Given the pathetic performance of our media during the Benghazi tragedy/debacle, I’ve been wondering just what will happen to the media before the next election after this one. I decided to look at where they were a couple of cycles ago, to get some historical perspective. I thought QandO readers might be interested in the results and my own speculations.

I had seen this article in the Washington Post a few days ago, giving circulation of the top 25 newspapers. I found another source showing circulation of the top 100 newspapers in 2004. So I fired up Excel and entered the top 15 from 2004 to see where they are now, and also noted the new members of the top 15 that were not there in 2004.

One adjustment was called for. I restricted the comparison to print copies. I’m assuming the 2004 figures were only print copies, or that web “copies” were insignificant. However, the Post reported circulation for 2012 with print and web combined, though they did note the web number. So the spreadsheet subtracted web circulation from total circulation to get print circulation.

Here are the results, with percentage increase or decrease in print circulation calculated. Almost all “decrease”, as you shall see.

 

Newspaper

Gross 2012

Web 2012

Net Print 2012

2004

%+- for 2012

USA Today

1713833

86307

1627526

2192098

-25.7549

WSJ

2293798

794594

1499204

2101017

-28.6439

NYT

1613865

896352

717513

1119027

-35.8806

LA Times

641369

151577

489792

983727

-50.2106

Wash Post

462228

27535

434693

760034

-42.8061

NY Daily News

535875

146605

389270

712671

-45.3787

NY Post

522868

178113

344755

642844

-46.3703

Chicago Tribune

411960

23112

388848

603315

-35.5481

Newsday

392989

114620

278369

553117

-49.6727

Houston Chronicle

325814

91331

234483

549300

-57.3124

Dallas Morning News

410130

64788

345342

528379

-34.6412

SF Chronicle*

229176

0

229176

499008

-54.0737

Arizona Republic

275622

839

274783

466926

-41.1506

Chicago Sun-Times

432455

70932

361523

453757

-20.3267

Boston Globe

230351

49432

180919

446241

-59.4571

     

 

New in top 15:

   

 

Denver Post

412669

176446

236223

340169

-30.5572

Tampa Bay Times

313003

13610

299393

348502

-14.0915

San Jose Mercury News

529999

43318

486681

279539

74.10129

* SF Chronicle dropped out of the top 25, so circulation was obtained from another web source.

This table isn’t really fair to newspapers that are making decent money through their web versions, but from what I can tell, that group has one member among the majors: the Wall Street Journal. NYT is the other major with a decent paid web subscription, but they won’t talk about their web financials anywhere I can find, which tells me the web is probably losing money for them.

WSJ and NYT also share the distinction that, if you include their web numbers, circulation has gone up instead of down. However, I found out that the Times has stalled in their monthly unique visitors. They were passed last year by the Huffington Post. So while the web has helped stem the decline in NYT readership, it won’t continue to do so unless they can get their web numbers increasing again.

I can’t find a reliable source that tells how much the other top newspapers really make through the web, either in circulation fees or in advertising, but I’m guessing it is a small fraction of what they made on the equivalent “circulation” in print in 2004.

So, just looking at print, and assuming revenue from the web is way less than revenue from equivalent print subscriptions, these guys are hurting. There is only one legitimate success story in the bunch: the San Jose Mercury News. Everyone else had gone down, with several losing over half their circulation in just eight years. The Tampa Bay Times managed to break in the top fifteen by merely losing fewer readers than any 2004 top 15 member.

Even among the ones towards the top, the signs of their distress are clear. I see USA Today when I’m on the road because many hotels give it away free. I rather doubt that this is a high-profit distribution for USA Today, and I’ve watched the daily edition get steadily thinner and thinner in the last few years. I don’t have actual numbers, but I think it’s at least one-third smaller than it was eight years ago. If they didn’t have one of the most comprehensive sports sections in the country, I think they would be even worse off.

The legacy press is driving on fumes. Over and above their shattered credibility, or in some respects because of it, their economic model is stressed to the breaking point.

So where will they be in 2016? I think the NYT and WSJ will tread water, the WSJ because they have a reasonably viable economic model and have not totally squandered their credibility, and the NYT because the left simply won’t let them sink.

The others, though, have a more chancy outlook. USA Today looks vulnerable to me, because it looks like the easiest national newspaper to replace with a web-based aggregation app. They do very little original reporting except for the sports section. They have not yet ramped up a decent web presence, and it’s pretty late in that game. I’ve noticed that fewer hotels have it than I used to see. I was in two hotels in Pittsburgh a couple of weeks ago, and neither of them had it.

The Washington Post looks vulnerable too. It also has limited web presence, and print circulation is down a staggering 40%+ in eight years. With their concentration on politics, the operating model of the Post requires a certain level of spending to maintain. If they drop much further, they simply might not be able to be viable on the newspaper side. I suppose they can cross-subsidize from their other divisions such as Kaplan, but that doesn’t seem like a stable long-term strategy to me.

The problems get worse for any newspaper that isn’t explicitly national. The local papers’ major advertising revenue sources generally include department stores, movies, and automobiles. All of those are threatened by the web. It never enters the mind of a twenty something to buy a newspaper to find movie listings, and Amazon is killing department stores all over the country. Craigslist is wiping out local newspaper classifieds, and Monster.com and it’s relatives are wiping out the Help Wanted sections. 

I think the legacy press will remain a force through the 2016 election. They still have some reserves to draw on, at least economically. But their reserves of credibility are diminished more than their circulation numbers, so the influence will be considerably diminished.  

After that, I don’t know. For all I know, news in 2020 may be delivered primarily via Facebook, with your friends “Like” preferences driving what you are offered. Or Apple might so something to leverage the iPad 7. No doubt Google will try something, and their strength with advertisers might be their hole card. None of those answer the question, though, of where the content will come from.

Getting away from traditional papers for content might require some kind of crowd-sourced solution. AP or Reuters would be obvious candidates to try that, but I don’t think either one has the web savvy or the cultural savvy to succeed.

I think the Cheezburger network has as much chance of success at crowd-sourced news as AP or Reuters. As awful as that sounds, though, I’m not sure it’s worse than depending on the New York Times.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Economic Statistics for 2 Nov 12

The following US economic statistics were announced today:

The Monster Employment Index rose 2 points in October to 156.

Factory orders rose 4.8% in September, but, like August, Aircraft orders are skewing the numbers. Ex-transportation capital goods orders actually fell -0.2%.

The BLS reports that a better-than-expected 171,000 net new jobs were created in October, and the unemployment rate rose to 7.9%. Both hourly earnings and weekly hours were unchanged. The labor force participation rate jumped 0.2 points to 63.8, as nearly 600,000 people came into the labor force, among which were a drop of 369,000 of those who are not on the labor force. The U-6 unemployment rate, the broadest measure of unemployment and under-employment, fell -0.1% to 14.6%. Overall, this is a status-quo report. There’s just enough employment growth to do keep up with the expansion of the labor force, but not enough to indicate any real improvement in the labor market, or economic growth in general.

~
Dale Franks
Google+ Profile
Twitter Feed

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Economic Statistics for 1 Nov 12

The following US economic statistics were announced today, and today is a jam-packed day for economic data:

Last night, ADP revised their September jobs figures down by half, to only 88,000 new jobs, the final release of their employment report under the old Methodology. Today, ADP begins the series all over again using Moody’s as the data analyst for the report, so we have no earthly idea how accurate or relevant this report is now, as it is essentially a brand new report with no track record. With that in mind, ADP reports that 158,000 new jobs were created in October. Tomorrow, we’ll be able to compare it with the BLS’s Employment Situation for the first time.

Motor vehicle sales came in a disappointing 14.29 million which is sharply lower than September.

Monthly chain store sales, reported slightly higher sales growth, and most retailers increased earnings guidance.

The Challenger Job-Cut Report states that 47,724 layoffs were announced in October, as lower earnings pushed companies to cut costs. It’s the highest number of layoffs since May.

Initial claims for unemployment fell 9,000 to 363,000. The 4-week moving average fell 1,500 to 367,250. Continuing claims rose 4,000 to 3.263 million.

The initial estimate for nonfarm business productivity for the 3rd quarter rose 1.9%, while unit labor costs unexpectedly fell –0.1%, mainly due to a drop in hourly compensation.

The Markit PMI Manufacturing Index fell 0.1 points to 51.0 in October.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell -0.1 points to -34.7, but is still among the highest readings in 4 years.

The Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing index rose 0.2 points to 51.7, indicating continued—if very mild—economic expansion.

The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index improved in October to 72.2 from 68.4 in September.

Construction spending rose 0.6% in September, following a 0.6% drop in August, and a 0.4%  drop in July.

~
Dale Franks
Google+ Profile
Twitter Feed

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Buy Dale’s Book!