Mad Wombat

A moderately liberal Democraticly-themed blog

Category Archives: Election 2012

How Romney caught Obama off balance

So the consensus among pretty much everyone: pundits, press, snap polls, focus groups, etc. were all that Romney beat Obama pretty handily at last night’s first presidential debate. But how did he do this? I think there were four key factors that led to Romney being perceived as the winner last night:

  1. Assertiveness
  2. Tossing spaghetti
  3. Two-faced Romney
  4. Narrowing the discussion

I’ll take these one by one, starting with:

Assertiveness

I think this one is a pretty easy one to explain, and pretty obvious to anyone watching. Romney simply refused to have the last word, and stomped all over moderator Jim Lehrer in order to get it. We already knew Romney would have the final, final word in closing arguments, but he bullied Lehrer into having the final say on every question but the last one, when Lehrer basically told them they each had about 90 seconds and Romney went first. However, Lehrer’s lack of assertiveness and control perhaps minimized how much it appeared Romney was stomping on him other than the occasionally “um” and “excuse me”s Lehrer was inserting now and then in a futile attempt to retain control of the debate.

Having the last word on almost everything both gave Romney the appearance of being more assertive (while Obama on more than one occasion actually deferred to Lehrer out of respect so he could move on) as well as allowed him to make a series of assertions which ultimately went unanswered by Obama. This apparently both made Romney look like a stronger leader and gave the appearance that Obama didn’t have an answer to Romney’s accusations.

Tossing spaghetti

I’m using this term to try to keep this blog post PG, but the essence of this one is that Governor Romney was throwing so many lies and distortions at President Obama that Obama had to pick and choose which ones to respond to if he wanted to have any time left to respond about his own record and plans.

One attack that stood out to me that sounded effective, but becomes rather absurd once you think about it, was the accusation that 3% of the small businesses not covered by Obama’s tax cuts employ one quarter of the workforce. Now, just taken on it’s face, this would make it sound like Obama’s plan has a pretty significant hole in it. But then you think on it: How can 3% of small businesses employ 50% the number of employees as 100% of the large businesses – that’s the claim Romney is making. I know there are a lot of small businesses, but if you look at the claim that way, the claim becomes patently absurd. And it’s absurd because there are a lot of businesses that are anything but “small” in the number of their employees but who classify themselves as small businesses for tax purposes.

The second pretty big absurdity is that Romney provided two items he could cut from the budget to reduce the deficit: Obamacare and PBS. The problem is that getting rid of Obamacare actually increases the deficit per the CBO, and PBS is something like 1/100th of 1% of the entire budget. We could save more money by building one less submarine a year in all likelihood.

And as a prime example of spaghetti tossing, there was a moment where Romney threw out several whoppers all at once: that there are no tax breaks for moving jobs overseas, that 50% of the green companies Obama has invested in have failed, and that states will effectively meet the needs of the poor and elderly by having complete control over Medicaid dollars (many states don’t do it now with the flexibility they currently have) and then…Lehrer ended the segment and they went off to the next topic. Three significant whoppers end up going unchallenged because both Romney can’t not have the last word and he is just throwing everything out there in hopes some of it sticks.

Two-faced Romney

We now have a new phenomena in this election: not only do we have a fantasy Obama, but we now have a fantasy Romney too. Romney spent much of his time at the debate pretending to be a candidate that he’s never been during the campaign, partly to make himself look moderate and partly to disarm Obama’s most likely attacks against him.

Romney started by insisting that he needed to give middle class and small business tax relief – which is fine – but then asserted that his plan would be revenue neutral. When challenged on this, Romney’s ultimate answer was to say that no one can accuse him of wanting to raise the deficit by cutting taxes because he will refuse to do so, whatever his tax plan says notwithstanding.

This was Romney’s first attempt to disable Obama’s attack on him of being just like Bush, by insisting that the math in his plan adds up, and even if it somehow doesn’t, then he’ll toss it out and do something else because, by god, you have his word he won’t increase the deficit by raising taxes.

His next attempt was on the deficit, when he attacked the president for not adopting the Simpson-Bowles plan, and then proceeded to attack Obama – and Simpson-Bowles – by saying that we shouldn’t increase taxes. So he’s insisting that Obama should have adopted a plan that he says was the wrong plan! But name dropping Simpson-Bowles makes Romney look like he may be willing to compromise on the deficit when he has no intention of doing so. Romney also said things like he’ll “probably” have to get rid of the oil subsidies in order for his tax cuts to be deficit neutral, but he never actually commits to the idea.

Perhaps one of Romney’s biggest attempts to disarm Obama’s attacks was his sudden embrace of government regulations. I was pretty stunned with Romney came out with this:

Regulation is essential. You can’t have a free market work if you don’t have regulation. As a businessperson, I had to have — I need to know the regulations. I needed them there. You couldn’t have people opening up banks in their — in their garage and making loans. I mean, you have to have regulations so that you can have an economy work. Every free economy has good regulation.

This statement is diametrically opposed to pretty much the very concept of Romney’s campaign that government is too big and needs to be eliminated wherever possible. He then extended this further by saying that he actually agrees with most of Dodd-Frank (despite wanting to repeal all of it), and cites Romneycare as a solution to healthcare, even though it’s exactly the same as Obamacare, which he wants to repeal because it over-regulates. He also made similar claims about not wanting to cut education funding (despite saying he would earlier in the campaign) among other things. He almost literally made up a new campaign at the debate in order to appear to moderate voters and to thwart Obama’s attacks against him. I think this is where Obama was probably caught most off guard.

I made a remark early in the debate that the theme seemed to be “we agree,” and while that wore off some by the end, I think it’s still apt. “we agree” was a major theme by Romney. He tried to give the appearance that he agreed with all the popular things Obama has done or is proposing, while attacking everything else. I think a big part of the strategy here was to narrow the gap between himself and Obama so it becomes less of an ideological big ideas battle and to turn the election into something like “Hey, I actually like all the popular stuff Obama is doing, so you don’t have to worry about that. As a result, it’s safe to vote for me to go in a new direction on everything else.”

Narrowing the discussion

While we had discussion in the debate about broad policies, especially where Romney wanted to attack Obama, when Romney was on defense, he tried to change the discussion from broad ideals to narrow policy decisions or parts of laws.

With taxes, Romney turned a discussion about whether the rich should pay their fair share into a discussion about how much taxes 3% of small businesses would pay. With Dodd-Frank, he turned a discussion about the general theme of regulating banks – and regulation in general – into a discussion about a single, specific provision in the bill (which I think also caught Obama off guard as I don’t think he was prepared to talk about the law to that degree of granularity). With Obamacare, he turned a broad discussion about health care in this country into a quibble over the Medicare board.

This had the double-edged effect of making Romney look knowledgeable by talking about specific portions of laws or policies (when Obama wasn’t prepared to do so, at least not on those specific items), while simultaneously deflecting the discussion away from broader differences about the role of government and how policies should be implemented that were likely to be more damaging to him.

So what can Obama do to correct this?

Obama has the advantage next time of knowing largely what Romney’s tactics may be now and the fact that the next debate is a town hall debate, which will be more traditional answer-rebuttal format and the final debate will be on Obama’s perceived strength of foreign policy, and where Romney will likely have less of an opportunity to use the same tricks he used above (perhaps other than bullying the moderator again).

However, Obama is facing a conundrum in that, at least the CNN focus group last night didn’t like it when candidates attacked each other, and one of Obama’s lowest ratings came when he insisted that Romney’s tax plan didn’t add up. So perhaps the biggest instance of Obama challenging Romney’s questionable claims was seen as one of his low points of the night, at least by that specific focus group. The other issue Obama faces is the fact that Romney is throwing so much spaghetti at him that if he were to respond to all of it, he would have no time left to talk about his own accomplishments and goals.

I think the format of the town hall will help mitigate some of these problems, but Obama still needs to come up with a way to call out Romney without spending exorbitant about of time having to explain everything. I’m not really sure how one accomplishes that. The one time he tried, Romney just repeatedly responded with “you’re wrong” and at least for the focus group, that seemed to be a sufficient defense for Romney.

I think the other thing Obama can do is perhaps be more assertive and animated. One of the criticisms was that he looked flat or that he didn’t want to be there. I think the town hall format will help with that, as Obama will be able to interact with voters directly, though it will be something he needs to work on for the final debate on foreign policy.

Prepare for the new GOP line: Obama is faking the job numbers

It’s a rather sad state of affairs when one can barely write snark anymore, because there is a real possibility that what you write will actually come true. The latest example of that was the release of the better than expected job numbers on Friday. Republicans can see where this is going. By election day, we’ll be looking at 31 or 32 straight months of job growth, and an unemployment number which is looking more certain to be under 8%, and perhaps even 7.5% (the current trend suggests we could even hit 7% but I’m somewhat doubtful of that). Those numbers would likely give Obama a net reduction in unemployment since he took office, a net gain in private employment, if not a net gain in total employment.

The initial GOP responses were largely nonsensical, ranging from Romney clinging to his “things would still be better without Obama!” argument, which is akin to saying that while the Patriots went 13-3, they would have gone undefeated if only Belichick wasn’t the coach, to Governor McDonnell’s statement that the economy is recovering because of GOP governors and not Obama, which is silly because the recovery is happening in states with Democratic governors, and most of the states lagging behind are the ones headed by Republicans.

Perhaps noticing that these arguments will ultimately fail if the job numbers keep getting better, there is a new emerging GOP tactic: attack the job numbers themselves. And I don’t mean claim that Obama is using the wrong metric, but claim that Obama is “cooking the books” on the employment numbers. You’re already seeing this tactic coming out at places like Fox News and the Washington Times. Expect this meme to start spreading more among conservative circles the better the job numbers get as the year progresses.

Unfortunately, this is a turn of a events I kind of predicted on twitter:

how soon until republicans start claiming that the White House is “cooking the numbers” to make unemployment look better than it is

and I don’t mean claiming we should be using different figures…but actually faking them

Those were from 8:45 in the morning on the day the jobs numbers were released.

And why did I think the discussion might turn that way? Simple, I understand the base assumption under which Republicans are operating: that it is impossible, literally not possible, that Obama’s policies could create jobs. They have so thoroughly convinced themselves of this idea that ANY explanation for better employment numbers is more valid than “what Obama is doing is working.” And we’re seeing that now as Republicans have come up with 3 different rationales for the numbers: 1) the numbers are going up despite Obama, 2) there are other factors which have caused the numbers to go up, namely either the work of GOP governors and/or the tireless work the GOP House has spent trying to ban abortion and destroy Medicare, and 3) arguing that the improved job numbers themselves are a fantasy.

I’m not sure if point #3 will gain enough ground that Romney, or whoever the GOP nominee ultimately is, will use that argument itself, but I think that he and the RNC and their surrogates will saturate the conversation with the insinuation, if not out right claiming, that the jobs numbers are cooked. Why? First off, because it’s going to be hard to argue #2. The numbers just don’t support the claim that better job numbers are found in GOP states. That won’t stop some from claiming it, but eventually they’re going to be called on it, either by Obama or by the press. And it’s hard to claim that a GOP House that has done nothing has influenced anything. Second, while the first line might be the “official” line Romney’s campaign might take, it’s a lousy argument. At what point do people just turn and say to Romney “c’mon man” saying that “things would be better if…”

So, I think the GOP is going to create a concerted effort to create the impression that Obama is cooking the books. I don’t think this method would work, but if it did, it would create the double impression that things aren’t really improving and that Obama is a corrupt politician who is willing to use his power to lie to the American people for the sake of getting elected. Of course, the GOP already believe this, but they would be hoping to convince everyone else of this idea as well. And if things like birtherism and the like have taught us anything, the GOP and it’s base will go to about any lengths and claim just about anything as a means of trying to defeat Obama.

Florida Polling Update: January 23, 2012

Some of you may have remembered that I did electoral college projections back in 2008 and I was thinking of doing it again this year. I thought I would start out by doing some of the GOP primaries. My code as it existed in 2008 isn’t really meant to handle primaries, besides I don’t have a site yet to enter the information in yet anyway. But I can still enter the stuff into a spreadsheet and figure it out, which is what I’m doing here.

I may also use the primaries to test out what might be the best way to present data.  In 2008, I largely did a “weighted average” of all polls, meaning that every poll, no matter how old, had a say in the average, however small that say was. While the general election may not be as volatile as the GOP primary, the primary has shown the pitfalls of that type of calculation as older polls that have a candidate considerably higher or lower than they are now can sometimes skew the poll. Then again, you don’t necessarily want to rely too heavily on polls just released either, I don’t think, so it’s good to have a balance. So I’ll be besting out two lengths of time to try to balance the polls: a 1-week weighted average and a 2-week weighted average. This is using the same algorithm I used in 2008, except I would only take the polls conducted in the last week or last two weeks (exception is if there are fewer than 5 polls available, in which case I take the most recent 5).

Here are the current “projections” based on each of the three calculations:

Weighted average (every poll taken is used):

Romney: 34.8%
Gingrich: 30.4%
Santorum: 12.3%
Paul: 9%

2-week Average (only polls from past two weeks):

Romney: 35.2%
Gingrich: 30.7%
Santorum: 12.2%
Paul: 9%

1-Week Average (only polls from past week)

Gingrich: 33.6%
Romney: 32.9%
Santorum: 12.5%
Paul: 9.2%

Clearly the 1-week average takes into consideration the recent Gingrich momentum, but that also means it’s listening to the immediate polls that are out. Is that good? Well, I suppose the most recent polls are the more accurate description of the race as it is now. However, it also reduces the number of polls available for the average, meaning that outliers can unduly influence the calculations. As a result, I think I’ll rely on my 2-week average for Florida and see how it does.  The history chart for Florida, based on the 2-week average, is below (click on the image for full size):

January 17, 2012 Politifact Truthfulness Ratings

This week we lose two candidates from the ratings as Michelle Bachmann dropped out of the campaign on January 4th and Jon Huntsman dropped out yesterday. So we’re down to 5 GOP candidates and President Obama on the ratings.

If you aren’t aware of how I calculate these, candidates get awarded 2 points for a “true” rating, 1 point for “mostly true,” 1/2 point for “half true,” -1/2 point for “mostly false,” -1 point for “false,” and -2 points for “pants on fire.” I then divide the total points by the number of ratings to get the Truth Average. The higher the score, the better. A negative score basically means a candidate wouldn’t know the truth if it punched them in the face.

So here are the ratings as of January 17th, with the change from the scores from January 3rd in parentheses:

  1. Barack Obama: 0.58 (-0.01)
  2. Ron Paul: 0.37 (-0.04)
  3. Mitt Romney: 0.28 (-0.05)
  4. Rick Santorum: 0.18 (+0.03)
  5. Rick Perry: 0.00 (-0.01)
  6. Newt Gingrich: -0.33 (+0.05)

Obama’s rating changed for the first time since I’ve been tracking this, mainly thanks due to three “half-true” ratings and one “pants on fire” rating in the past 2 weeks (though I somewhat disagree with giving that rating “pants on fire” considering some of the things that have passed as “half-true” there. I may rate it something like “mostly false” since, yes, Perry says Israel probably would end up receiving funding, but he does say that everyone – including Israel – would “start at zero”). In any case, this is only the 5th “pants on fire” rating for Obama, which is fewer than Romney (9), Perry (12), and Gingrich (8). Paul and Santorum only have 2 and 1, but they have about 1/10th and 1/20th the number of ratings than Obama does as well. He’s also more than 2/10ths of a point ahead of anyone else, and more than double’s his likely general election opponent Romney’s score.

Paul’s spectacular drop is still going on, with this score having fallen by half since the fall. Romney hasn’t fared much better, either. Santorum has actually been doing the best, by far, lately, at least as far as Politifact ratings are concerned. With Bachmann leaving the race, Gingrich remains as the only candidate with a score which is underwater.

The Return of EV Status?

I don’t know how many people remember from 2008, but I decided to do an election prediction algorithm that I called EV Status back then. I even had my own domain for it, though I can’t use it now because someone else grabbed it up. But you can still see an archived version of my final predictions on archive.org.

In any case, I was thinking of reviving it for 2012, though it’s a little early to get started, and I haven’t decided if I’m going to do it here, do it as it’s own wordpress.com blog, or get a domain for it again. There are advantages as doing it as it’s own domain such as having all the PHP that calculates everything online and being able to format things the way I want. Of course, the downside is that I have to pay for it.

In any case, my project in 2008 was a success. It predicted every state right except for two: Indiana and Missouri, which were the two states with the closest margins in my projections (0.6% and 0.2% respectively) and, well, a lot of people guessed wrong on Indiana and Missouri. The only thing I didn’t get was the Nebraska electoral vote, mainly because I wasn’t trying to track it.

One thing I don’t think I have done yet is actually go through my final projections and compare them to the actual final margins in each state. In fact, I still haven’t, so as you see them on here, they’ll be as new to you as they are to me…

So jump below the fold to see the results

Read more of this post

The bitter politics of Greed

As you probably saw last night or read this morning, Mitt Romney won a pretty resounding victory in last night’s New Hampshire primary.  It’s hard to see how things could have been better. He won by 16% getting nearly 40% of the vote, Ron Paul, the person who poses the least risk of beating him in a head-to-head finished 2nd (besides perhaps Huntsman, and he finished 3rd). The two potential anti-Romneys left in the race – Gingrich and Santorum – both well under-performed and finished under 10%.  As Chuck Todd liked to point out, this was basically a home game for Mitt. Still, it could have been a lot worse.

Clearly Romney agreed, as his acceptance speech last night had a distinct general election feel, focusing almost entirely on President Obama, with only a couple of swipes at the rest of the primary field mixed in.

The speech, as seems to be normal now days, probably had more lies in it than discernible facts. I was going to make a list of his lies and quick debunking, but it just made this post way too long. However, one of this statements last night was particularly galling to me:

The country already has a leader who divides us with the bitter politics of envy. We have to alter an alternative vision. I stand ready to lead us down a different path, where we’re lifted up by our desire to succeed, not dragged down by a resentment of success.

My mouth almost fell open when I heard him say this. The bigger politics of envy? This isn’t about the middle class being “jealous” of the rich and wanting to punish them for being rich. This is about many rich people – with Romney personifying them in many ways – getting rich on the backs of and at the expense of the middle class. As I said on twitter this morning, Obama isn’t about the politics of envy, it’s about the politics of stop screwing the middle class in the name of making yourself a bigger profit.

The reason why Romney’s time at Bain is a problem for him isn’t because he got rich there. It’s the way he got rich, by basically taking over struggling companies, sucking everything he could out of them, and them letting them go, often resulting in complete failure. Perry’s term of “vulture capitalism” is pretty accurate, I think. It’s the same thing with banks, where executives were giving themselves big bonuses while at the same time foreclosing on millions of Americans and getting bailed out by the government. If Romney wants to defend that sort of capitalism, as opposed to the person getting rich through actually working hard and success, then that’s up to him.

However, what makes it even worse, is that he doubled-down on the politics of envy this morning on the today show:

Matt: Let me ask you about the choice of words last night when you said we already have a leader who divides us with the bitter politics of envy. I’m curious about the word envy. Did you suggest that anyone who questions the politics and practices of Wall Street and financial institutions, anyone who has questions about the distribution of wealth and power in this country is envious? Is it about jealousy or fairness?

Mitt: You know, I think it’s about envy. I think it’s about class warfare. When you have a president encouraging the idea of dividing America based on 99% versus 1%, and those people who have been most successful are in the 1%, you have opened up a wave of approach in this country which is entirely inconsistent with the concept of one nation under God. I believe in the final analysis, the American people will reject that.

Matt: Aren’t there questions about the distribution of wealth without it being seen as envy?

Mitt: I think it’s fine to talk about those things in quiet rooms and tax policy and the like. But the President made it part of his campaign rally. Everywhere he goes we hear him talking about millionaires, and billionaires, and executives, and Wall Street. It’s an envy-oriented, attack-oriented approach and I think it will fail.

There are so many things wrong with what Mitt said this morning. Of course there is doubling-down on the politics of envy. Then there is him saying that any criticism of how Wall Street has operated or how financial institutions ran things is out of envy and not out of fairness. So Mitt Romney is saying that if you’re mad that bank CEOs wrote themselves huge bonuses while throwing you or your family or your friends out of their homes, you’re just jealous and should get over it.

He then goes further, not only saying that it’s A-OK for rich people to get rich on the back of the middle class and poor, but that it is part of this nation’s religious heritage by invoking “one nation under God.” So not only are you being envious by criticizing how people became rich, but you’re potentially being un-Christian too!

Then the final blow came with this suggestion that, sure, it’s OK to talk about wealth distribution, but only hidden away in “quiet rooms,” lest we incite the rabble, or something.

Mitt thinks he’s found a winner in his politics of envy line, but I think he’s really going to step in it based on how he answered questions here. He is making a full-throated defense of the exploitation of the middle class by some members of the upper class, not as just being OK, but as the way America does and should work.

If that’s the debate Romney wants to have, I have a feeling Obama will be more than happy to engage him in that discussion.

January 3, 2012 Politifact Truthfulness Ratings

I’ll probably start doing these “thruthfullness scales” a little more frequently now that we’re actually into the primary season. I don’t know about weekly, because I don’t know if the updates on Politifact really justify that, but I may do it every other week now.

If you aren’t aware of how I calculate these, candidates get awarded 2 points for a “true” rating, 1 point for “mostly true,” 1/2 point for “half true,” -1/2 point for “mostly false,” -1 point for “false,” and -2 points for “pants on fire.” I then divide the total points by the number of ratings to get the Truth Average. The higher the score, the better. A negative score basically means a candidate wouldn’t know the truth if it punched them in the face.

So here are the ratings as of January 3rd, with the change from the scores from December 16th in parentheses. Minimum 10 ratings:

  1. Barack Obama: 0.59 (NC)
  2. Ron Paul: 0.41 (-0.05)
  3. Jon Huntsman: 0.40 (-0.06)
  4. Mitt Romney: 0.33 (-0.01)
  5. Rick Santorum: 0.15 (NC)
  6. Rick Perry: 0.01 (NC)
  7. Newt Gingrich: -0.38 (-0.07)
  8. Michelle Bachmann: -0.56 (+0.03)

So the only GOP candidate with any upward movement in the past two weeks is Bachmann, thanks to a Mostly True rating and her already abysmal average that makes it hard for her not to move up short of a False or Pants on Fire rating. Santorum didn’t change because he didn’t get any new ratings. Perry got several new ones but they pretty much all averaged out to zero which is why his didn’t change either. Everyone else went down.

If you were wondering, five GOP candidates have been in the ratings since I started posting them on my blog in August – Paul, Romney, Gingrich, Perry, and Bachmann. Only Perry and Bachmann haven’t seen rather precipitous drops in their ratings since then. Bachmann, again, because it’s hard to keep such a horrible rating, and Perry, who seems to consistently average about 0, telling as many truths and untruths. Romney has dropped 0.13 points, Paul had dropped 0.30 points, taking his reputation has being a “different” candidate when it comes to the truth with it, while Gingrich had dropped a staggering .49 points, going from above zero to next to last and in danger of being passed by Bachmann, of all people, for the cellar.

For a while, both Paul and Huntsman – and even nominally Romney – could challenge Obama for truth telling, with both Paul and Huntsman actually leading the ratings at one point. But at this point, in the battle for the GOP bottom feeding votes, there is pretty much no one who is even close to Obama’s score now. Indeed, both Paul and Romney (and Huntsman if he had enough ratings to count) had better scores in August than any GOP candidate has today, including themselves.

December 2011 Politifact Truthfulness Scale

It’s time to release the “Truthfulness Scale” for December 2011, based on Politifact’s ratings for the current 2012 presidential candidates. Yes, I actually did do this in November. I just didn’t bother posting it on my blog, so the comparisons will be to the November ratings. Sorry about that. I’m also doing this month’s ratings early because I have a feeling I won’t get around to it at the end of the month due to the Holidays. I may also start doing these more frequently upon the start of the year due to the primaries heating up.

If you aren’t aware of how I calculate these, candidates get awarded 2 points for a “true” rating, 1 point for “mostly true,” 1/2 point for “half true,” -1/2 point for “mostly false,” -1 point for “false,” and -2 points for “pants on fire.” I then divide the total points by the number of ratings to get the Truth Average. The higher the score, the better. A negative score basically means a candidate wouldn’t know the truth if it punched them in the face.

So here are the ratings as of December 16th, with the change from the scores from November 29th in parentheses. Minimum 10 ratings:

  1. Barack Obama: 0.59 (NC)
  2. John Huntsman: 0.46 (-0.17)
  3. Ron Paul: 0.46 (-0.08)
  4. Mitt Romney: 0.34 (NC)
  5. Rick Santorum: 0.15 (+0.40)
  6. Rick Perry: 0.01 (NC)
  7. Newt Gingrich: -0.31 (-0.21)
  8. Michelle Bachmann: -0.59 (-0.03)

Some notes: Herman Cain has been taken out of the ratings because he dropped out of the race. However, Newt has apparently decided to take his spot as one of the worst liars now that he’s been made the frontrunner. I don’t know what it is about becoming a front runner and lying, but Bachmann did it (and continues to do so), Perry’s score fell lock a rock when he became the frontrunner, Cain’s score was always low, and now Gingrich’s score has dropped like rock since becoming the front runner. I don’t know if this lying is making them the front runner or if they feel compelled to lie to appease their base, but there definitely seems to be some connection between being the flavor of the month candidate and not telling the truth. The only candidate this doesn’t really seem to apply to so far is Mitt Romney.

As recently as August, Gingrich had a score of 0.11, making him the 3rd most truthful Republican. Now he’s next to last, having lost almost a half point average since then. That’s a lot of lying in the past 3 1/2 months.

Rick Santorum, on the other hand, has been doing some truth telling. It’s not really about Obama or anything – basically some statements on unemployment for college grads and some statements about the Balanced Budget Amendment when he was in the Senate, but I don’t really care what the ratings are about, and Politifact decided to judge them, so they’re in. In any case, it’s enough to boost his score by nearly half a point – helped by the fact that he only has 13 ratings to begin with. But it’s moved Santorum from next to last (sans Cain) to 4rd among Republicans, at least for the moment.

Jon Huntsman’s lead didn’t last long. He joined the list last month (finally) having a rating of 0.63. However, a couple of “mostly false” ratings has dropped his score into a tie with Ron Paul for 2nd overall, though still tied for first among GOP candidates.

Since the end of August, the change in the candidates ratings are now thus (Huntsman and Santorum aren’t listed since they didn’t have enough ratings to have a score at the time):

  • Michelle Bachmann: +0.23
  • Rick Perry: +0.02
  • Barack Obama: No change
  • Mitt Romney: -0.12
  • Ron Paul: -0.25
  • Newt Gingrich: -0.42

I should note it should say something when Bachmann has improved her score by a quarter of a point and she still is about a quarter point behind any other candidate at this point. Her score back in August was a truly abysmal -0.82. It’s now only -0.59. Which means she’s told the truth occasionally, but her “mostly false,” “false,” and “pants on fire” ratings still outnumber her “true,” “mostly true,” and “half true” ratings nearly 3 to 1.

Sadly, she’s really the only Republican candidate to have made any improvements. Perry improved from -0.01 to +0.01, which isn’t that much of a change, really. All other GOP candidates scores have dropped in the past 3 1/2 months. The main reason Obama’s score hasn’t changed is that his over 300 ratings make his score extremely stable.

I suppose the only good stat for the Republicans is that, unlike last month, half their field is no longer underwater. Newt Gingrich already had a negative rating, Herman Cain dropped out, and Santorum went from having a negative rating to a positive one. That means 5 of the 7 GOP candidates now actually have a positive rating. But as noted above, the trend for almost all of them is still downward.

October 2011 Politifact Truthfulness Scale

It’s time to release the “Truthfulness Scale” for October 2011, based on Politifact’s ratings for the current 2012 presidential candidates.

If you aren’t aware of how I calculate these, candidates get awarded 2 points for a “true” rating, 1 point for “mostly true,” 1/2 point for “half true,” -1/2 point for “mostly false,” -1 point for “false,” and -2 points for “pants on fire.” I then divide the total points by the number of ratings to get the Truth Average. The higher the score, the better. A negative score basically means a candidate wouldn’t know the truth if it punched them in the face.

So here are the ratings as of November 1st, with the change from the scores from September 27th in parentheses. Minimum 10 ratings:

  1. Barack Obama: 0.59 (NC)
  2. Ron Paul: 0.48 (-0.04)
  3. Mitt Romney: 0.44 (-0.02)
  4. Rick Perry: 0.02 (+0.08)
  5. Newt Gingrich: -0.14 (-0.09)
  6. Rick Santorum: -0.25 (NEW)
  7. Herman Cain: -0.45 (+0.01)
  8. Michelle Bachmann: -0.59 (+0.17)

This month’s conclusions
So the main notes right now are these: I removed Sarah Palin from the ratings since she removed herself (finally) from consideration, so all that remains are actual candidates running, as it seems highly unlikely anyone new will jump in at this point. Also, we welcome Rick Santorum to the ratings after he finally mustered up the requisite 10 ratings to be included. Jon Huntsman is next in line with 9 total ratings, so his next one will put him in the list as well. The only other person I’m tracking who doesn’t qualify is Gary Johnson, who only has 5 ratings.

There seems to be a somewhat evening of the truthfulness score going on in the GOP field. The top 3 GOP candidates from last month all saw their ratings drop while the bottom 4 candidates saw their ratings go up, resulting in Perry and Gingrich flipping positions this month.  The entire GOP field is now at least 0.11 points behind Obama in the ratings, which might not sound like much until you realize that from Obama to Bachmann, there is only a difference of 1.18 points.  The total gap between the top and bottom of the GOP field has shrunk from 1.3 points at the end of August to only 1.07 points today, a narrowing of about 17%.

With Paul’s drop below 0.5 points, Obama is now the only candidate in the list that averages better than a “half true” rating.  More than half of the GOP field is still under water, sitting with negative ratings.

The GOP candidates are still getting hammered with false ratings as well. Four of Seven ranked GOP candidates have as many or more “Pants on Fire” ratings than President Obama, even though none of them have more than 1/3 the total ratings. If the GOP candidates had as many total ratings as Obama, none of the ranked candidates would have any fewer than 29 “Pants on Fire” ratings. Only Romney would have fewer “False” ratings than Obama – by 4 – but he would more than make up for that with 25 more “Pants on Fire” ratings. Only Paul and Romney would even have over 50 “True” ratings – 78 for Paul, 79 for Romney – vs. Obama’s 79.

September 2011 Politifact Truthfulness Scale

It’s time to release the “Truthfulness Scale” for September 2011, based on Politifact’s ratings for the current (and potential) 2012 presidential candidates. If you aren’t aware of how I calculate these, candidates get awarded 2 points for a “true” rating, 1 point for “mostly true,” 1/2 point for “half true,” -1/2 point for “mostly false,” -1 point for “false,” and -2 points for “pants on fire.” I then divide the total points by the number of ratings to get the Truth Average. The higher the score, the better. A negative score basically means a candidate wouldn’t know the truth if it punched them in the face.

So here are the ratings as of September 27th, with the change from the scores on August 26th in parentheses. Minimum 10 ratings:

  1. Barack Obama: 0.59 (NC)
  2. Ron Paul: 0.52 (-0.19)
  3. Mitt Romney: 0.42 (-0.04)
  4. Sarah Palin: 0.02 (NC)
  5. Newt Gingrich: -.05 (-0.13)
  6. Rick Perry: -0.06 (-0.05)
  7. Herman Cain: -0.46 (+0.04)
  8. Michelle Bachmann: -0.76 (+0.06)

Note: I’m tracking Huntsman (7), Johnson (4), and Santorum (7), but none have the 10 ratings that I have set as a minimum to be in the rankings

This month’s conclusions

As might one see from doing the math, Obama has now taken over first place from Ron Paul on the truthfulness scale, largely because since the GOP debates started in earnest, Paul’s score has dropped from 0.91 to 0.52, a drop of nearly 4/10ths of a point, meaning he’s gone from nearly averaging “mostly true” to only averaging “half true.”  That’s a pretty precipitous drop in only two months, and at the rate he is dropping, he’s in danger of being passed by Mitt Romney as the most truthful GOP candidate, as Romney has only dropped 0.06 points in the past 2 months.

Only one GOP candidate who is on the list hasn’t had a drop in their score over the past two months: Michelle Bachmann, whose score in the past two months has increased by 0.05 points. This is largely due to the fact that her score is so bad, that if she says anything remotely truthful, her average is going to improve. Every other GOP candidate has seen their score drop over the last two months, except Palin who hasn’t really had many new ratings. Cain is the only candidate other than Bachmann who saw his score improve over the past month, but, again, he already has an abysmally low score, so saying something true is almost going to automatically improve his average.

Paul, Gingrich, and Perry have all seen their scores drop by an average of 1/10th of a point or more over the past month.  Perry remains the 4th most truthful GOP candidate, behind Paul, Romney, and Gingrich, but that’s largely thanks to the fact that everyone else’s score in the GOP has also dropped, and the people behind him – Cain and Bachmann – are so far behind that it would take a lot of work for him to either drop to their level or for them to recover from their abysmally low averages. It should still be noted, though, that Perry entered the race with a score of 0.04, which isn’t great, but still better than average for the GOP field, and has seen it drop ever since he entered the race. As I noted last week, becoming a GOP candidate for President doesn’t not appear to be very conducive to telling the truth.

Perry is ahead of everyone else in one statistic though: he is the first candidate to hit double-digit “Pants on Fire” ratings with 10, followed closely by Bachmann with 9, and Romney with 7. He also has the 2nd most “False” and “Mostly False” ratings, with 20 and 14, as compared to Obama’s 49 and 41, though Obama has 3.7 times the number of ratings as Perry (as compared to 2.1 times the False and 2.9 times the Mostly False ratings).

If one wants to know what percentage of a candidate’s ratings are “Mostly False” or worse, then here you go:

  1. Bachmann – 80.6%
  2. Cain – 61.5%
  3. Palin – 54.9%
  4. Gingrich – 52.4%
  5. Perry – 51.2%
  6. Romney – 35.4%
  7. Paul – 30.4%
  8. Obama – 29.4%

Yes, that’s right, every GOP candidate other than Paul or Romney has more statements rated “Mostly False” or worse than they have statements rated “Half True” or better. It’s pretty clear that most GOP candidates have a very serious problem with the truth.

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