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‘Clueless’ Republicans still don’t get it

Republicans failed to read the signs

Watching the delusional conservative pundits “eating crow”, as Dick Morris put it, has been a joy. Obama’s convincing and utterly predictable win has forced many of them to accept some obvious truths — that women are also voters, for example.

Even so, few have explained why they weren’t saying this before the election. Instead, they’ve deconstructed the flaws in their made-up predictions with yet more made-up analysis.

Peggy Noonan, one of the more respected conservative columnists, had an epiphany in the Journal. Counting lawn signs, it turns out, is not the best way to predict an election. Not because it’s a dumb idea, but because the Obama turnout was higher than her model was forecasting:

While GOP voters were proud to assert their support with lawn signs, Democratic professionals were quietly organizing, data mining and turning out the vote. Their effort was a bit of a masterpiece; it will likely change national politics forever.

Yes, perhaps pundits will stop counting lawn signs and try to understand what the polls are plainly telling them.

Just kidding. In the shadow of defeat, Noonan was in no mooed to reflect on her lack of rigour. Instead, she simply moved on to analysing America’s new political landscape:

We are a center-right country, but the Republican Party over the next few years will have to ponder again what center-right means. It has been noted elsewhere that the Romney campaign’s economic policies more or less reflected the concerns of its donor base. Are those the immediate concerns of the middle and working classes? Apparently the middle class didn’t think so. The working class?

That is the authentic sound of the Republican political operative class at work: in charge, supremely confident, essentially clueless.

It matters when you show people you care. It matters when you’re there. It matters when you ask.

This is quite a change from what Noonan was saying before the election:

Romney’s crowds are building—28,000 in Morrisville, Pa., last night; 30,000 in West Chester, Ohio, Friday It isn’t only a triumph of advance planning: People came, they got through security and waited for hours in the cold. His rallies look like rallies now, not enactments. In some new way he’s caught his stride. He looks happy and grateful. His closing speech has been positive, future-looking, sweetly patriotic. His closing ads are sharp—the one about what’s going on at the rallies is moving.

All the vibrations are right.

Remarkably, Noonan claims to stand by everything in that post, including the preposterous idea that the race was too close to call. Yeah, right. Nate Silver just got lucky. And all the other quants. And the bookies who were paying out on an Obama win before the polls even opened. It was, like, a total toss-up!

Even now, Republicans still don’t seem to understand why they lost and why they didn’t see it coming. Indeed, it’s deeply ironic that people who proclaim deep love for free markets refused to believe (or couldn’t understand) the very obvious market signals from the polls.

Ironic, because the statistical techniques that Nate Silver and others used are also part of the basic toolbox used within financial markets. (As are the techniques used by climate scientists.) Even baseball has embraced math. Why can’t DC?

And I don’t mean this as a dig against Republicans alone. It just so happened that the quants were reflecting a reality that flattered Democrats this cycle. If the situation is reversed next time round (President Rubio?), I fully expect to hear Bill Clinton cogently explaining why the predictions are wrong.

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