Saturday, November 19, 2016

A critique of Allan Lichtman's system.

Allan Lichtman got a lot of press for his system which predicted Trump's win.

Here's a news flash; it didn't predict it at the end.

Here is a link to his 13 true-false questions. 

His threshold is simple enough. Five false answers or less means the incumbent wins. Six false answers or more means the White House will switch parties. As you can see on the link, there were six false answers. So game to Trump and Prof. Lichtman wins again.

Hold on a second.

My first critique: Too many questions are subjective. Fort example, he says neither Trump or Clinton is charismatic (questions 12 and 13). His questions are set up so that Clinton's lack gets a false answer and Trump's lack gets a true answer. (This makes sense in his system, since false answers are bad for the incumbent side true are true answers are bad for the challenger.) While I am immune to both their charms, Trump clearly had very loyal followers who did find him charismatic, in large part because he a TV star. I also personally know people very committed to Clinton. Charisma, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

Question 9 gives the Obama administration a point for being unmarred by a major scandal. Again, while I agree that should count, partisans who have been bombarded by Benghazi stories for years on end think of the administration as completely tainted. Like charisma, this is probably better ranked on a sliding scale.

Questions 10 and 11 give Obama a split, no major foreign success or failure. Here I would disagree, as I think the Iran deal should be counted as a success, and of course, conservatives count Benghazi as a major failure.

Lichtman gives the Obama administration a 0 for effecting major policy. Unless he means in the past four years, Obamacare counts as major, a BFD in the language of our beloved vice president.

Maybe Lichtman doesn't count first term stuff. If so, that would be a yet another serious flaw in his system. Trump and the GOP are still running against it and the Democrats were running to protect it.

My second and more specific critique: Question 4 is stated "There is no significant third party or independent campaign". Lichtman's answer is false, which counts as a black mark against Clinton, in his system the fatal black mark.

This one is clearly quantified. At or above 5% for a third party of the vote counts as significant, under 5% is insignificant.

Here is the current count.

The Libertarians have 3.28%. This should count as true, no significant third party. By Lichtman's count, this is a true answer and there are only five false ones.

Lichtman's system said Clinton would win and no one is calling him on it. As far as I can tell, you heard it here first.

With every state now decided, the Libertarians only got 

Monday, November 7, 2016

Final predictions,
7 November 2016

Click the map to create your own at

Here is the map I am expecting for Clinton vs. Trump. Iowa and Nevada were both 50-50 toss-ups this morning, but new polls have split the difference, with Iowa leaning Trump and Nevada leading Clinton. Here's the numbers I am hanging my hat on.

Electoral college count
Clinton 323
Trump 215

This does not take into account two electors from the Clinton delegation in Washington saying they won't vote for her. Who knows, they might get kicked out of the club, we'll wait and see.  Here is the graph of my weekly snapshots. The odds right now are about 99% to 1% in Clinton's favor.

   I've read accounts that if Trump can't win, he'd like to out-perform Romney's 206. He's got a good chance to do that, but he isn't facing Obama, who is a much more popular figure in his eighth year than either Clinton or Trump.

The Senate prediction

This prediction is split into good news and bad news. The order depends on your political persuasion.

The GOP currently holds 54 seats to the Democratic/Independent coalitions' 46.  My algorithm considers the Democrats will hold all ten seats they are defending, including the close race in Nevada for the seat Harry Reid is vacating. The algorithm predicts three losses for the GOP in Illinois, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. There are four very close races still in the mix, but the forecast from my algorithm says the GOP will hold New Hampshire, North Carolina, Missouri and Indiana. This will mean the GOP will have 51 seats and retain control of the Senate. I do not have the resources to predict the House, but this doesn't look like the kind of landslide that can make that chamber switch sides.

My competitive side would love to see my algorithm go 90-0 in predictions, but if I miss any, I hope some of my errors give control of the Senate to the Democrats. It's hard to pay attention to anything but Trump this year, but I'll take this moment to remind people that the Republican Party has very few places where they part company with Trump on policy and they have decided they would rather take hostages than enact legislation through the democratic process. Hillary is not going to have an easy gig, but a Democratic Senate would make it a little easier.

Go out and vote and if you are on the left side of the political spectrum, vote down ticket (!) and hope for the best in the Senate. It will take a evil miracle for Trump to come back from his current position.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Clinton vs Trump.
6 November 2016,
2 days before the election

I usually wait on Sundays for the morning talk shows to be over, since it's common that at least one will roll out some new polls. I'm breaking with that rule today because my next update is the final post late Monday night. This is the dress rehearsal.

I could never have started this hobby without the Internet making it so easy to find polling data. I always wanted information I could rely on, especially because it's been a cliche for generations that there will be reports on the last weekend that state "the race is tightening", even in the big blowouts like Reagan-Mondale and Bush-Dukakis.

This weekend, it appears to be true. I'll save the in-depth stuff for Monday night and just give the snapshot info in this post.

Here is the list of states and districts, from most likely to go Trump to most likely to go Clinton.  RED indicates a state moving from one category to another in Trump's direction, while BLUE means the state moved in Clinton's direction.
Solid Trump (more than 95% Confidence of Victory [CoV]): 
Total: 145

Leaning Trump (between 50% and 95% CoV for Trump): SC NE-2 AZ GA UT OH AK
Total: 64

Toss-up: NV IA
Total: 12
Leaning Clinton (between 50% and 95% for Clinton): 
Total: 99

Solid Clinton (more than 95% CoV for Clinton): 
Total: 215

The Current Count


The only red moves that really matter are Ohio back in the Trump column and Nevada and Iowa now rated toss-ups.

We are at a time in the contest when valuable information about early voting is available. My algorithm does not take it into account. The late polls say Nevada got closer and moved in Trump's favor. The lines for early voting in Nevada at a predominantly Hispanic polling place and the numbers from Clark County in general look to favor Clinton and the Democrats. This is interesting and useful data, but I don't factor it in. If the late polls today and tomorrow still rate Nevada and Iowa toss-ups, I will squeeze my algorithm a little harder.

Here are the odds my algorithm produces for victory for each candidate if the election were being held today. In a very real sense, it is being held today, given the number of states with early voting, available in all but ten states, and the increasing popularity of absentee ballots, available everywhere, though some states make people fill out a reason.

Trump's chances are no longer parts per million, but his paths to victory are extremely narrow and time is running out fast. If instead of using my algorithm I used my gut feeling about the states he should not lose and let my algorithm look at the states he needs to steal from Clinton, his odds climb up to about 4.0%.

Even giving Trump advantages I would deny to Clinton, it's not very close.

My last update will be Monday night after 9:00 pm Pacific time, which is midnight on the East Coast. At that time, I'll make my final predictions in the 34 Senate races, The 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the congressional districts in Maine and Nebraska that make those states proportional.

Hold on. The end really is in sight.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

The Senate race
5 November 2016

My schedule for the weekend is Senate today and the Presidential races on Sunday, but I'll also have a final prediction on Monday night. My feeling is that there are only three races where changing a seat from one party to another looks like a lock now, and there are five races that are not completely decided. Here's the chances for how many senators will be in the Republican caucus this January.

Three races where the Republican seat is likely to switch.

Confidence of Victory for Democrat: over 99.99%
Polls in the last three weeks: 3
Polls showing a lead for the Democrat: 3

Even before Mark Kirk went Full Metal Asshole in the debate (first mistake) and then apologized (for a 21st Century Republican, his second mistake), the polls showed him way behind. My system counts this as a lock. Eventually, my system will get one of these wrong, but it hasn't happened yet. Tammy Duckworth will be in the Senate in January if 1+1 = 2 still is true this Tuesday.

Confidence of Victory for Democrat: 85%
Polls in the last three weeks: 9
Polls showing a lead for the Democrat: 9

The median poll says this shouldn't be a blowout, but it would be a real shock if this is wrong. Russ Feingold should be back.

Confidence of Victory for Democrat: 75%
Polls in the last week: 8
Polls showing a lead for the Democrat: 7

Pennsylvania has no early voting, so I change the freshness dating to one week. Knowing the universal popularity of absentee ballots, which are allowed in every state though some ask for an excuse ("I'm going to be on one of the moons of Saturn that week"), this is a part of the algorithm I might change. Even if I did, I do limit my data set to the most recent ten polls, and in that set the Democrat leads in eight, with one tie for the GOP and one lead. Katie McGinty should prevail over Pat Toomey in this all-Irish American donnybrook. For me, this is kind of a sweet reminder of old school East Coast politics.

Five races that are still not completely determined.

Confidence of Victory for Democrat: 50%
Polls in the last three weeks: 5
Polls showing a lead for the Democrat:2
Polls showing a tie: 1
Polls showing a lead for the Republican:2

Any new poll in the next 60 hours or so could change my current view of the race. Right now, with a tie in three weeks, I'd look at the latest three polls and give the nod to the Republicans. One new poll that doesn't show a tie between now an Monday night will tip the scale, which now favors the GOP.

New Hampshire
Confidence of Victory for Democrat: 50.73%
Polls in the last week: 8
Polls showing a lead for the Democrat:4
Polls showing a lead for the Republican: 4

As the designer of the algorithm in which I put my faith, this race shakes that faith to the core. Maggie Hassan's lead here is one due to her two point lead in one poll looks a little better than Kelly Ayotte's two point lead in another. Any new poll will turn the algorithm around. I'm only use eight polls, all from the last seven days because New Hampshire has no early voting. If I used more, it would be advantage Ayotte.

I really don't know what will happen here and right now, this is the race that decides the control of the Senate.

No pressure.


Confidence of Victory for the Republican: 59%
Polls in the last three weeks: 8
Polls showing a lead for the Democrat: 2
Polls showing a tie: 2
Polls showing a lead for the Republican: 4

It will take several polls to get my algorithm to favor upstart Jason Kander over incumbent Roy Blount. I consider this a hold for the GOP unless new data goes crazy in favor of the challenger in the next few days.

North Carolina  

Confidence of Victory for the Republican: 59%
Polls in the last three weeks:11
Polls showing a lead for the Democrat:3
Polls showing a tie: 2
Polls showing a lead for the Republican: 6

My best guess is a held seat for the Republicans. Only a pro-Democratic flurry between now and Monday night will sway me from this opinion.


Confidence of Victory for the Democrat: 66%
Polls in the last three weeks: 10
Polls showing a lead for the Democrat: 6
Polls showing a tie: 1
Polls showing a lead for the Republican:3

This is the only seat where the Democrats are playing defense in a serious way, hoping Cathy Cortez Masto can defend Harry Reid's vacant seat. The lines for early voting in Latino precincts are a data point worth noting, but they aren't in my algorithm. I'm assuming this prediction will not change between now and Monday night.

The dress rehearsal for the final prediction.

Democrats hold 10 of 10 seats.
Republicans lose 4 of 24 seats.
Senate numbers in January: 50 Dem and allies, 50 Republican

I don't do any work towards the prediction of the House, but my guess is the closeness of the Senate and the race for the White House is likely not enough for the Democrats to re-take the House from the GOP. Unless the Democrats can convince their base that elections happen every two years instead of every four, this will mean obstructionism will likely continue in Washington for the foreseeable future.

In some ways I hope I'm wrong, and I put no confidence in my guess about the House, but that's what the numbers say right now.

Tomorrow: the dress rehearsal of the final prediction for Clinton-Trump. (Spoiler alert: Clinton.)