Liveblogging World War II: November 7, 1942
Henry Blodget Tries to Understand the "If Not for That Meddling Nate Silver!" Scooby-Doo Villains

If Not For That Meddling Nate!: Uh-Oh Scooby-Doo Weblogging Edition

Lawyers, Guns and Money reminds me of the existence of Mickey Kaus (they recommend *not* clicking on the link: I concur). But the lure of comedy proves irresistible. And I find:

A claim that Superstorm Sandy lowered Obama's chances in the late election.... A new claim that the polls are biased in favor of Barack Obama.... The War against the Central Limit Theorem, the Current Population Survey, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.... A proposal that Romney win the election by going all-in on the attack on Black welfare queens and their cadillacs.... More labor statistics trutherism.... Doubling-down on the War on Nate Silver... The attack on Steve Rattner... The attack on the internet: "Why has Obama's public campaign been so ineffective for the past month? Couldn't someone digitally sophisticated and untanked--e.g. Buzzfeed's Ben Smith--make a good argument that the President was led astray by the overhyped reality and promise of Internet Politics"... The claim Fannie Mae caused the financial crisis... The claim Romney won the third debate...

But I want to highlight something genuinely interesting--an argument I have heard at least ten times from Republicans over the past week. I call it the Scooby-Doo villain "If not for that meddling Nate!" argument. It goes like this:

  1. We don't assess and react to reality--we create our own reality, to which you must then respond.
  2. The first debate gave Romney momentum up through October 12, and the perception of momentum thereafter.
  3. The non-quantitative press corps perceived what we wanted them to perceive after October 12: that Romney had momentum.
  4. Because everybody wants to join a bandwagon, had the perception of momentum bounced through the journalistic echo chamber for a couple of weeks, it would have turned into real momentum.
  5. And then Romney would have won.
  6. But by highlighting his dubious and largely-untested model and claiming that state polls showed that Obama still had a lock on Ohio, Nate Silver intervened in the election and turned the perception around--and in fact gave Obama the perception of momentum.
  7. That's not a New York Times's journalists role, to interfere in the electoral process in such a blatantly partisan way.

Kaus provides a neatly-compressed example of casting yourself as both a Scooby-Doo villain and as the bad behind-the-times scout in "Moneyball":

Alerted by Brad (“The Scoutmaster”) DeLong–protector of vulnerable young journalists!–the NYT‘s Paul Krugman defends Nate Silver’s election projections against a fairly calm critique in National Review. I leave it to you, the reader, to decide if arguing that Silver includes too many old polls is the sort of thing that, allowed to proliferate, “means … science — or any kind of scholarship — will become impossible.” But what surprised me was this Krugman graf:

It’s almost besides the point to notice that the whole notion that Nate Silver is somehow serving Obama’s interests by skewing the results is bizarre. This race is going to be decided by actual votes, not perceptions of “momentum”. But then posturing and bragging seems to be central to the right’s theory, for reasons I don’t get.

I thought the whole reason for the “momentum” wars–is Mitt surging or not?–is that the perception of momentum can easily become self-fulfilling, because undecided voters tend to break toward the candidate they think is the likely “winner.” It’s not just “posturing and bragging”–though there’s plenty of that. It might affect “actual votes.” If Krugman doesn’t understand that, what else…