First time at this, so forgive me if I'm messing up the form. I'm Ezra Klein. I write for the Washington Post and Bloomberg View, and I'm a policy analyst at MSNBC. I've also been working for the last few months to build an elections forecasting tool that lets people plug in expected values for economic growth and June presidential approval and get a fair read on how the election is likely to go. It's my way of trying to step back from the tornado of idiocy that is the day-to-day in this election.

(http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/post/create-your-own-election/2012/04/24/gIQAuaOIeT_blog.html)

So I'd love if you asked me about that. But really, you can ask me about most anything. I'll be answering from 12:30-1:30.

Update: Twitter verification that this is, indeed, me: http://twitter.com/ezraklein/status/194802290484449281

Update 2: And let me emphasize that you can ask me about non-model issues. I want to promote my project a bit. But I don't want to bore people.

Update 3: I cheated and answered some early. But Ill be back at 1230 now!

Update 4: Alright, folks, I have to run. thanks!

Comments: 584 • Responses: 48  • Date: 

AstroFreddy257 karma

How afraid are you of Nate Silver posting an article showing your analysis is way off-base?

ezra_klein167 karma

Terrified. Though I was pretty careful in the column. The point of this model, as I write, is to help us think more clearly about the election, and give us a guide for how it'll work if it follows past patterns. Nate's critique is heavily about pure-fundamentals models that make ad-hoc adjustments to achieve a better fit. We're not pure fundamentals and we don't make ad hoc adjustments. He also makes the point that these models sometimes perform worse out of sample, which I mention in the piece. But when we run an out of sample test on our model, it actually performs better, with a lower average error.

wolfvision42 karma

Star Wars or Star Trek?

ezra_klein227 karma

Comic books.

indyguy36 karma

I'm generally a fan of empirical models like yours, but Kevin Drum posted an interesting response to your model earlier today. Basically, he notes that we can predict more elections (13 of 16) if we only consider the number of years the incumbent party has been in office -- the incumbent wins if it's been 4 years and loses if it's been 8. Any thoughts on why this pattern seems to occur?

Thanks for doing this, and for all your hard work. My morning doesn't feel complete if I don't have a chance to read Wonkbook.

ezra_klein44 karma

In a way, his model is saying something that's not so different: It's difficult to beat incumbents. What we're trying to see is why and when incumbents get beaten. We're also doing point estimates, which he isn't: The model does tell you projected vote share, though we're choosing to express this in terms of probability of winning, because we think that's more accurate.

But that's the point of these model discussions: They force you to really look closely at what seems to matter. And one thing that seems to matter quite a lot is incumbency. Another is the economy, which I think is what you'll see if you look at the elections his model misses.

shouldbutwont163 karma

hi Ezra, this is your sister-in-law ;) . when are you coming to visit us in ny? and what is the most irritating thing annie does at home?

ezra_klein109 karma

Soon! And Annie does nothing irritating at home. She is an angel and I adore her.

Oh, except for that one thing. She knows what I'm talking about.

Enderkr128 karma

Why does Rachel Maddow go without her glasses for her show, but with her glasses everywhere else? Is it because she's a superheroine? Was I not supposed to notice she's the same person with/without the glasses?

ezra_klein458 karma

How do you know she's the same person? Have you ever seen Rachel Maddow with and without her glasses at the same time?

Perhaps I've said too much.

RyanKinder82 karma

So, you say it can predict presidential races within three points... how many elections has it actually predicted? Can this tool currently predict what the future of the next election (Mitt vs. Obama) will be?

Also, can you provide proof that you are, indeed, Ezra Klein? Perhaps with a tweet ( http://twitter.com/#!/ezraklein )

ezra_klein58 karma

Sorry -- I'd forgotten to go back and give a non proof-of-existence answer.

The model has a 2.8 percent error rate at predicting the vote share on elections since 1948. If you run out of sample tests -- that is, take an election out, then run the model against it fresh -- the error is even lower. It's not, as someone suggested in this thread, only looking at second terms. In the column I've linked to, I go through the major missed calls. It should be predictive this year -- the question is, as I say in the piece, whether you believe this year is, for some reason or another, different.

wolfvision18 karma

What's your favourite tinned soup?

ezra_klein53 karma

I only eat soup that comes in cartons.

RougeLeader48 karma

Where do all the young hip wonks hang out in dc?

ezra_klein91 karma

I'm going to cheat and answer a few easy questions early because I have a moment. So! When I moved here, all the young wonks -- by which I mean, young political folks having trouble paying rent -- lived in Columbia Heights. But that got expensive. There's even a Target. Now it's Bloomingdale, which is where I live.

In terms of places to hang out, Big Bear Cafe. Boundary Stone. Red Derby (which is up in Columbia heights, I should say). I'm a huge partisan of Duffy's on 9th and V, which is around the corner from the much cooler American Ice Co.

rcinmd2 karma

What are your thoughts on Ben's Chilli Bowl?

ezra_klein12 karma

I love it as a local landmark. I don't love it as a place to eat food.

AddtotheLaw32 karma

Can you give a simple prognostication of what the 20-somethings coming through the political ranks right now should be concerned/excited about over the next two decades?

ezra_klein59 karma

Not sure how simple it will be.

Excited about? Technological change. The mass elevation of hundreds of millions and maybe even billions of people to the point where they can be producing innovations that make our lives better.

Concerned? Well, everyone worries about deficits. But for reasons I explain here, they're not my primary concern:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/post/why-i-dont-stress-about-deficits/2012/04/06/gIQAvVEczS_blog.html

I worry a lot about a broken political system heavily biased towards inaction. ANd under that model, what scares me are issues where you need lots of congressional action and energy to do anything. Global warming is the obvious one -- and even more difficult due to its international component -- but pandemic flus, loose nukes, etc, all keep me up, if only because they're the sort of questions that don't have much of a constituency and thus can easily be ignored until something goes terribly, catastrophically wrong.

sinjax29 karma

Hello. I am really interested in specifics of your model, I'm not sure how much you care to divulge as it might represent hours of your time and chunks of your income but, worth a shot.

I work as a research fellow for an EU project that is trying to improve such models using social media sources (i know, who isn't these days?). But tell me, what kind of model have you constructed here? Is it primarily heuristics or is it learnt from data? If so what data? What are your variables? The interactive model on your blog is interesting but it seems the few sliders available wouldn't be enough to predict so accurately? Do you have any papers i can read re: these details?

By the kind of model, I'm asking: are we talking a simple linear model? something more advanced? Trained NN, bayesian, SVM, or… what? Echoing WildTauntaun: "what is your statistical background?".

Finally (and most importantly), what's it all about? you know, everything, what's that all for?

edit: added MORE QUESTIONS!

ezra_klein37 karma

Here's the specific answer, from the political scientisats who helped me design it:

To forecast the presidential outcome, we use ordinary least squares regression to predict incumbent presidential party vote share (in percent) of the two party vote from 1948 to 2008, (i.e. one hundred times the incumbent party votes divided by the sum of the incumbent party votes and the other major party votes, setting third party votes aside.) Our spartan model uses three explanatory variables: percentage change in gross domestic product per capita from quarter 1 of the election year through quarter 3 of the election year (the first nine months of the year); average presidential approval as measured by Gallup in June of the election year; and an indicator taking the value of one when the incumbent party's candidate is the sitting president, and zero otherwise. From the regression results, we take 1000 draws from the sampling distribution of the model estimates, i.e. from a multivariate normal distribution with a mean of the vector of model coefficients and a variance matrix from the model's variance-covariance matrix. We also drew 1000 samples of the standard error of the regression, using a Student's t distribution (twelve degrees of freedom) as is appropriate in a forecasting exercise. With the 1000 vectors of coefficient and error draws, we construct 1000 predicted 2012 vote shares given hypothetical values of the three explanatory variables. This reflects sampling uncertainty as well as fundamental uncertainty conditional on the model. Finally, we calculate what percentage of the 1000 predictions have the incumbent vote share greater than fifty percent, which is our estimated probability that Obama wins in 2012 given the hypothetical values of economic growth and June presidential approval.

Ruddiver25 karma

Have you read Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahnemann? Its pretty fascinating about mindset, and one part mentions how pundits are no better at predicting than laymen. He says that simple algorithms are better predictors than anything. I would assume you agree with that.

ezra_klein51 karma

I do. There's another book, by Phillip Tetlock, I think, that runs a fairly rigorous test on political prognosticators, and finds that we suck. I agree entirely, in large part because I think Washington focuses on the absolute wrong things. in my view, politics is still waiting for its Moneyball revolution.

ezra_klein15 karma

Yep

IntlManofMisery10 karma

What do you mean by our "Moneyball revolution"? I assume you mean a complete re-thinking of the way politics is handled among both policymakers and the greater public, but what form would this take? Are we talking about a structural change (i.e. shift in the way policy is made) or something more esoteric and abstract?

ezra_klein28 karma

No, I mean a better understanding of what matters and what doesn't, and more attention to metrics rather than to impressionistic takes on campaign messages, etc. This article is part of my effort to move the ball forward on this:

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/03/19/120319fa_fact_klein

[deleted]25 karma

[deleted]

ezra_klein10 karma

Should probably put this here:

Here's the specific answer, from the political scientisats who helped me design it:

To forecast the presidential outcome, we use ordinary least squares regression to predict incumbent presidential party vote share (in percent) of the two party vote from 1948 to 2008, (i.e. one hundred times the incumbent party votes divided by the sum of the incumbent party votes and the other major party votes, setting third party votes aside.) Our spartan model uses three explanatory variables: percentage change in gross domestic product per capita from quarter 1 of the election year through quarter 3 of the election year (the first nine months of the year); average presidential approval as measured by Gallup in June of the election year; and an indicator taking the value of one when the incumbent party's candidate is the sitting president, and zero otherwise. From the regression results, we take 1000 draws from the sampling distribution of the model estimates, i.e. from a multivariate normal distribution with a mean of the vector of model coefficients and a variance matrix from the model's variance-covariance matrix. We also drew 1000 samples of the standard error of the regression, using a Student's t distribution (twelve degrees of freedom) as is appropriate in a forecasting exercise. With the 1000 vectors of coefficient and error draws, we construct 1000 predicted 2012 vote shares given hypothetical values of the three explanatory variables. This reflects sampling uncertainty as well as fundamental uncertainty conditional on the model. Finally, we calculate what percentage of the 1000 predictions have the incumbent vote share greater than fifty percent, which is our estimated probability that Obama wins in 2012 given the hypothetical values of economic growth and June presidential approval.

JessHWV25 karma

Does immersing yourself in the world of politics on a daily basis ever get you down?

ezra_klein44 karma

Yep!

tastybrisket23 karma

Who among the other columnists/bloggers do you find yourself reading regularly?

How do you personally separate and distill the insightful among what is said vs the political bias and bombast?

ezra_klein26 karma

I like people who have expertise, either in terms of issue experience or unusual reporting chops. I'm not a huge fan of op-ed columnists from the "hey, I just had a thought on Mitt Romney/Barack Obama!" school of writing. So, another way to put it, is I'm looking for new information, not just "a take." But if I start naming names, then I leave people out and make them feel bad, so I won't.

mattdhorstman22 karma

Ezra, I'm a big fan. I hope to one day see an episode of Up with You, Chris, Rachel, MHP, and Jeremy Scahill. I really think I may go to nerd nirvana if that happens.

My question is: I often find it difficult when discussing politics (or even science at this point, sadly) to walk someone through an argument based on facts and figures. I frequently find myself faced with irrational or at least ill-formed opposition. How do you attempt to convince someone that has little or no interest in facts and figures?

ezra_klein31 karma

I highly recommend Jonathan Haidt's new book 'The Righteous Mind' for more on this particular question. But where he takes an optimistic view of the psychological research on this question, I take a rather pessimistic one: I think successful persuasion on controversial issues is veyr, very rare. I'll be writing more on this soon.

ZTFS18 karma

You obviously read and write a great deal - almost certainly in an environment with lots of distractions. What are your keys to productivity?

ezra_klein50 karma

I'm more machine than man.

ekvq15 karma

Have you ever met Rep. Ryan in person, if you have, what did you talk about? If not, what would you most like to ask him?

ezra_klein37 karma

I have. If you search my blog, we've done a number of lengthy interviews together on various elements of fiscal and health policy. When Republicans took back the House and he became their lead budget guy, they no longer wanted to do ranging, unscripted interviews with me.

digitizemd14 karma

Does the Washington Post have a bunch of programmers (like javascript guys) to crunch data, create cool visualizations, etc.?

(from the toilet-paper-on-his-shoe guy at the blackcat)

ezra_klein12 karma

Yes, and I love them all. Jeremy Bowers was the lead on this project, and he deserves all the credit in the world. Emily Chao did the design, and she too deserves huge amounts of credit. The idea was mine, but after thatm of everyone, I was probably the least essential.

Truthlaidbear11 karma

You consistently go out of your way to paint banker-bound Ivy Leaguers as victims. Why?

Here's what I'm referring to:

Direct quote from one of your articles. Source.

What Wall Street figured out is that colleges are producing a large number of very smart, completely confused graduates. Kids who have ample mental horsepower, incredible work ethics and no idea what to do next. So the finance industry takes advantage of that confusion, attracting students who never intended to work in finance but don’t have any better ideas about where to go.

So they're brilliant amazing hard workers who aren't smart enough to figure out meaningful and rewarding careers?

I don't get it. Why does this argument need to be made. Why are you making it? Why not just the lemming trial to $$$ and call it for what it is? (That is, profit-seeking behavior.)

Another one from two years ago.

The impression of the Ivy-to-Wall Street pipeline is that it’s all about the money. You’re saying that it’s actually more that Wall Street has constructed a very intelligent recruiting program that speaks to the anxieties of the students and makes them an offer that there’s almost no reason to refuse.

The phrasing on this is just really odd.

ezra_klein30 karma

Because I want to understand why they do what they do. If you say "banker-bound Ivy Leaguers," they sound like Masters of the Universe. Robots without fear. You've abstracted too far from what they are: Young kids trying to figure out the world after college.

Yes, they have lots of advantages. And yes, they'll be -- and are -- fine. But from an economic pov, where a country puts its human talent really matters. And I don't think it's good that so much of ours goes into banking/consulting/law. And I don't think the facts back up the idea that it's really all about the money, even though that's a pleasingly simple argument from the outside. So I wrote those pieces, after talking with a lot of these kids, to try and better understand the question. And that does, of course, require being listening to what they tell me, and putting it out as they see it from the inside, as opposed to how it looks from the outside.

ZachGates11 karma

How does the accuracy change as the distance from the election shrinks? I could imagine you can be pretty accurate a few weeks out, but what about at this distance? When you say "predict", what time frame are we talking?

ezra_klein14 karma

Well, the model is built to basically makes its prediction in the summer: We're using June approval ratings and Q3 GDP. You can be very accurate near the election, but by then, you mostly just need polls. The point is to show that even before the conventions, much of the election is predictable, and seems to follow certain structural factors.

pums11 karma

It sounds like you don't have the math background to build or meaningfully evaluate these sorts of models yourself, so what kind of other decision rules are you relying on here? Basically, why do you think that this model is better than other forecasting tools?

ezra_klein12 karma

It's not really a competition. But as I write in the column, I absolutely don't have the math background to do this. I'm relying on three extremely well respected political scientists who know the literature, know the models, and know their failings.

Shalmaneser10 karma

Ezra, thanks for doing this. Love your work, really, and envy your job.

Anyway: I always thought you were fairly lefty (don't want to say liberal, as I hate it as a descriptive term) until I saw you present a Maddow show and claim you were a libertarian-cum-technocrat, or rather words to that effect. This bugged me a bit, because from what I could previous discern of your politics, this didn't chime at all. You seem pro-single payer, for instance.

My question, then, is: what are your actual political leanings? Where do you stand on the compass? Please go into as much detail as you like, it would fascinate me.

ezra_klein28 karma

I've never called myself a libertarian, to be sure!

I do call myself a technocrat. And I don't call myself a liberal. Frankly, I think the labels are less useful than people think because the two parties don't stick to consistent policy agendas.

For instance: Back when I first thought an individual mandate-based health care plan was a good idea, it was a Republican proposal. Then, with Wyden-Bennett, it had centrist Dems and Republicans. Then, in the 2008 primary, it made me an Obama critic. And now, it puts me on Obama's side, and makes Republicans hate me. But my position never changed!

(I'm actually, for reasons I've gone into a bit on the blog, not a single payer supporter: I have concerns around innovation, choice, etc. I'd prefer something along the lines of France, Germany, or even Switzerland, which is still heavily regulated/nationalized, but where there is competition between insurers.)

So I'll call myself a technocrat because it describes the way I approach politics: By looking at the policies. But I think "liberal" and "conservative" tend to mean, in a real operational sense, which tribe you're with, and that's not how I see my role.

I also like this Will Wilkinson post on the subject:

http://bigthink.com/ideas/political-labels-political-identity-and-bias

absolutebeginners10 karma

Big fan of your writing and political views. Thanks for doing this. Could you please provide some proof, such as updating your twitter or taking a pic?

Will this year be different? Is there any value in these predictions?

ezra_klein18 karma

I think this year will be less different than folks like to believe. If the economy grows at a steady, but unexciting clip, I think odds are Obama takes it, as the model suggests. If growth dips, I think the reaction will be somewhat more vehement then the model suggests, if only because there's more media/voter attention on the economy than there is in most years. But that's just my hunch.

ozacrot9 karma

What would you say is the biggest structural problem facing the US political media?

ezra_klein18 karma

The tendency of partisans -- which includes most independents -- to self-segregate into forms of media that agree with them.

ezra_klein17 karma

Actually, I should also add the collapse of the business model based on local monopolies, and the move to a world in which advertisers have a lot more possible outlets to choose from to reach any given audience.

IntlManofMisery8 karma

I've always been curious about your thoughts on the media surrounding your rise to pseudo-fame and your reaction to the whole "wunderkind" label. Specifically, what did you think about the New York Times article written about you, Dave Weigel, Matt Yglesias, Brian Beutler, etc?

Link to article can be found here: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/27/fashion/27YOUNGPUNDITS.html?pagewanted=all

ezra_klein7 karma

The attention is nice, I guess, and helpful to getting my work out there. But as a broad point, what I'm proud of are the fundamentals of my work, and of my reporters' work: The reporting, the explanations, the attention to substantive details, the getting up early. It's meat-and-potatoes, blocking-and-tackling stuff. The "OMG HEZ Y0UNG" spin misses the point, in my view.

DJ_Spazzy_Jeff8 karma

How long does it take your team to write Wonkbook each morning?

ezra_klein8 karma

Well, Karl Singer does a run through on the aggregation the night before. I think that takes him a few hours. Takes me another hour or so -- sometimes a bit more, sometimes a little bit less -- to edit, add, and then write the lede in the morning. And then it takes Michelle Williams a few minutes to send it out and post it to the blog.

jaepee7 karma

What are the chances that "TAXAMAGEDDON" (ie Bush tax cuts expiring) will happen on January 1st? Your recent piece about it maybe being the best chance for real tax reform has me intrigued and dare I say hopeful.

Also - they've already decided to push that and doing anything about the sequester to a lame-duck? Is that right? I just read that yesterday.

ezra_klein4 karma

I think significant. Maybe 40 percent? The real question here is the debt ceiling. If the sequester and Bush tax cuts are Obama's leverage, the debt ceiling is the GOP's leverage. But you could argue that after losing an election -- which is your premise here, I think -- they may not want to get blamed for throwing a tantrum that triggers a global financial crisis. A lot of this, of course, depends on how willing Obama is to call their bluff.

JosephPhoenix7 karma

If you got a chance to appear in a comedy series, which one would you like? Examples include "Community"and "30 Rock"

ezra_klein18 karma

YES.

tomhagen7 karma

What's your take on celebrity endorsements of political candidates? How well educated are these folks on the issues?

ezra_klein14 karma

Not that well educated! But my colleague Suzy Khimm did point to some interesting research yesterday showing that such endorsements can have an impact:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/post/why-celeb-endorsements-matter-or-is-george-clooney-more-like-jennifer-aniston-or-peyton-manning/2012/04/23/gIQAxK2XcT_blog.html

pbear7377 karma

How do you make money off of making models? Do you sell them? Do you sell the right for people to use them?

ezra_klein31 karma

I persuade people to come look at them, and then I hope some of those people click on the advertisements, and then I hope the Washington Post notices and gives me a raise.

SO CLICK ON MY ADS JERKBAGS.

cbyers6 karma

By the logic of your tool, would you argue that campaigns generally affect the election outcome by fewer than three points?

ezra_klein7 karma

Yes, with an important addendum: When we say "campaigns" in a model like this, we're saying professionally run presidential campaigns. I think the marginal decisions they make between different strategic approaches are relatively unlikely to matter. That's the key point: These campaigns are doing their best, they're run by skilled people, and the counterfactual approaches probably don't help much, and might even hurt. Remember: Whatever decision they make, they're making it because they thought it was a better decision than the others. Perhaps they're wrong, but how sure are you?

Now, if Obama came out tomorrow, said he'd been wrong about everything, and refocused his campaign towards forcing everyone to eat toothpaste till they got sick, that would matter

the_fisherman6 karma

Since the start of the 20th century, has there ever been a US President who won an election against a better funded opponent?

ezra_klein9 karma

I believe there have been a number of them, but I guess I don't know offhand. I'd be interested to know, though, where Reagan had more money than Carter, or FDR had more money than Hoover.

[deleted]5 karma

Just gotta say, you do a GREAT job filling in for Rachel Maddow. I love it when you are on the show.

Keep up the good work!

ezra_klein5 karma

Thank you! Her show is really a pleasure to do: Her staff has some of the best writers I've ever worked with.

mcnaughtier5 karma

I'm fan of your writing but think that after Nate Silver's prediction performance in the last presidential election, coming up with a new predictive model is like trying to invent a search engine that will topple Google or a rounder wheel.

ezra_klein17 karma

I don't see it as competitive. Nate is doing something different: He's aggregating polls, weighting their past performance, and coming up with a daily prediction. I'm trying to show that, many months before the election, you can know some basic facts and predict quite a bit of the election.

In other words, Nate is doing something that is much more predictive as we get near to the election. I'm trying to illustrate some background facts to the election.

MDA1235 karma

Do you have an editor for your blog posts, or do they basically just let you write whatever?

ezra_klein7 karma

Everything gets looked over.

SubcommanderShran4 karma

What's it like to be an employee of the Washington Post? I grew up in Fairfax and was always exposed to a standard of quality, decency and class in newspaper reporting that I've found severely lacking in the other places I've lived.

ezra_klein6 karma

It's great. I love working here.

seraphseven3 karma

You (and David Leonhardt) are smarter than everyone else. I don't know why and as long as it keeps up I don't much care. My question is: are (either of) you going to write a book or what?

ezra_klein5 karma

Can't speak for him. I am!

dullisthenewclever3 karma

Your model incorporates a couple of macroeconomic factors that are only nominally within the president's control and almost completely out of Mitt Romneys control. In your experience, what are the most important factors that are within a candidates control that influence the predicted probability of winning this election?

ezra_klein5 karma

I think the takeaway from the model is do a good job governing, particularly on the economy. But as you say, there's only so much a president can do, particularly in an election year. That is, I think, one reason they spend so much time on campaign stuff that doesn't matter all that much. What else are you going to do? You control what you can control, and that's your campaign.

spaceman93 karma

Hi! Would you recommend some books you've read recently? How about one political book and one non political book? Thanks!

ezra_klein6 karma

1) Jonathan Haidt's 'The Righteous Mind.'

2) The Vanishers by Heidi Julavitz.

littlewing73 karma

Have you met Krauthammer?

ezra_klein4 karma

I have!

michaelvincentsmith3 karma

Mr. Klein, while your prediction thingy might be accurate, aren't you a little scared that popularity and economic activity determine presidential outcomes? I mean, Reagan got in bed with terrorists, spiked the economy with insane tax policy, etc., but was hugely electable. Shouldn't there be more to this?

ezra_klein7 karma

Well, presidential approval is a factor here, which captures popularity. But remember that Reagan also ran for reelection in a booming economy. Two years before that, when the economy was weak, his approval ratings dipped into the 30s.

HCastorpnyc2 karma

What did you think of this from the NYRB? http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2012/may/10/how-follow-our-weird-politics/

I've enjoyed both of your recent NYRB pieces very much by the way - I hope you continue to write for them in the future.

ETA: Having now read your article, I have a couple of questions/objections. It seems bizarre to say that your model shows that "scandals don't matter" as scandals obviously do affect the president's approval rating, and thus the results as predicted by the model.

In addition, your model shows a percentage chance that the president will be re-elected. But elections are not like roulette wheels. What determines whether we get the outcome with a 59% chance of occurring or the outcome that has a 41% chance of occurring? Why, actual events in the world - silly scandals included.

I do think the model you have created is useful. but I don't think it shows what you claim.

ezra_klein8 karma

Well, I'm pretty careful to talk about "microscandals" in the vein of "doggate." Watergate mattered. But did "Bittergate" in the 08 election matter? Probably not much. Will "Etch a Sketchgate" matter? Probably not much.

But I don't think of these things as actual scandals. They're idiot stories that keep the press, the campaigns, and the country busy while we wait for real news.

wmiller3032 karma

The two independent variables in your model are approval rating and GDP growth -- isn't it likely that these two variables are very closely related? For example, can you see a scenario where the economy shrinks by 1% and yet Obama has a 55% approval rating?

ezra_klein4 karma

Quite likely they're related. But approval can also catch other things, like a Watergate scandal, or an unpopular war. So that's why it's there.