February 2, 2016

Scott Adams eats crow over his heavily pro-Trump predictions.

"Nom-nom-nom. Gulp. Mmmmm… That’s good crow."

Of course, the big "gold standard" poll got it wrong. Not only did Cruz and Trump switch positions, but Marco Rubio shot way up, from 15% to 23%.

Adams has been fun to read because he's been so confident in his smarter-than-you pronouncements. What can he do now? Analyzing why he was wrong isn't consistent with his brand, which has included the pretension of access to a "third dimension" (a dimension where Trump is doing everything right).

Okay, here's what Adams does. He says "the result coincidentally matched what I would expect from a rigged election." He's "not saying the election was rigged," but:
If you had the power to rig the vote in Iowa – either to hurt Trump, or help Rubio – what election result would do the best job?

A Rubio first-place win would raise too many questions. Even a second-place finish would raise questions. But how about a strong third? Yes, that’s the ticket. You would engineer the vote so Rubio got the strongest possible third-place showing without overtaking Trump....

Now consider motive and opportunity. Lots of people in both of the major parties want to stop Trump. And the GOP establishment is probably betting on Rubio as their best hope. Suspects are everywhere.....
Adams's back up move is that he said all along that Trump could win by not winning, that losing could also count as winning, and that Trump was masterminding things, setting it up so that losing is winning.

AND really, Adams is trying to win within the game that he is playing, and he's always got the argument — which he deploys today — that this is all for entertainment purposes only. That opens up a space for him to spin wild theories imaginatively. It can't lose. 

55 comments:

Michael K said...

The Democrats' caucus was what was rigged.

Kristian Holvoet said...

Michael, why not both?

Big Mike said...

Enthusiasm is one thing. Setting up a good, strong, get-out-the-vote organization is another. Cruz is willing to work. Trump is willing to talk. Scott Adams should go back to drawing Dilbert.

Peter said...

Polling's accuracy died when landlines started going away.

And horse race coverage becomes boring.

rhhardin said...

Scott Adams as a blogger turned into a Ted Talk years ago.

Jim said...

Little greenmen were seen at various places in Iowa. Sure, why not. But the real problem is that most people no longer trust the most basic institutions of our Republic. Congress, the Courts, the political parties.
This won't be the last call of fraud in this election cycle.

David Begley said...

I went to the Carter Lake, Iowa caucus last night and it was NOT rigged. 153 people voted: Trump, Cruz and Rubio was the order.

People who are fed up voted Trump. Church people and strong conservatives voted Ted. Marco had the rest. The establishment is dead. Zero for Bush.

Bob Ellison said...

What Peter said. Polling is pretty meaningless these days.

Today, the analysts say well, Trump should've done that last debate, and Rubio gained the most from that mistake.

If Trump had won, they would say well, the polls are hard to deny.

If Trump wins in New Hampshire, they'll say well, the polls are hard to deny.

If Rubio wins in South Carolina, they'll say well, lotta Hispanics down there.

If Cruz wins on Super Tuesday, they'll say well, nothing beats a good ground game.

If Cruz loses on Super Tuesday, they'll say well, he's just not likable.

It's a lot like how the press reports on the stock market every business day. "The Dow Jones lost 150 points today on worries about the price of oil." They have to make up a story, an excuse, a spin for why they don't know what's going on.

chuck said...

I think Scott Adam's biggest fail was calling Hillary a "wizard". Yes, early on he claimed that both Trump and Hillary had mystic knowlege, that they could manipulate crowds using their secret super powers. I laughed. Trump, well maybe, but Hillary?

Brando said...

Yeah, if you have no evidence of rigging, shut up about rigging. The simpler solution is there--the polls can be accurate only up to a point, and the caucus process results in a measure of intensity that can confound the polls.

Cruz was long (and correctly) expected to win because he put the most into the Iowa ground game, and that matters much more in caucuses than primaries. Trump did pretty well considering, well, everything about him and his campaign (few staffers, few experienced advisors, not much money spent). Rubio was a bit of a surprise due to his lack of ground game, but then none of the other candidates had much either so voters likely went with the guy who looked best in debates.

Henry said...

In terms of coherent analysis, I prefer Nate Silver:

The final Des Moines Register poll before Monday’s vote showed Trump with a favorability rating of only 50 percent favorable against an unfavorable rating of 47 percent among Republican voters. (By contrast, Cruz had a favorable rating of 65 percent, and Rubio was at 70 percent.) It’s almost unprecedented for a candidate to win a caucus or a primary when he has break-even favorables within his own party.

Still, Trump had seemed poised to do it, in part because of the intensity of his support. He’s highly differentiated from the rest of the field* — a strategic advantage in such a crowded race — and the voters who like Trump like him an awful lot. The disproportionate media coverage of Trump played a large role too, though....

In Iowa, however, the media environment wasn’t as lopsided in Trump’s favor. Voters were blanketed with ads from all the candidates. And they sought out information on their own before settling on their vote. There was a late spike in Google searches for Cruz and Rubio in the state Monday, bringing them almost even with Trump, even as Trump continued to dominate in search traffic nationally.


*This is the bait that hooked Scott Adams. Or the bait that Scott Adams is using to hook readership. Either way, it is Scott Adams that is pushing a one-dimensional explanation, not the dull data scientist.

Bob Ellison said...

The Des Moines poll had Trump over Cruz, 28% to 23%. The result was almost opposite: about 27/24. That's an error in the poll of about 9% on both sides, or about 17% overall.

Yet "The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points."

Henry said...

Adams sees Trump as a force that generates the media attention.

Silver sees the media attention as a force that generates a Trump.

Roll up Trump's debts and he's not an uber-dealmaker. He's a bum.

Roll up his media attention and the same is true.

Bob Ellison said...

*Uh, 24/27

Big Mike said...

Just a note for people who dabble in politics from time to time. The way one wins an election is to have at least one more person show up to the polling places and vote for you than anyone else has show up to vote for them.

Seems pretty obvious, right?

The key part is "show up to the polling places and vote." If your organization gets more of your supporters to the polls than the other candidates' organizations get their supporters to the polls then you win.

Sebastian said...

"That opens up a space for him to spin wild theories imaginatively. It can't lose." For people who don't make claims subject to refutation by events or evidence, that's a plus. People who make such claims but don't care about the refutation are just doing a Harry Frankfurter. Losers in my book.

gerry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nonapod said...

Adams has been giving Trump too much credit, true. But in his defense it's impossible to read the tea leaves this year. Polling isn't a particularly good predictor anymore.

We're in the midst of the weirdest election of our lifetimes. I don't care how well reasoned your arguments are, in the end there's always an element of chaos that makes results ultimately recondite.

Hagar said...

Simmer down.
Cruz got one delegate more than each of the next two guys got, and Iowa is hardly known as a bellwether state.

gerry said...

It's a lot like how the press reports on the stock market every business day. "The Dow Jones lost 150 points today on worries about the price of oil." They have to make up a story, an excuse, a spin for why they don't know what's going on.

I agree, but I'd say it a bit differently: They have to make up a story, a spin, for what they don't know is going on.

CWJ said...

"Polling's accuracy died when landlines started going away."

I agree. But death followed a very long illness - contracted when they dropped rigorous sampling procedures and went to phone surveys in the first place. Answering machines and then caller ID sickened things further with suspicion and respondent fatigue making the "patient" even weaker. And yet pollsters, reporters, and lobbyists continue to cite margins of error as if they had drawn their results from a rigorously chosen random sample of the target population.

Rick said...

Isn't it obvious that Trump will get the nomination?

Is it still obvious?

MaxedOutMama said...

Is it even possible to rig the caucuses? It seems impossible to me given the format.

Could it be that Iowa voters just opted for nice/conservative over brash tough guy? It's not as if Trump didn't do well.

Nonapod - I too perceive that this is the epitome of weirdness. The voters will have to straighten it out, and they will.

mccullough said...

I didn't follow the polls closely leading into the voting but Trump and Rubio had a very good night. Ted Cruz had the biggest organization and spent the most time and effort in Iowa while it seemed that Trump and Rubio put in a normal amount of effort and organization and did well.

Char Char Binks said...

"It's not whether you win or lose, but whether you win!" -- Trump: The Game

PB said...

He's entertaining, but may have fallen prey to the confidence in models that explain the past, but often fail to predict the future. This is a common problem in all sorts of areas, particularly the climate models. We'll see how doggedly he sticks to his analysis, as merely one unsuccessfully predicted data point does not disprove the model. The more predictions turn out wrong, the more the underlying model must be concluded to be wrong.

Still he's entertaining to read and he provides an interesting way to look at things.

Chuck said...

Adams overlooked one other explanation for the upset of Trump; the National Review's "Against Trump" issue.

Paul Snively said...

"I'm just a comedian" was facile, self-serving bullshit when it came from Jon Stewart's mouth. It's facile, self-serving bullshit coming from Scott Adams' mouth.

Bill Peschel said...

What Paul said, "Clown nose on, clown nose off."

I called Scott Adams a fraud before, and I'm happy to find it confirmed.

But I suspect here's the deal behind Trump's fade: He doesn't do well in caucuses, where people have to commit far more time and effort to support a candidate than walking in and flipping a switch.

This type of political organization is beyond Trump's ability. You need people, not money.

JAORE said...

The corn-ethanol-is-a bad-idea guy won in Iowa.

I see two possibilities here:
- Conservatives really mean it when they say they want smaller government, even when there is pain involved, or
- A lot of guys could not get their snow blowers to run this year.

eric said...

Didn't see this threat earlier. Ooops.

Adams is also trying to suggest, through his power of hypnosis, that the election was rigged.

rhhardin said...

When you're right, you eat cow.

Gabriel said...

@Bob Ellison:The Des Moines poll had Trump over Cruz, 28% to 23%. The result was almost opposite: about 27/24. That's an error in the poll of about 9% on both sides, or about 17% overall.

Yet "The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points."


That's not a contradiction. The margin of error is not exactly known, and the polls are only expected to be within it most of the time, they are not guaranteed to always be within it.

Oso Negro said...

A simpler explanation for Adams is that he's a dick.

Bob Ellison said...

Gabriel, yes, it is a contradiction. It's kinda like aiming for the moon and hitting an asteroid instead. You don't get to have a fine, stated margin of error and then missing it by, let's see, 400%.

rhhardin said...

Margin of error has some probability of being outside the range. Usually it's set to be inside the bounds 95% of the time. So 5% of the time it's outside the bounds.

It's a little sloppy for percentages, because the actual 95% spread has different sizes depending on where its center is.

Bob Ellison said...

gerry, that's a good edit.

Anglelyne said...

Chuck: Adams overlooked one other explanation for the upset of Trump; the National Review's "Against Trump" issue.

Doesn't really seem likely that the dwindling geriatric readership of National Review includes a critical mass of Iowans with no other means of informing their opinions.

Anglelyne said...

JAORE: The corn-ethanol-is-a bad-idea guy won in Iowa.

I see two possibilities here:
- Conservatives really mean it when they say they want smaller government, even when there is pain involved, or
- A lot of guys could not get their snow blowers to run this year.


Lol.

Michael K said...

"If your organization gets more of your supporters to the polls than the other candidates' organizations get their supporters to the polls then you win."

Yes and that probably explains Cruz. Does he have as good an organization in other states ? Especially the Super Tuesday states ?

Hillary front loaded her campaign in 2008 and thought it would be over before Super Tuesday. That's how she got out-organized by Obama and the people running him (Who I still wonder about).

gsgodfrey said...

@Bob Ellison:The Des Moines poll had Trump over Cruz, 28% to 23%. The result was almost opposite: about 27/24. That's an error in the poll of about 9% on both sides, or about 17% overall.

Yet "The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points."

As with Gabriel, I don't see the contradiction either. Trump polled at 28%, received 24%. Cruz polled at 23%, received 27%. Both were off by 4 percentage points, just in different directions, and within the margin of error. The errors are not assumed independent; if one candidate goes up, another likely goes down.

grgeil said...

Scott Adams' blog used to be a daily read for me but he became fixated on a few topics that made his blog less appealing:
1) Finding His Creator: Although he professes to be a non-believer, he obsessively speculates on creation. e.g. "Is our reality just a hologram operated by a higher power?" "Was Earth seeded with simple life forms by intelligent ancient aliens who knew intelligent life would again evolve here?" etc.
2) Utopia: He likes to plan his perfect society (with someone like Scott Adams in charge of course.) Sometimes it is an island country all his own but other times it is due to enlightened people (like Scott Adams) running the country / world. Scott solved unemployment by proposing a national canal network - building the canals would employ all Americans.
3) Robots: A devil created by humans that will come to control us.

When he gets off his favorite topics he can be entertaining and thought provoking, but with his obsession on Trump I quit reading him a few months back.

grackle said...

Yeah, if you have no evidence of rigging, shut up about rigging.

Bingo! A winner!

Scott Adams’s blog is fun to read and for me it provided a rationale for Trump’s startling ascendance. It is like playing around with a Ouija board at a party. No one believes in the messages from the board but it is still entertaining.

But if you are going to eat crow finish the meal without excuses.

That said, I’m still a Trump supporter. One near miss does not a campaign end. However, if Trump falls and ends up not being the nominee I will enthusiastically support whoever the nominee turns out to be. Any of the GOP candidates are better than whoever the Democrats may eventually select. The Iowa showing gives us the opportunity to see how Trump handles defeat. His concession speech, which was a graceful exit, was a good start.

Polling isn't a particularly good predictor anymore.

It’s not infallible but it still does a rough job of prediction in most cases. But never trust it. Polls are rough guidelines, nothing more.

Hammond X. Gritzkofe said...

JAORE: "- Conservatives really mean it when they say they want smaller government, even when there is pain involved."

Bold and confident enough to walk the walk. Mayhap there is yet hope. Thank you, Iowa.

Charles said...

"Bob Ellison said...
The Des Moines poll had Trump over Cruz, 28% to 23%. The result was almost opposite: about 27/24. That's an error in the poll of about 9% on both sides, or about 17% overall.

Yet "The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points."
"

So the swing was right-on the margin of error as they had Trump at 28 +-4 ( he got according to you 24 which is 4 off). Cruze was listed at 23 +- 4 he got 27 ( again right on the margin of error.

The Poll was not off at all.

Oso Negro said...

Sure Charles, the poll was fine!!!! It systematically over-stated Trump's popularity while diminishing the chances of the only constitutional conservative in the race. Would you like a colonoscopy with that margin of error?

David said...

Adams' reasons why Trump came in second ignore the most obvious, the "ground game." Trump had virtually none of that, and it hurt him. It will continue to hurt him, though maybe not as much as in Iowa, where getting people to caucus is especially ground gameable. Good organizations matter. That's why winners usually have them. Overlooked in Obama's 2008 win is the fact that he put together a very effective get out the vote organization.

Bob Ellison said...

The difference between 28% and 23% is about 18%. If you think you're gonna get 28% and you get only 23%, you're off by about 18%. 5/28.

Ken Mitchell said...

To be honest about it, Scott Adams adds the "You probably shouldn't take political advice from a cartoonist; this is just for entertainment" disclaimer to EVERY political column, not just this one.

Jonathan Graehl said...

Team Clinton has some persuasion talent in them, whether or not Hillary has any personal gifts, so I consider "wizard" [sic] Hillary a plausible foil.

I do think Adams is having us on. He should have gone with "grand wizard".

Jeff said...

How about this: The kinds of people who tell pollsters they support Trump are also the kinds of people who are less likely to vote than the average qualified adult. This makes perfect sense, if you think about it.

Trump appeals to people who think the system is rigged against them. But if you really believe that, why bother to vote? It's a waste of time.

Zach said...

Well, of course the election was rigged. Cruz, and to a lesser extent Rubio, knew they had to do well, so they invested a lot of money and time in their ground game and got supporters to the polls. Trump was happy with the attention he got from shooting his mouth off, and put a lot less effort into the nuts and bolts of winning an election.

There was a big story on the Cruz campaign's data mining efforts this morning. They put a lot of effort into figuring out exactly what arguments motivated people -- to the extent of realizing that 60 people in one sample were worked up about legal fireworks -- and going to those people, and making those arguments.

Cruz is a professional politician, and he wants to win. Trump isn't, and I'm not sure he does.

stlcdr said...

Did they poll people who had a vote in the Caucus? Or did they poll somebody else?

Lyle Sanford, RMT said...

Thanks to Althouse for engaging Adams - cruel neutrality is always welcome. I do think he's on to something, though. Starting with McLuhan there's been the idea that the explosion of the media beyond the printed word is going to have consequences, and I think Adams' idea that persuasion is way more than simple logic is one way of talking about that. A lot of political blogging is like typewriters fighting with one another, and he, at least, is trying to expand our ways of thinking about politics and culture. Even when he seems off the wall to me, still enjoy reading him.

I remember years ago seeing a study saying that we arrive at our political positions intuitively/irrationally and then use reason to explain them. I have a cousin who never discusses politics and I asked him why and his response was, "Have you ever changed anyone's mind?" What I wonder is whether to not the kind of persuasion Adams talks about can actually change minds in ways logical arguments never seem to.

stevo said...

Adams has certainly succeeded in entertaining me