Archive for August, 2008


Will they stop naming streets after Roger?

Friday, August 29th, 2008


    You shouldn’t gloat….but…

I am sure Roger, who over the years has been one of our most prolific contributors, will forgive me for publishing this. But check out comment one from this thread from May 26th 2005.

I’m on holiday in the Pyrenees and spotted this street sign this morning in the fabulous town of Foix and have been trying to work out how to put it on the site.

Mike Smithson


So has McCain chosen the former Alaskan beauty queen?

Friday, August 29th, 2008

    The money pours onto to the woman who is now Governor

We don’t know anything yet for certain but in the past hour all the money has been going on to Sarah Palin – the woman described by her supporters as “America’s Margaret Thatcher” and “The Iron Lady” – as the Republican party V-P nominee. The above is from her supporter’s website.

The 44 year old who was elected Alaska’s governor only two years ago certainly seems an amazing choice – if that is indeed what has happened.

Wikipedia describes her background like this: A mother of five..“She hunts, eats moose burgers, ice fishes, rides snowmobiles, and owns a float plane. Palin holds a lifetime membership with the National Rifle Association. She admits that she used marijuana when it was legal in Alaska, but says that she did not like it.”

If it has gone to Palin it will be a great result for me. I became convinced that McCain would choose a woman from the moment Obama chose a man. I’ve bet on all the women possibles and will make enough on Palin at an average of 17/1 to more than cover all my other bets in both parties’ nominee market and still be about £650 in profit.

The news is due at about 5pm UK time.

Mike Smithson


Labour’s polling nightmare continues – YouGov

Friday, August 29th, 2008


    Are polls like this news any more?

The August YouGov survey for the Daily Telegraph is out this morning and the figures are in the same broad territory that we have seen since the budget last March – Labour in dire trouble and the Tories in the mid or high 40s.

The numbers according to the paper are those recorded in the panel above showing changes on the last survey by the firm a fortnight ago. There is a slight discrepancy between the numbers in the online version of the paper and Anthony King’s analysis which talks of a 19% Tory lead.

This hardly matters and neither does the small dip in the Tory total. Everything still points to Labour suffering massive seat losses and Cameron coming to power with a comfortable majority.

The polls are so consistent at the moment that they are hardly news – but the nearer we get to the general election the more confidence they will give to punters who play the commons seat spread markets.

US Thread There will be one later in the day.

Mike Smithson


The overnight White House thread

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

With suggestions that McCain’s running mate decision will be leaked in the next hour and the build up to Obama’s big speech it’s an important night in the 2008 White House race.

Please continue the discussions here.

Mike Smithson


Why not Condoleezza Rice?

Thursday, August 28th, 2008


    Is there an obvious, but bold, choice being overlooked?

Choosing a running-mate is a about as difficult a decision as a Presidential candidate can make. The rules are not complex (e.g. do no harm, bring a state or demographic if you can, and ‘complement’ the nominee), but the decision is not easy. Back in December, I said that I struggled to see any of the Republican Party candidates as a Vice President to one of the others. All seemed to be maverick Senators, or Governors, or Mayors – none of them struck me as the sort of men who would do well at the bottom of the ticket, working to someone else’s direction. If it is Romney, or Pawlenty, or Tom Ridge, I’m sure we’ll have a chance to debate their strengths and weaknesses ad infinitum, but before the announcement is made, I think there is one candidate who has been overlooked to a large degree.

    The more I dwell on McCain’s choice, the more I begin to wonder whether the candidate he should select is Condoleezza Rice.

Her credentials are excellent – former National Security Advisor, the US Secretary of State – she is a Stanford Academic, who as Provost balanced a multi-billion dollar budget, and so her executive experience exceeds the running of the State Department. Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, she speaks five languages and is an accomplished concert pianist (a key pre-requisite for a successful Vice-President).

The arguments against are well rehearsed, but I’m not sure any excludes her from consideration. Of course she is tied to the GW Bush Administration, as is Colin Powell – the question would be whether she could be re-cast as a moderate who made the most of what was possible given colleagues like Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. McCain is not exactly running away from talking about Iraq, and her experience of negotiating with Russia, China, and North Korea only serves to underline that Obama is less qualified to deal with a whole host of nations who didn’t give him a standing ovation on his world tour.

I think she poses a problem for Joe Biden, because it forces his attacks on the Bush Administration to be directed at her, and he will not have the license to play as virulent an attack dog against Rice. She is more than capable of sparring with him, but we also know that it can be politically dangerous for a male politician to appear to bully a woman in a debate.

Her executive experience I have mentioned – the strike against her is that she has never been elected to public office. In a way, I think this is a positive thing – she’s not a 36-year Senator, with a voting record on every issue, and she’s never had to say things to appease the extremes of her party to win primaries. On domestic policy, she is effectively a blank canvass, avoiding any embarrassing prior contradictions of McCain. And it keeps the focus of this election (Rice v Biden especially) on foreign affairs.

    However, the other key attributes are race and gender. I don’t think she would cause many women to vote for McCain, or for many African Americans, but I think she does undermine Obama’s unique-selling point, and act as a dampener on efforts to ensure high-turnout. The affinity that African-Americans feel for Obama could be challenged if Rice is chosen – her experiences of being black in American chime far more easily with most black voters, compared to his upbringing in Hawaii. Indeed, any comparison between Obama and Rice diminishes him, given that he is running for President and she would be running only for VP. The possibility of attracting women voters for historic reasons is also a plus for Rice.

Ultimately, I have asked many, many Democrats here in Denver who they would least like to see on McCain’s ticket. They are adept at finding cataclysmic flaws in Romney, Huckabee, Palin, Pawlenty or anyone else you care to mention. But their strikes against Rice rely on a world-view that already opposes the Iraq War, that already says that anyone linked to Bush (except Colin Powell interestingly) is tarnished goods, and that no-one can compete with an Obama-Biden ticket. When you play Devil’s Advocate, Rice seems toxic to confirmed Democrats, but I have yet to hear a compelling reason why she would be an awful choice.

There is an element to which you should pick the candidate your opponent most fears. Biden was an ok choice, but Warner would have set off alarm bells at the GOP. Why do I feel she would be a good pick? Because it would put the Democrats into tailspin, and I don’t think they have a way of responding to her from the perspective of people who don’t already agree with them. It would certainly shake things up a bit – but would he ask, and would she agree?



Is it now more likely that McCain will choose a woman?

Thursday, August 28th, 2008


    How will the final convention betting market play out?

After the scintillating speeches overnight from Bill Clinton and Joe Biden there’s the big rally tonight in the massive stadium in Denver and the Obama campaign must be more hopeful that their convention will end giving it the boost they had planned for.

So how is it going to affect the McCain campaign particularly the choice of VP. ? We won’t have to wait long. For at noon, local time, tomorrow at Dayton in the crucial swing state of Ohio the 72 year old Vietnam veteran will tell us so resolving the last White House betting market prior to the election on November 4th.

Like Obama’s choice this has been kept a very close secret and it might be that the final decision is only just being made today. The McCain camp will want to have kept their options open right to the end as they try to work out who would be best to fight the Obama-Biden partnership.

There’s been a lot of speculation that McCain might choose a woman and a number of names have been mentioned by pundits. Certainly it would change the media narrative and switch the focus to the McCain campaign over the weekend.

Unlike the Democratic ticket the Republican line-up has attracted nothing like the interest in the UK and betting has been much lighter – none more so than on the person who has emerged this week as a possible contender – Senator Kay Bailey from Texas. As I write just £713 has been traded on her on the Betfair exchange which is just a fraction of my possible winnings from the 40/1 bet on her I placed with Ladbrokes on Monday.

This is how “The Swamp” makes her case: “Some observers believe that if McCain chose Hutchison, the Republican senator from Texas, that could really shake up the presidential race and seize crucial convention momentum from Obama…Selecting a woman as his vice presidential pick might appear to be pandering to women upset that Hillary Clinton wasn’t selected as Obama’s running mate. But pandering often works, which is why politicians do it..It would also add a sense of historic possibilities to the Republican ticket, something none of the men being mentioned would do.”

I’ve got a sprinkling of money on the other female possibilities, including the former Miss Alaska, Sarah Palin who two years ago was elected governor.

Mitt Romney remains the favourite with the current governor of Virginia Minnesota, Tim Pawlenty, also in the frame.

As I’ve said before VP nominee betting is a mugs’ game but that doesn’t stop us wanting to have a punt. Who knows what McCain is going to do? Thankfully we do not have long to wait.

Mike Smithson


Who thought this was a good idea?

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008


    Did nobody realise how McCain would respond?

It appears from the photo above (hat-tip to Drudge) that the stage for Barack Obama’s historic address tomorrow evening will be classical in design, with a facade resembling a Greek or Roman temple.

McCain’s campaign has ‘gleefully’ responded, calling it the ‘Temple of Obama’ and have sent out an email of their magazine “Audacity Watch”. This chimes with the video that they made mocking Obama’s messianic following, called ‘The One‘.

After his international tour, there was no shortage of comment accusing Obama of being less the presumptive nominee, but more the presumptuous nominee. In light of that criticism, accepting the nomination in a 70,000 seater stadium might seem a little risky, but to put him on such a stage smacks of amateurish indifference to this line of attack, which could be extremely dangerous for his chances of winning in November.

Rumour has it that John McCain will announce his VP on Friday morning, or even on Thursday evening just hours after Obama’s speech, to overshadow the Democrat’s coverage. This element, as well as the various pitfalls of accepting the nomination in this way, lead me to wonder whether Obama will see the usual ‘Convention Bounce’ of 6%. If not, cue the process stories about a campaign coming off the rails, and the media getting to savage the Obama campaign team for the first time.


REMEMBER: Check out Morus’ Denver Diary for latest updates, thoughts and impressions from the Democratic Convention week in Colorado, as well as an exclusive interview with Lord Rennard and Ed Davey MP.


Are the polls really all over the place?

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008


    A guest slot by Bob Worcester – the founder of MORI

(This is a specially adapted version for PB of an article produced by Bob Worcester for his new Vox Populi blogs on the Ipsos MORI site. The aim is to produce a monthly piece between now and the next election based on Bob’s personal experience of nearly 40 years conducting and observing polls and how they are reported)

“Let’s look at the record”, as the politicians say. Just this past month we’ve seen two polls early in August, ICM in the Sunday Express and BPIX in the Sunday Mail, both being conducted over the same few days, yet one had a 15 point lead for the Conservatives (ICM) and the other had a 24 point lead (BPIX). They can’t both be right I hear the poll pickers say.

Or can they?

Then over identical days in mid-month, 15th-17th, ICM for the Guardian had 15 point Tory lead again, while Ipsos MORI had 24, published by the Press Association. Well that proves it, doesn’t it?

Or does it?

No, it doesn’t, if you look at the share, not the lead. For polls are subject to the laws of statistics (as any statistician will tell you, if you ask them), and polls using properly designed samples, and we all do, operate within a so-called ‘confidence interval’ of plus or minus three percent for a sample of c. 1,000 people. And the four polls above, plus the three done by YouGov in between them, are all, seven out of seven, within a three point ‘margin of error’ of the average share for the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats, and Others.

That’s as good as it gets folks, and if you double the sample size, you don’t improve the accuracy much. And that holds whether you’re talking about a poll in America’s 240 million potential voters, Britain’s 45 million, or Trinidad’s 1.3 million or even the Maldives’ 200,000 electorate, holding their first ever contested presidential election this coming month. Hard to believe. Yeah, I know, but that’s the way it works.

Still don’t believe me?

Take all the polls in the first quarter of 2008. There were 23 polls published by one or another of the seven pollsters making the running. The Tories? 23 out of 23 were within the three percent margin as were the Liberal Democrats. Labour? 20 out of 23, as were the collective others. So in the first quarter of this year, 93% of the 92 party shares were within the plus or minus three percent margin. And what does statistics tell us? That the +/-3% rule you can expect to work 95% of the time if done at the same time, and these 23 polls covered three months!

OK, a fluke? What about April? 92%. May 84% (not too good, shape up pollsters). June? 94% (that’s better). July? 97% (wow). August so far? 100%! Seven polls out of seven hit the average for the month (to date), the Tories at 46%, Labour 26%, Liberal Democrats 17% and Others 11% within plus or minus three percent margins.

So why oh why do most folks believe the polls are all over the place. Some folks don’t believe in them at all, any more than Quiji boards or reading tea leaves. Another reason is that most folks aren’t statisticians. Fair enough, but most of those commenting on the polls in the newspapers, on radio and television, and certainly many who comment on them in the blogs and their responders, don’t really understand how they work, why those of us in the trade believe in them (otherwise we wouldn’t bother doing them, as nobody makes much money on them and they divert us from doing more profitable business).

And if you’re wondering, of the 65 polls published since the beginning of the year, the accuracy score is a credible 93.5% against a 95% out of 100% target for a perfect score: 98% – damn near perfect. Do the weather people do so well? Punters? Do you?

If you want the numbers, email me. I’d be happy to send the evidence winging back. The full table is on our web site, and we’ll be keeping a running total from here on right up to the next election.

Keep taking the polls…

Bob Worcester