Chart of the day

Via Wonkblog:

Obama’s plan would create 1.1 million jobs in 2013 and 280,000 jobs in 2014, while Romney’s budget would create 87,000 jobs in 2013 and lose 641,000 jobs in 2014, provided that his plans are deficit-financed, according to a new EPI study (pdf).

How did EPI come to its conclusions? By using multipliers of the GDP impact of spending and tax policies based on those published by Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody’s Analytics.

[Zandi was McCain’s economic adviser]

No more stretching

Wonkblog’s Sarah Kliff highlights the problem with sit-ups in this recent study.  Personally, I’m more pleased to see them take on the tyranny of stretching and flexibility:

They find, in a 230-page report out Thursday, that as many a middle school student may have long suspected, there’s barely any evidence that most of these tests predict better health outcomes later in life.

The committee’s review of the scientific literature revealed that studies on fitness measures for youth often were not designed to answer questions related to understanding the relationships between fitness measures and health across all ages, genders, and racial/ethnic populations.

The committee came out especially strong against flexibility tests, things like attempting to touch one’s toes while sitting — the dreaded “sit and reach,” that has vexed many inflexible eighth graders. Due to a “lack of evidence for an association between flexibility tests and health outcomes,” it recommends against “including such tests” in any national guidelines for physical fitness testing.

I’ll also mention that Gretchen Reynolds’ fabulous The First 20 Minutes points out that stretching as most of us know it is pretty much counter-productive and useless.

Obama and Romney in a word

Via Pew:

Alas, Socialist falls just outside Obama’s top 10 at number 11.  I love that “OK” is in Romney’s top 10.  There’s passion for you.  Why exactly “honest” is number 1 is beyond me.  Given his flagrantly dishonest campaign (judging by typical presidential campaign standards), seems like Obama’s campaign should do more to counter-act this.  There’s more good analysis and some cool infographics at the link.

Photo of the day

From N&O’s day’s best (yes, I do have a soft spot for photos with fire):

A fire bomb explodes behind a riot police squad on September 26, 2012 in Athens during clashes with demonstrators at a 24-hours general strike. Police in Athens clashed with hooded youths throwing firebombs on the sidelines of a large demonstration against a new round of austerity cuts. AFP PHOTO / ARIS MESSINIS


Undecided voter redux

Love this post by Alex McGillis on the bubble many Washington journalists apparently live in.  He starts with a quote from NBC FirstRead about Bob Woodward’s new book, “In this case, he did not.” Does the Woodward book on such an ugly inside the Beltway fight have legs in the swing states in these final days? We’ll see.”  And then, McGillis:

The notion that an inside-Beltway account of the debt-ceiling debate would have “legs in the swing states” is a delightful window into the solipsism of the Washington bubble: we care about Bob Woodward, so those people in Dayton and Denver and Danville must, too. It’s right up there with David Gergen’s declaration after Obama’s convention speech in Charlotte that Obama’s favorable reference to the Simpson-Bowles commission’s recommendations to balance the budget would help him with undecided voters:

They’re rallying around Simpson-Bowles because it’s one of the most popular ideas around the country. If you travel everyone says, why didn’t they take Simpson-Bowles?

I travel around a lot but clearly not to the right places, because I don’t have a lot of people button-holing be about Simpson-Bowles, or Bowles-Simpson, or even its near cousins Rivlin-Domenici and Domenici-Rivlin!

Joking aside, the fact of the matter is that political scientists and pollsters have found that truly undecided, late-deciding voters tend to be very “low-information” — the industry euphemism for “not reading Bob Woodward in their spare time to help them decide how to vote.” Saturday Night Live captured this contingent pretty brilliantly last weekend.

Bill Maher has his own take on the undecided voter.  And hooray, he actually cites “political scientists”!  Not surprisingly, Maher’s version is more profane than SNL (fair warning).  I think SNL’s is actually better (as mentioned, my love of smart satire), but this is certainly good stuff.  (The key part starts 2:12 in)

The other good news for Obama in the polls

It’s not just that he’s put distance between himself and Romney nationally and in key states, but that his approval ratings having been climbing as well.  Really hard to see Romney coming back to beat Obama if he can keep his approval at 50%+  Greg Sargent:

A lot of the commentary about the national and state polls that are shifting away from Mitt Romney focuses on his various missteps — the response to the Embassy attacks, the freeloading 47 percent remarks — as major causes of his political travails. And those are probably important.

But those don’t explain why Obama’s approval numbers, and his numbers on the economy in particular, seem to be visibly improving…

This is, of course, largely speculative. But consider: Obama’s national approval is at 51 percent in Gallup, and while it’s bounced around a bit, it has hovered at or around 49 and 50 percent with some regularity. In a host of the national polls, Romney’s advantage on the economy hasevaporated entirely. One national survey even found Obama with a commanding lead among those who don’t believe their lot has improved. In Ohio and Florida, Obama is now leading Romney on the economy, and majorities now believe the economy either is improving or will improve if Obama’s policies are given more time. And so on.

Sargent speculates that what we’re seeing is economic improvement/optimism that’s just not showing up in the key numbers yet.  My take: it’s the campaign.   I know as  political scientist I’m supposed to think campaigns don’t matter; but it’s that they don’t matter that much.  But moving presidential approval from 47% to 51%  (just ballparking here) isn’t necessarily that much, but it’s huge in a close election.  Obama is a running a really good campaign that is reminding people of why they like him.  When they like him, he benefits across the board.  Furthermore, even though I don’t think Romney is a “bad” candidate, he’s certainly no Obama and I think the contrast makes Obama look even better.

I do think one of the most interesting and under-discussed aspects of Obama’s rise in the polls is this fact that it’s not just the horserace numbers, but his overall approval.  This is something (other?) political scientists should figure out.  (I’m counting on you, Mark Y.).

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