Archive for September, 2007

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Are the Liberal Democrats up against the wall?

September 30, 2007

A look at British polling trends

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 Although this web-log specialises in political commentary rather than polling data this site is pleased to present what will be an ongoing attempt to present the latest polling data, as smoothed by Samplemiser, a online program that aims to create polling trends from a series of polls. Although the data is still not completely certain, due to the fact that some polls have not yet disclosed their sample sizes, putting the last 13 surveys of British voting intention into the program produces the polling data that you see above. According to the filter the current polls suggest that, were the election to be held today, Labour would get 41.31%, the Tories would get 33.6% and the Lib Dems would get only 12.57%. Putting these figures in Martin Baxter’s website produces a Labour majority of 130, with the Liberal Democrats being reduced to 3 seats.

Even if we adjust the figures slightly to take 2% away from Labour and given 1% to the Conservatives and Lib Dems each and we assume that up to 10% of Labour and Conservative supporters vote tactically for the Liberals, Labour still increases its majority to 96 and the Lib Dems are stil reduced to 29 seats. These figures must surely give encouragement to both Gordon Brown and Labour supporters (like myself).

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High Noon for McCain and Thompson

September 29, 2007

How the third quarter fudraising figures could be a make or break situation for both John McCain and Fred Thompson

The publication of Q3 quarter fundraising figures are always eagerly anticipated by political junkies, consultants and bettors. These are important both because money enables candidates to run an effective campaign but also as a gauge of their credibility. Although they are important for all candidates in both parties they are particularly vital for both Fred Thompson and John McCain. In the case of Thompson they are important because he needs to show that his delayed start has not damaged his status as the most credible challenger to Giuliani. Poor, or even middling figures, will start to increase the questions surrounding his commitment to the contest and his ability to win over the conservative wing of the Republican party. Although he has been catching up with Giuliani in the pollster.com analysis of national polls they have stopped increasing in New Hampshire and South Carolina. Poor fundraising figures could also tempt Gingrich into the contest, a move which would hurt Thompson more than any other candidate.

For McCain the problem is more immediate as his campaign is desperately short of cash. While the amount of money necessary to compete is not as big as has been supposed – after all Jesse Jackson managed to win a string of Democrat primaries in 1988 with a campaign that was essentially run out of a plane – anything other than stellar figures will be serious blow. However, there is silver lining in that a result that is bad – but just enough to leave him standing – might force him to reassess his strategy of moving to the right on domestic policy and might enable him to stop apologising for his last eight years in the Senate and run the sort of hacking slashing semi-populist candidacy that won him support from independants and nearly propelled him to the nomination, in 2000.

Indeed, the reason that McCain is still a viable candidate is because he has stood up for the foreign policy that he believes in – even when other in his party were losing their nerve and disassociating them-selves from it. Of course this doesn’t have to follow at all and poor fundraising figures could make him even more dependent on Rick Davis and even more inclined to compromise his beliefs to try to win acceptance from the angry wing of the Republican Party. He could also quit the primaries completely, though the fact that he has only a Senate race in 2010 (which has been made competitive by his compromises) suggests that he will stay in the race until the bitter end. There are also ominous signs that, not only are Giuliani and Thompson circling his supporters like vultures, looking to pick up his remaining supporters with protestation that, ‘if they were not candidates, they’d have supported him’, but even Bill Clinton is now following in their wake, suggesting that the battle over McCain’s bones (and remaining supporters), if it occurs, will be wide ranging.

So how should McCain and Thompson react if their numbers are bad? They will both need to use them to spur their respective campaigns, in Thompson’s case to get out and prove that he is really another Ronald Regan and in McCain’s case to show that he hasn’t abandoned his reform crusade. More specifically they both need to get in the face of their opponents, Thompson needs to attack Giuliani from the right, while McCain needs to put previous friendships aside and go after Thompson for his history as a lobbyist and as a personification of those who make a business, rather than a cause, out of fighting the culture wars. McCain also needs to make a public break with the special interest groups over either taxes or immigration, reminding the rest of the party that fiscal restraint applies to pie in the sky tax cut proposals as well as public spending.

In any case both McCain and Thompson are, ‘doomed to live in interesting times’, although whether that is a curse or a blessing will become apparent very soon.

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Yet more trades: You can call me Al

September 28, 2007

I bought 11 contracts of Al Gore (to be the Democrat nominee) at $0.86 each, leaving me $466.98 in my account in cash. Essentially, my reasoning is that Gore is the only candidate with the experience, grassroots support and name recognition to credibly challenge Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. If you take the conservative view that he is 25% likely to run and 40% likely to win, then his price should be $1.00 (10) not $0.86.

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Trading Update: Some new trades

September 27, 2007

1. My first trade was 18 contracts on John McCain winning the GOP nomination. Although McCain has severe funding problems and needs to move back the centre on nearly all domestic policy issue his fearless stance on Iraq has helped him and he seems to be up in the polls. I bought the contracts at various prices but the cost of the contracts was $16.32.

2. I bought 66 contracts on a third party candidate winning the White House. Although I don’t believe that Michael Bloomberg will run I can definitely see a McCain/Lieberman ticket forming if McCain doesn’t win the nomination. The contracts cost $10.40.

After trading fees I now have $476.99 left.

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Putting my money where my mouth is

September 23, 2007

To provide some more interest to this web-log I have deposited some money into my Intrade.com account. Although I have made money on Intrade.com when it was part of Tradesports.com, I have closed all my positions and increased my balance to $500. Over the next few weeks and months I will be reporting my trades, along with my wins and losses – showing that I’m not unafraid to back up my tips with hard cash.

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The Truth about the ‘Lieberpoll’

September 18, 2007

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Daily Kos gets egg on its face with a new poll

As should be obvious by now, I do not particularly sympathise with either the antiwar left or the anti-immigration right. However, it is necessary for the serious gambler to regularly check sites like Daily Kos and Michelle Malkin’s website, because of their (some would say undue) influence on the Republican and Democratic parties and on the fringes of the media. Five days ago Daily Kos released an opinion poll. What made it especially interesting was that this was on a race that had already taken place last November, namely the Connecticut Senate race. This poll claims that if the race was re-run Ned Lamont would have beaten Joe Lieberman by 48% to 40%. Coming on the heels of a poll that claims John McCain could be beaten in 2010 by Janet Napolitano, Kos uses this to support his claim that the tide is turning against supporters of the war. This poll has received a large amount of publicity, even prompting an article in the British press.

However, not only is this an extreme case of a sore loser it also has several methodological flaws:

1. Any poll about a past event is not going to get many respondents. People do not like responding to polls at the best of times and even fewer will be willing to respond to a race that they were already bored with. It goes without saying that those who will repsond are more likely to have stronger views – making them less representative as a whole. If Daily Kos want to be taken at all seriously they should publish their response rate.

2. The weighting of their poll is greatly different from the weighting that the CNN recorded. If you re-weight the poll by age to make it consistent with the 2006 Exit Poll you get Lieberman winning by 51% to 40% (50.96 to 39.96%). In fact Lieberman’s vote is slightly higher overall than it was in November 2006.

3. Instead of using a respected pollster like Gallup or Rasmussen they use Research 2000, a rather minor and poorly respected pollster.

In any case this poll deserves to be taken with a big pinch of salt.

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Four Profitable Longshots

September 4, 2007

If you like long-shot bets you’ll love these tips

One of the most consistent themes in the academic literature on betting is that, with traditional bookies at least, the value doesn’t usually lie with the longer odds. There is also the unromatic truth that longer odds bets require better risk management – while odds of 500/1 on an event that should have odds of 99/1 may be good value, you will still lose money 99% of the time.

However, if you are prepared to take a cold hard look at the field one can still find pockets of value. The following (no particular order) are the four best longshots (5% or less):

1. John McCain to win the GOP nomination. McCain’s chance of winning the nomination may be radically diminished from where they were during the start of the summer but he still has the potential to climb back into contention. While he may not realise that he has to get rid of Rick Davis and move back to the centre (without backsliding on Iraq) until it is too late, it is not inconceivable that the recent plunge in polls could persuade him to resurrect the old McCain and stop apologising for the last eight years of his political life. We should also be aware that neither Giuliani nor Thompson are exactly overwhelming candidates, while Romney is toxic to the general electorate. Chances of McCain winning the nomination are 15% while the Intrade price is 4.3-4.5.

2. Colin Powell to win the GOP nomination. If I were a Republican consultant who came from the ‘realist’ wing of the GOP I would be seriously considering starting a campaign to draft Powell. Whether you agree or disagree with his policies, Powell is one of the only Republicans to retain genuine cross party appeal. Although he has been insanely reluctant to enter politics, Barack Obama’s acceptance has demonstated that his fears about an assasination attempt by racists are pretty much unfounded. Probably of Powell winning the nomination is 2%, price on Intrade.com is 0-0.1.

3. Third Party Victory – Although I think that a putative Bloomberg candidacy would be little more than a ‘mid-life crisis in search of a campaign’ (and he has all but ruled himself out in any case) I believe that a McCain/Lieberman ticket remains a strong possibility. An independant candidacy would give McCain room to move to the centre and drop his support for a flat tax/national sales tax). At the same time he would be free to take on Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter and Lou Dobbs over immigration. The mechanics of it is another post on its own but sufice to say that the chances of a third party victory are about 7% while the price on Intrade.com is 2.1-2.5.

4. Mark Warner to win the Democratic nomination – With the audacity of hype’s campaign imploding and John Edwards and Bill Richardson going nowhere there is room for a candidate who appeals to the South. Warner has the experience, the centrism and the charisma. He might have withdrawn from the race and be more interested in the Senate but that still doesn’t justify the prices that are on offer. Warner’s chances are about 2% while the price on Intrade.com is 0-0.2.