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In this edition: a lot of Herman Cain and overly confident punditry, some crowded estimates and two more endorsed ideas about newspaper endorsements.


Matt Glassman, a researcher at the Congressional Research Service, saw hypocrisy in “Herman Cain and the Hubris of Experts,” which argued that iron-clad predictions by political pundits often contain too much iron. Mr. Glassman wrote:

The real problem is that Nate seems to more or less agree with the people who think Cain has no chance. He concedes that Cain’s chances might be “slim” and then suggests that “slim” might mean slightly less than 2 percent. In effect, Nate is doing exactly what he claims the analysts shouldn’t be doing: disregarding the polling numbers and putting the vast preponderance of the explanatory weight on the fundamentals, or their intuition.

Hans Noel of the Monkey Cage also disagreed with the FiveThirtyEight post. So too did Jonathan Bernstein at A Plain Blog About Politics.

Razib Khan, at Discover Magazine, in siding with Nate, proferred some interesting thoughts. Speaking about sports and politics, Mr. Khan wrote, “Despite the long history of minimal value-add on the part of pundits, they persist in both domains. Why? I think it’s pretty obviously a cognitive bias toward storytelling. …The key here is to change the attitude of the pundit class. The populace will always have a preference for stories with plausible and clean conclusions over radical uncertainty.”

Joe Weisenthal, writing for Business Insider, saw something  similar in the world of finance. “There’s a serious mismatch between what real, actual data is saying, and the stories that everyone insists on telling over and over again: that Cain is a flash in the pan, and should just be ignored,” Mr. Weisenthal wrote. “You see this in markets all the time. People lock onto some ‘story’ about what’s driving the market, and then no amount of counter-data will shake them off their belief.”

Robert Stacy McCain of The American Spectator, in an article on the topsy-turvy Cain campaign, summed up the dilemma in assessing Mr. Cain’s chances thus: “Cain’s success represents a journey into uncharted political waters, like an ancient explorer sailing off toward the part of the map where the legend reads, ‘Here Be Dragons.’ ”

And Eric Black, at, wrote, “I’ve pretty much given up on predicting the future and concentrated on something I know how to do: predicting the past.”

Almost two weeks ago, FiveThirtyEight took a crack at estimating the turnout for Occupy Wall Street’s largest single day of protests (Oct. 15), then compared those numbers with the Tea Party protests on April 15, 2009. Armin Rosen of The Atlantic wrote a very interesting article comparing the Occupy Wall Street protests not with the Tea Party rallies, but with the protests against the Iraq war in 2007. Mr. Rosen points out that despite having far fewer participants, Occupy Wall Street has succeeded in many ways those peace protests did not.

The Daily Beast took FiveThirtyEight’s Occupy estimates, combined them with the turnout for those April 15 Tea Party demonstrations, and came up with “America’s 10 Angriest Cities.” It’s a slide show, so to save you the trouble of clicking through it all, the top three cities are: 3. Seattle, 2. Portland, Ore., and 1. Denver.

In fact, cities 7 through 1 on that Daily Beast list were all out West, which jibed with FiveThirtyEight’s observation that — on a per capita basis — the Occupy protests, by themselves, were best represented in the Western Census Bureau Region.

Finally, our comment-of-the-half-month is going to be split this time between Barry Hollander of Athens, Ga., and Will from Houston.

Mr. Hollander and Will earned this award for their theories regarding “Political Newspaper Endorsements: History and Outcome” (theories I should have offered in the original article). Explaining the Republican-to-Democratic shift in editorial page preferences, Will wrote: “Newspapers are disappearing. Only papers in huge cities with huge circulations have survived the rise of the Internet. Most huge cities tend to be heavily Democratic.”

And Mr. Hollander, considering the influence editorial endorsements might have on elections, wrote: “Presidential-level newspaper endorsements have a negligible effect on the vote. You’re more likely to see such endorsements have an impact at the local level — or statewide, on obscure propositions/constitutional amendments.”


For another Occupy Wall Street-Tea Party comparison, check out Google’s Politics and Elections Blog, which dissected Google searches relating to the two protests.

Suzy Khimm of Wonkblog at The Washington Post looked at how businesses are pouring their profits into investments, not new employeess.

And lastly, The Economist took the temperature of climate change science.

Micah Cohen is FiveThirtyEight’s former managing editor.