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In this edition: G.O.P. debates, “Wal-Mart moms,” the perils of mathematical horseplay and our comment of the half-month.


FiveThirtyEight has been following the Republican debates like everyone else, in particular the continuing debating travails of Gov. Rick Perry of Texas. Well, the latest debate was held earlier this week in Hanover, N.H., and Mr. Perry again performed pretty poorly.

The Plum Line’s Jonathan Bernstein thought so, too. “There’s just no getting around it: Rick Perry’s inept performances are dominating these debates,” Mr. Bernstein wrote.

In Hanover, FiveThirtyEight wrote, Mr. Perry “was more subdued than in past debates.” The Los Angeles Times’s James Oliphant concurred. In an article that graded each candidate’s debate performance, Mr. Oliphant observed that Mr. Perry “appeared to be the most laid-back Texan since Matthew McConaughey.”

In other presidential election news, there has been much discussion recently of the electoral significance of “Wal-Mart moms.”

Way back when (in March), FiveThirtyEight tackled the popular notion that in politics, demographics are destiny. Here is what Nate wrote:

“Demographics, certainly, are a part of the picture — and they are something that we discuss around here on occasion. But with one clear exception, the impact that demographics have on voting behavior is a lot more fluid than you might think from all the talk of ‘soccer moms’ and ‘Nascar dads.’”

Tack on “Wal-Mart moms” to the end of that sentence. John Hudson, at The Atlantic Wire, citing that FiveThirtyEight article, raised objections to the demographic grouping.

Indeed, the emerging “Wal-Mart moms” meme may be fueled by a commercial propellant. Erika Fry, at the Columbia Journalism Review’s Campaign Desk blog, wrote that two polling firms have been pushing to get this “‘key swing group’ of 2012 voters into the press.” Ms. Fry went on:

“It should surprise no one that the firms responsible for pushing the story, Public Opinion Strategies and Momentum Analysis, are doing the work on behalf of, um, Walmart.”

And lastly, our comment of the half-month goes to … WKJ from Falls Church, Va. In response to “Early New Hampshire Primary Could Backfire on Romney” and the New Hampshire law that dictates the state hold its primary before any other primary, WKJ wrote:

“One of the other 49 states that doesn’t currently attract much attention should pass a law to say that their primary must be on the same day as the one in NH.”


At The Monkey Cage, Erik Voeten looked at how financial crises affect the partisan makeup of electorates.

Brad Plumer, at The Washington Post’s WonkBlog, unpacked a new Government Accountability Office report “looking at how much federal highway money each state gets, per dollar of gas-tax revenue they chip in to the Highway Trust Fund.”

Predicting presidential elections is hard, in large part because there haven’t been that many of them. That’s the message of two great articles: The Difference Between Presidential Elections and Baseball” by The Atlantic Wire’s Elspeth Reeve and “Misleading Predictions About Why Obama “Can’t Win” in 2012” by The Washington Monthly’s Keith Hmuphreys.

Mother Jones’s Adam Weinstein highlights a fascinating, though mostly pseudo-scientific, look at the Ashton Kucher and Demi Moore breakup.

At DailyFinance, Bill Barker had some interesting thoughts on the fact that the “S&P 500 finished at the same level that it did exactly three years earlier on Monday.”

Micah Cohen is FiveThirtyEight’s former managing editor.