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In this edition: upheaval in the Republican presidential nomination contest, an old foe returns, college football chaos and baseball collapses.


The Republican nominating process has been dominated recently by rekindled interest in Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey. Republican donors and luminaries have been trying to coax him into the ring, so FiveThirtyEight explored whether the prospect of Candidate Christie should more unnerve Gov. Rick Perry of Texas or Mitt Romney.

The New Republic’s Jonathan Cohn examined the origins of surging interest in Mr. Christie specifically, but also the well-worn phenomenon of “savior candidates.” Mr. Cohn wisely observed that “in modern politics, ‘savior’ candidates are never again as popular as they are the day before they announce.”

But lest Mr. Christie’s admirers get too feverish, The San Francisco Chronicle has a Bloomberg roundup of the (many, many) times Mr. Christie has said he will not run.

One reason attention turned to Mr. Christie was Mr. Perry’s somewhat abysmal debate performance. FiveThirtyEight noted the subsequent sagging in Mr. Perry’s favorability and horse-race numbers. Slate’s John Dickerson, in a walk-through of Mr. Perry’s debate missteps, argued that the mistakes were particularly damaging because they undercut the heart of the case Mr. Perry was making to the Republican primary electorate, that, as Mr. Dickerson wrote, “Perry is one of you — he prays, he speaks plainly, he’s from a small town in Texas — and Moneybags Mitt ain’t.”

At Outside the Beltway, Doug Mataconis took a step back and challenged the importance placed on presidential debate performances in the first place.

Another upshot of the emerging unhappiness with Mr. Perry was renewed interest in Herman Cain. Way back in May, FiveThirtyEight outlined several reasons for taking Mr. Cain’s campaign seriously. Mr. Cain’s national poll numbers proceeded to rise, then fall and now they are up again.

Well, The Wall Street Journal seemed to have taken notice. The Journal’s columnist Daniel Henninger, in an column headlined “Taking Cain Seriously,” argued that Mr. Cain’s business-heavy, politics-lite resume — not typical for a White House aspirant — should be a plus in voters’ minds, not a negative.

Salon’s Steve Kornacki, however, took the resurgence of Mr. Cain, as well as Newt Gingrich, another way. Mr. Kornacki wrote that the improved outlook for the two candidates “may be the surest sign yet of Rick Perry’s failure to meet his potential.”

In The American Thinker, John Zeigler took issue with FiveThirtyEight’s analysis of the Pennsylvania G.O.P.’s plan to remake how the state apportions its electoral votes. (Mr. Zeigler and FiveThirtyEight have had previous disagreements).

Leaving politics, Nate’s analysis of college football fandom and its implications for conference realignment — which appeared at The Quad — drew a mixed review from On the Banks, a blog focused on Rutgers football.

FiveThirtyEight performed a preemptive autopsy on the Boston Red Sox late-season crack-up, and then dissected its final, heart-breaking (or uplifting, depending on your loyalties) chapter. The Financial Times’ blog, Alphaville, published an interesting article explaining how Boston’s collapse illuminates another breakdown — the 2008 financial free-fall.

And finally, our Comment-of-the-Half-Month goes to… Chrislav from New York City. In a not strictly on-topic response to “Bill Buckner Strikes Again,” she advised single women to go see “Moneyball,” and not just for Brad Pitt. The movie, Chrislav wrote, “attracts smart men, not so much the shoot ‘em up car-crash gun fightin’ type, but thoughtful, sensitive, baseball-loving men.” She concludes:

So girls — you say you don’t know where to meet great guys? I say put your best dress on, call up your girlfriends, head for the local movie theater playing “Moneyball,” get there early, make a few trips to the concession stand to scout out the audience, and your chance of meeting that special guy there are way better than your chances of meeting one in a bar.

Thank you to the cupid-inclined Chrislav (unless you secretly work for Sony Pictures Entertainment).


At The Monkey Cage, Erica Chenoweth wrote an insightful article about terrorism and democracy.

A National Journal article by Ronald Brownstein and Scott Bland unpacks new census data and finds “the Great Recession and its aftermath have battered virtually every state in the nation—and that some of the heaviest blows have landed on states that may loom the largest in the 2012 presidential election.”

Ezra Klein, at The Washington Post, highlighted research that studied the uncertainty argument, which holds that the threat of new taxes and regulations is the root of the tepid economic picture.

Bill Adair, at PolitiFact, whose data FiveThirtyEight delved into recently, looked at the Truth-O-Meter ratings amassed by political pundits.

And — although not technically a read — our very own Nate Silver was interviewed by Howard Kurtz for his CNN show “Reliable Sources.” Here is Part 1 and Part 2 of the video.

Micah Cohen is FiveThirtyEight’s former managing editor.