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In this edition: the Brookings Institution responds, and elections — special, primary and presidential.


At the Brookings Institution’s Web site, Alan Berube and Robert Puentes wrote a thoughtful and interesting response to FiveThirtyEight’s critique of their study, “Missed Opportunity: Transit and Jobs in Metro America.”

The special election in New York’s 26th Congressional District — and the surprising Democratic victory there — was cause for much optimism among Democrats, but Nate argued that while Republicans should be somewhat worried by the result, Democrats shouldn’t throw more than five or six parades. The New Republic’s Jonathan Chait on the other hand, argued that the race is more significant. “The political landscape that produced the Republican sweep of 2010 is gone. Just what replaces it remains to be seen,” Mr. Chait wrote.

Nate already mentioned the virtual brouhaha sparked by his contention that Herman Cain’s prospects for the Republican nomination should be taken more seriously (the simple case and the not-so-simple case). But The Week has a useful rundown of the arguments that were made by both sides.

The flip side of the Cain debate was the one over the chances of former Gov. Jon M. Huntsman Jr. of Utah. While Nate argued that many pundits were underestimating Mr. Cain, he wrote that Mr. Huntsman’s odds were being overestimated, especially because of a number of moderate positions Mr. Huntsman has taken. Well, Time’s Alex Altman has a good analysis of how Mr. Huntsman will try to convince conservatives that he is one of them.

FiveThirtyEight did a series of posts (here, here and here) on the predictive value of economic indicators in presidential elections. At Lawyers, Guns and Money, Dave Brockington argued that we were setting up a straw man. FiveThirtyEight’s “discussion of political scientists and our models etc. is increasingly becoming rather straw-esque,” he wrote. Mr. Brockington seems to think that political scientists know everything and that their models are perfectly predictive (just kidding, Mr. Brockington).

In one of those economic posts, FiveThirtyEight examined “The 10-Word Question That Could Cost Obama the Election,” namely Ronald Reagan’s famous inquiry, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” And The Washington Examiner’s Michael Barone provided some history on the question, noting that the Gipper wasn’t the first to ask it, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was.

It was a while ago, but remember our analysis of the advantages a Southerner has in trying to win the Republican presidential nomination? Ed Kilgore, at, wrote a thought-provoking article on the phenomenon. Mr. Kilgore argues that it’s not regional affinity that makes a Southerner more likely to support a Southern candidate — it’s ideology. He concludes, “…southern Republicans tend to support the most conservative viable candidate in presidential primaries at least as much as they support fellow-southerners.”

Finally, our comment-of-the-half-month goes to…everyone who commented on “Weiner’s Seat Could Be Scrambled in Redistricting.” The comments were smart, substantive and insightful. Unfortunately, awarding this to a group means you’ll have to split the prize money.


John Sides, at The Monkey Cage, connects some interesting research and Representative Anthony Weiner’s chances of retaining his job.

Brendan Nyhan looks at whether legislative inactivity causes political scandals.

If so, the scandals will probably keep coming. Check out David A. Fahrenthold’s article in The Washington Post on the increasing amount of time spent doing nothing in the Senate.

Micah Cohen is FiveThirtyEight’s former managing editor.