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Reads & Reactions

In this edition of Reads & Reactions: a model back-and-forth, salad economics, a Palin candidacy, Libya, a few helpings of March Madness and comments from FiveThirtyEight readers.


At Margin of Error, Harry Enten posted a response to Nate’s response to a model Mr. Enten published predicting that Republicans were almost certain to retain control of the House in 2012.

With Sarah Palin’s support eroding among Republicans, Nate likened a Palin run for president to Al Sharpton and Pat Buchanan’s candidacies. Andrew Sullivan, at The Daily Dish, did not agree. Mr. Sullivan also linked to an interesting take on a Palin run by Jonathan Bernstein at A Plain Blog About Politics. Mr. Bernstein thinks that, despite her negative favorability numbers, if Ms. Palin began to run a more conventional campaign, she would still have a shot.

Nate’s article about The Times’ new pay model and the economics of journalism elicited a discerning comment from C.W. Anderson, from Brooklyn, N.Y. Or, for the Canadian perspective on the pay model, check out Alexandra Samuel’s very funny post at The Harvard Business Review.

Time’s Brad Tuttle worried about the nutritional implications of Nate’s analysis of the most cost-effective salad-bar salad.

After Nate looked at early polling on President Obama’s handling of the conflict in Libya, Steve Kornacki, at Salon’s War Room, put together a helpful overview of recent American military interventions to illuminate where public opinion on Libya might move.

Nate’s Libya article was also the venue for a substantive debate between two FiveThirtyEight readers, Ickey (Evansdale, IA) and Wally (Phoenix, AZ).

And finally, some reactions to FiveThirtyEight’s foray into March Madness (if you are sick of college basketball, skip to the Reads section). At CougCenter, Jeff Nusser examined the purpose of the N.C.A.A. tournament, and — taking into account the faults Nate found in the tournament seeding — tried to construct a fairer system.

However, Patrick at North Park Street thought Nate’s suggestions to improve the tournament actually made things less fair, by penalizing the best teams.

Nate compared the Big East’s tournament performance to the pre-tournament expectations churned out by his model, concluding that Big East fans should be disappointed, not suicidal. But Carl Bialik at The Wall Street Journal’s The Daily Fix thought a better point of comparison was “expectations by the average fan, as reflected by the 5.9 million brackets entered at” That baseline yielded a larger gap between Big East expectations and Big Least reality.

J-Doug at Rational Pastime is keeping track of how various tournament predictions are fairing. As of his last update (before the Sweet 16 games), FiveThirtyEight was in second place.


The Times’ own Derek Willis crunches the numbers on party unity in the House of Representatives.

The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein explores the budgetary side of war , concluding that 1. The United States should pay for its wars while they are being fought, and 2. better cost-projections would help policy makers make better decisions.

Arab regimes, hoping to placate potential protesters, are pouring money and gifts into the streets. The Economist has a tally of all the efforts.

And what if the president of the United States was bitten by a zombie? Daniel W. Drezner at Foreign Policy has the answers.

Micah Cohen is FiveThirtyEight’s former managing editor.