Monthly Archives: August 2020

On “270 to win” – August 2020…

The Making of the President 1960 – or is this the year to be “the unmaking of the president?”

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One thing that surprised me – greatly – about the 2016 election was the disconnect. That is, the difference between pre-election polling and what finally happened. (In other words, “so many forecasts were off the mark.” In further words, I wasn’t the only one surprised; see the notes. )

In plain words there was huge “disconnect” between pre-election perception and reality. (“What actually happened.”) For example, one friend said confidently a day or two before the election that Trump would end up conceding by 11:00 p.m. election night. On the other hand, many state-by-state polling – while showing Clinton ahead – were well within the designated margins of error.

Heading in to Election Day 2016, I kept track of the polls “religiously.” (After all, there was a lot at stake, wasn’t there?) All that summer and into the fall I kept tracking. And to be honest, I drew some comfort from polls showing Clinton leading. But I wasn’t nearly as confident as my friend about when – and if – Trump would concede. (Remember the hubbub about his saying he wouldn’t accept the results if he lost?)  In fact I was so surprised – on election night and many days after – that I was reluctant to start keeping track again for this time around. (See jinxing.)

But here we go again… This time I want to keep track of pre-election polling – In black and white – so that if there is another “foul up” I may better understand why, and “what Happened.” (But I’d much rather enjoy the celebrating, the fireworks and the dancing in the streets.) 

But seriously… For starters we can recognize that national polls are meaningless. The president is not elected by popular vote. What matters is the number of votes he (or she, eventually) gets in the Electoral College. For example, I remember reading Ted White‘s book, The Making of the President 1960. It mirrored what Wikipedia called a “closely contested election.”

But it wasn’t really “close,” even though – as both White and Wikipedia emphasized – Kennedy “won the national popular vote by 112,827, a margin of 0.17 percent.” (And some say Nixon should have been credited with the popular vote victory, because that “popular vote was complicated by the presence of several unpledged electors in the Deep South.”) But – as happened in the 2000 and 2016 presidential election – the popular vote didn’t matter in 1960. It didn’t matter who won what has now become a near-worthless consolation prize.

Where it counted – in the Electoral College – Kennedy won by 303 votes to 219.* Or you could say 84 more Electoral votes. In plain words, Kennedy won with 38 percent more electoral votes than Nixon, not “0.17 percent.”

And so it may be in the 2020 election. Which means I started researching four websites that track state-by-state polls in the Electoral College. First, 2020 Presidential Election Interactive Map. Next, 2020 Presidential Election Interactive Map – Electoral Vote Map. That’s a product of Political Wire, founded by Taegan Goddard and “one of the oldest left-wing and most influential political blogs and news aggregate sites on the internet.” (See also Political Wire – Wikipedia.) A third site is ElectoralVote(, and yes it can be confusing.)

As of August 29, ElectoralVote – the third one – had Biden with 388 electoral votes, Trump 132 and 18 “ties.” (I’m assuming the “ties” are in the most recent polling.) That includes 213 “strongly Dem” and 90 votes “likely Dem,” which puts Biden over the top with those two alone. “Likely Dem” votes include Wisconsin’s 10 with Biden leading the polls 50-41; Michigan’s 16 split 50-42 Biden; Pennsylvania’s 20 split 49-43 Biden; Florida’s 29 split 49-43; and Arizona’s 11 split 47-38.

And for purposes of comparison, as of August 29 Trump had 81 electoral votes “strongly GOP” and 39 “likely GOP.” So his combined “strongly” and “likely” total of 120 is about half – 56% – of Biden’s “strongly Dem” standing alone. But again, that’s according to ElectoralVote.

According to Goddard’s left-wing Presidential Election Interactive Map, Biden has 320 electoral votes to Trump’s 125, with 93 “toss ups.” But Goddard has ElectoralVote‘s Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida and Arizona all solidly Democrat, while ElectoralVote has those states “likely Dem.” And incidentally, Goddard’s map is “based on the consensus” of forecasts, including but not limited to Cook Political Report, and Inside Elections, along with “the latest polling data from FiveThirtyEight, RealClearPolitics and”

Then there’s 2020 Presidential Election Interactive Map. That site has Biden with 278 electoral college votes to Trump’s 169. But it includes a proviso, “Democratic candidate wins in your scenario. No combinations remain for Republicans to win.” The problem is I clicked on some of the states, thinking that might give better information about percentages, and that may have messed up some of the figures. That is, it’s not my scenario that I’m interested in. I’m interested in the reality of what’s happening in each state, as that affects the electoral college vote. So the fact that it’s Interactive – and that I interacted with it, though inadvertently – concerns me a bit.

Then there’s a fourth website, Biden vs Trump: US presidential election 2020 poll tracker. I found it much more user-friendly because it listed the solid, leaning and toss-up states by name, not on some “stupid map.” Further, it listed and/or ranked those states in order of the number of electoral votes each had, with California’s 55 leading the list. And that website showed – as of August 27 – Biden with 203 solid and 95 leaning electoral votes, while Trump had 80 solid and 39 leaning votes. And 121 “toss up” votes.

So even if Trump won all the “toss-ups” – according to this site – and Biden held his 203 solid and 93 leaning, Biden would still win. And in four of those toss-up states – Florida (29), Michigan (16), Pennsylvania (20) and Wisconsin (10) – Biden has a polling lead of five points or more.

So the Electoral College polling math definitely favors Biden, regardless of what national-polling figures may show. For example, August 29th’s New poll shows Biden’s lead over Trump shrinks.

It led with a note that right after the Republican convention, Biden’s “lead” dropped from nine points at the end of July to six points after the convention. But check “yougov’s” website and you’ll see the lead thought, Explore what America thinks | YouGov. But again, it’s not what America thinks as a whole that matters. It’s not a “national popularity contest.” What matters is what Americans think in their individual states. Further, that article added:

The new Yahoo News-YouGov poll shows that nearly every voter in America has made up his or her mind, with 96 percent Biden and Trump supporters now saying they have decided how they will vote — up 2 percent from when the same voters were surveyed in late July. Only 8 percent remain undecided.

And it looks like Trump will need every one of those “eight percenters” to vote for him to get re-elected. (But then even that may not be enough.) But still it’s only the end of August, and there’s a little over two months left before the election. Meanwhile, I’ll keep tracking state-by-state Electoral College polls, looking for any major shifts.  It’s called prognostication

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Another prognosticator, Punxsutawney Phil: How will Phil feel this next February 2?

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The upper image is courtesy of Book Making Of The President – Image Results. The image is part of an ad in Etsy – Shop for handmade, vintage, custom, and unique gifts: “Find things you’ll love. Support independent sellers. Only on Etsy.” The caption: “Collector’s [Edition?] The Making of the PRESIDENT 1960 Theodore H White Illustrated American Past Book of the Month Club Collectible Book Decor Table.” See also The Making of the President 1960 – Wikipedia. The book “recounts and analyzes the 1960 election in which John F. Kennedy was elected President of the United States.” Further:

The book traces the 1960 campaign from the primaries … to the conclusion of the general election contest against Richard Nixon. Much of the narrative is written in an almost novelistic style, describing politicians’ looks, voices and personalities. But it also contains thought-provoking discussions of various trends in American life and politics.

Also about that 2016 election: I read an article of interest, Polls Versus Reality in 2016. Numbers: The Good and the Bad. Some conclusions: 1) “[T]hat so many forecasts were off the mark was surprising, given the increasingly wide variety of methods being tested and reported via the mainstream media and other outlets.” (So I wasn’t alone.) 2) “Most national polls had Clinton winning the popular vote by a fair margin, and that turned out to be fairly accurate.” (But irrelevant, as noted.) And 3) the “Shy Trumper effect… Voting for Trump is considered socially undesirable by some people… they don’t want to admit it either to an interviewer on the phone or to pollsters … and then when they get in to the voting booth, who they actual vote for is not the same person they told pollsters they were going to voter for.” (Ellipses in original.) Though it’s hard to imagine “shy Trumpsters” this time…

Re: “Kennedy won by 303 votes to 219.” For math majors and others of that ilk, that totals 522 electoral college votes, not the current 538. As to what accounted for the “missing 16,” I researched the issue but was unable to find a definitive answer, as of press time mean.

The lower image is courtesy of Prognosticate – Image Results. it was accompanied by an article, “Spring is coming: US groundhogs prognosticate during polar vortex.” (Washington Examiner, February 2019.) See also Groundhog Day – Wikipedia, on the American tradition based on the “Pennsylvania Dutch superstition that if a groundhog emerging from its burrow on this day sees its shadow due to clear weather, it will retreat to its den and winter will persist for six more weeks; but if it does not see its shadow because of cloudiness, spring will arrive early.” 

“The intelligent Southerner … you seldom meet…”

Atticus Finch: A quintessential “intelligent Southerner” – of a type now Gone with the Wind?

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1651350My last post – An early post-mortem – started with a note about my brother and I just finishing a four-day, 115-mile canoe trip down the Missouri River. (From Sioux City to Omaha, on July 12.)

But then I went on to take a look at “this time last year.” As a result of that, I did a combination-post using three draft projects I started a year ago. (“This time last year.”) That is, I combined those three draft-posts into Early post-mortem, to make one long post on those long-forgotten projects. (Plus the canoe “early post-mortem.”) Those three draft posts were on: 1) Gerrymandering, 2) humor as a weapon, and 3) – briefly – an ongoing book-project I’m working on, “My Adventures In Old Age.”

And why did I do that? Mainly because a “full postmortem account” of the canoe trip would “take time, and I’m long overdue to submit a new blog-post.” So here’s another delay in doing that full post-mortem.. But as it turns out, this project led to a “foreshadowing” post that I did about an earlier canoe-trip adventure…

To explain, once I got back home I started re-reading American Home Front: 1941-1942. In doing so I found a great quote for these challenging times. I’ll get to that quote later, but first want to note that two years ago I also started a review-post of the Home Front book. And in reviewing it I found some notes relating to my recent canoe-trip. Plus some good historical tidbits.

I wrote this first rough-draft paragraph for that review-post back in September, 2018:

For my recent long drive up to Canada – for my “Rideau Adventure” – I borrowed a book-on-CD from the local library: The American Home Front: 1941-1942, by Alistair Cooke(Most people “of a certain age” know Cooke for his America: A Personal History of the United States. I have both the book and DVD version of the 13-part BBC documentary television series first broadcast in 1972.)

And today, aside from having both the book and DVD version of Cooke’s “Americadocu-series, I now have the book version of his American Home Front. (Published in 2006, two years after his death.) And as noted, I started re-reading it again, once I got back from my latest canoe trip. In doing I found the following particularly relevant passage. It’s particularly relevant to me anyway, and I suspect to other people as well. People who may wonder “where did that guy go?”

The intelligent Southerner gives an impression you seldom meet elsewhere in America of having his own standards and of respecting you as a mature stranger while he keeps his own reserve.

“Intelligent Southerner?” “Respecting you as a mature stranger?” “Keeps his own reserve?”

Those phrases don’t come readily to mind today, whether after a session on Facebook or viewing a host of bumper stickers with sentiments like “Liberalism Is A Mental Disorder.” (To which you might reply, at least rhetorically, “Of course the only thing worse is a grumpy, bloated old white man threatened by change in the world.”) Which brings up Cooke’s comparison of that intelligent Southerner to most of the civilians he found around Louisville, the nearest big party town to Fort Knox – illustrated above right* – in March, 1942.

Cooke compared his intelligent Southerner (now mythical?) to the swarms of young people he saw as civilians in Louisville. And to the swarms of soldiers around town, from nearby Fort Knox. He said the civilian high-school boys he saw were “gawky and lifeless,” while the faces of their female companions were “innocent of any flicker of intelligence.” But to his credit, Cooke admitted – of this American town – that this was “an atmosphere that  no European need feel strange in. For it is the seeping seediness of English provincial towns.”

And just as an aside, it seems to this Old White Man – old but not grumpy – that way too many Americans these days have chosen that “seeping seediness.” But as for me and my house – or at least for me – “I will choose the way of the Intelligent Southerner.” Or try to anyway.

Nope, this “Georgia Wasp” still gets a kick out of life. And from now on I’ll cling to my own standards, while at the same time keeping my own reserve, and also trying to respect other all Americans as mature strangers. That’s going to be the hard part…

But getting back to my “Rideau Adventure.” Here’s a quote from the notes:

Another note: For the next canoe trip I’m getting a bigger tent and a cot. (No more sleeping on the ground for me.) But that trip won’t happen until at least 2020, as next summer my brother, his wife and I plan to hike the Portuguese Camino

Which turned out to be right on point. The next canoe trip did happen in 2020, and it happened despite the fact that I fully intended – this summer of 2020 – to either join my brother and his wife on another Camino hike in Spain. Or – if that didn’t happen – to fly back to Israel to Walk the Jesus Trail. Of course neither overseas flight-plus-adventure happened this year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But who could have seen that coming, back in 2018?

Which brings up an email exchange shortly before we both left home to meet up in South Sioux City. (My brother from Utah, me from the ATL.) He reminded me of things I needed to bring, including a tent. He then added, “There would also be room for a folding cot…”

I wrote back: “A folding cot would be nice, but I only have that small two-person tent. Of course I could get a bigger tent, what with my stimulus check and all, but I’m wondering how many more canoe trips we’ll be doing. (Cost-benefit-wise.)” He answered, “I too wonder about how many more canoe trips. But I would imagine we’d be able to canoe great distances longer (age-wise) than walk great distances. The question is, is the interest still there.”

Just for the record: First, that was a good point about being able to canoe great distances longer than walking great distances. (At our age.) And second, the interest is definitely still there. That combination of Coleman Trailhead II Camping Cot and Ozark Trail 6 Person Dome Camping Tent made all the difference in the world. (Measuring 8-by-12 feet, instead my old 7-by-7 feet “two person” tent.*) That larger tent came in very handy on Saturday night, July 11. That was the night after my brother’s tent got destroyed by an 80-mile-an-hour windstorm…

But more on that in a later post!

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This gives some idea what happened at 1:10 a.m., early July 11…

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The upper image is courtesy of Atticus Finch – Image Results. Which leads to the question: “Why don’t we see more Southern Gentleman like him anymore?”

The “intelligent Southerner” quote is at page 40 of the Grove Press paperback edition of “American Home Front,” first published in 2006 “by the estate of Alistair Cooke.” For a New York Times review, see The American Home Front: 1941-1942, “Alistair Cooke’s America, Explored in Wartime,” or The American Home Front: 1941-1942 (Smithsonian.)

Re: “Fort Knox … above right.” Wikipedia caption: “A tank driver at Fort Knox in 1942.”

Re: Walking the Jesus Trail. A hike offered by Saint George’s College Jerusalem:

This course, new to St. George’s College in 2020, offers an exciting opportunity for pilgrims who wish to experience the land from an entirely different perspective: walking. The course will spend five days following segments of the Jesus Trail in the Galilee [(] from Sepphoris (Zippori) near Nazareth to Capernaum, staying each night in a guest house or hotel along the way. Walkers will only carry day bags; luggage will be sent to the next guest house via the bus.

The lower image is courtesy of Windstorm In A Tent – Image Results. It was said to be accompanied by an article in the Kathmandu Post, “Storms compound lives under tent.” But when I clicked on “View Page,” I was advised, “Sorry, the page you are trying to access does not exist. But maybe the search gods can help you find what you’re looking for.” So I typed in the “storms compound” headline and got kathmandupost … storm-compounds-lives, from May 23, 2015. The subhead read, “High winds and thundershowers on Saturday evening added to the hardships of people taking refuge in tents in open spaces after the April 25 earthquake displaced them.” I’ll explain the differences in the two situations in a later post, but for now let’s just say that our situation involved only my brother and I, two people in two separate tents. But the photo does give you some idea what we went through, from 1:10 to 1:50 a.m., that Friday night/early Saturday morning, July 10-11, 2020. (Also, note the alternate spelling, “Katmandu | Bob Seger.”)

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For some reason I put this note from a “president unfit” search in an early version of this post: “I got to that article (3/30/20) in The Boston Globe by starting to Google ‘a president ignored,’ based on a Washington Post article I’d just read. (See A president ignored: Trump’s outlandish claims increasingly met with a collective shrug.) But right after I typed in ‘a president’ the Google-phrase ‘president unfit for a pandemic’ came up. That led in turn to a number of media outlets reporting the Globe’s story; I saw 34,800,00 ‘search results’ from the Google-phrase. (Incidentally, the subtitle to the Globe article: ‘Much of the suffering and death coming was preventable. The president has blood on his hands.'”

I’m not sure what I originally intended that quote to relate to. (Freudian slip?)