Sam Bauman: A good website for political junkies | NevadaAppeal.com

Sam Bauman: A good website for political junkies

Sam Bauman
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I stumbled across this website last week and want to share it with political observers. It’s fivethirtyeight.com, spelled out. Find it on the Internet and log on. No cost; it’s free and it provides subscribers daily with the findings of Nate Silver, the wizard of numbers and what they mean. Walt Hickey checks in at times with commentary. I normally don’t dig in to politics here, but I wanted to share this site with readers, so bear with the length. Here’s a sample of one day’s report off the site. It also at times offers a neutral rating of pollsters based on analysis of findings, whether they are accurate or biased. That’s handy in these days when the news is shaped by pollsters’ reports. So here’s a sample by Walt Hickey from the site:

“Things are not going well for Donald Trump’s campaign, as FiveThirtyEight’s forecast shows. In the space of a single day , we published articles saying multiple top pollsters expect him to lose the election, that Hillary Clinton might try to play for a landslide, and that Trump might even lose Texas.

And yet, as of (last week), the FiveThirtyEight polls-only forecast model still showed that Trump had a 11.4 percent chance of winning. (It’s currently at around 13 percent.) This means that, after our model runs 10,000 simulations of the electoral map with the latest poll data, Trump won in about 1,140 simulations (1,137 to be specific).

What do those victory maps look like? What is Donald Trump’s pathway to the White House, electorally speaking?

My colleague Jay Boice was kind enough to send over the model output from a run (last week), so I dove in and looked at the 1,137 of 10,000 runs where Trump pulled off a clean electoral win. When Trump wins, he wins with those swing states.

Data is based on 10,000 runs of FiveThirtyEight’s polls-only model. There are six states — Ohio, Arizona, Iowa, Florida, North Carolina and Nevada — that appear on at least 80 percent of Trump’s victory maps.

It’s very, very difficult to imagine a win for Trump if he doesn’t win all of these: A Trump win without Ohio occurs less than 1 percent of the time in the model simulations, and a win without Nevada only about 2 percent of the time. There are six more states that appear on around half or more of the victory maps, and these are a bit interesting: Minnesota appears more often than Pennsylvania, but in fairness Pennsylvania is rather definitively far out of Trump’s reach, whereas there is more uncertainty in Minnesota given slightly scanter polling.

That means he would have to win every state shaded red on this map, and then at least one of the other unshaded states to put him over 270.

What is interesting about this batch of states is which ones flip when others do. I built a conditional probability matrix out of the 1,137 simulations. In a simulation where Trump has a winning map and wins in Michigan, he also won in Minnesota 75 percent of the time, Wisconsin 84 percent of the time, and Ohio every time. If he wins and won Virginia in doing so, he almost certainly won North Carolina.

In maps favorable to Trump, the probability that he wins one swing state if he wins another.”

Well, that’s a sample of fivethirtyeight.com comments. Lots of graphics in the site’s reports which makes things clear. Doesn’t seem to be partisan and its rating of pollsters are valuable. Other sites on the Internet also rate pollsters, a good thing to explore.

Movie fun

For Carson seniors who let action-thriller movies do most of their exercising, there’s a rough-and-tumble Jack Reacher film in town, “Don’t Look Back,” starring as before in the Jack Reacher series is Tom Cruise (a watered down 180 pounds vs. the novel’s 250 weigh-in), with director Edward Zwick and writers Richard Wenk and Zwick.

After battling four guys and winning, the local sheriff isn’t impressed and calls the MPs. They arrive as Reacher is telling the local sheriff that his phone will ring, the sheriff will exit wearing handcuffs as Reacher is rescued by MPs. He’s right.

At his old office ex-major Reacher meets a uppity officer who has replaced the woman commander (Cobie Smulders) who is charged with espionage and is in the brig. Reacher decides rescue her despite admonitions from her to stay away. Reacher frees her from jail and together they are off to find the real culprit.

With a play family for Reacher in the form of an action-figure wife (Smulders, who is outstanding) and a teenage daughter (Danika Yarosh). Cruise registers as entirely comfortable with all the genre elements this story demands. Unclear is Reacher’s ties to the girl, perhaps from a one-night stand of years ago with Smulders.

Fight scenes are convincing, plot holds together nicely and Cruise is a satisfactory hero.

With this sequel launched successfully, one can expect more to follow, to the pleasure of my friend, an 80-plus Carson senior who greatly enjoys Reacher’s lifestyle. He doesn’t do workouts but is content to walk neighborhood paths with two 5-pound weights.

Sam Bauman writes about senior affairs, among other things, for the Nevada Appeal.