Krugman’s blog, 2/25/16

There were two posts yesterday.  The first was “Antonin Scalia Really Was A Character Out Of A Dan Brown Novel:”

Justice Scalia spent his last hours with members of this secretive society of elite hunters:

When Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died 11 days ago at a West Texas ranch, he was among high-ranking members of an exclusive fraternity for hunters called the International Order of St. Hubertus, an Austrian society that dates back to the 1600s.

Members of the worldwide, male-only society wear dark-green robes emblazoned with a large cross and the motto “Deum Diligite Animalia Diligentes,” which means “Honoring God by honoring His creatures,” according to the group’s website. Some hold titles, such as Grand Master, Prior and Knight Grand Officer. The Order’s name is in honor of Hubert, the patron saint of hunters and fishermen.

Cibolo Creek Ranch owner John Poindexter and C. Allen Foster, a prominent Washington lawyer who traveled to the ranch with Scalia by private plane, hold leadership positions within the Order. It is unclear what, if any, official association Scalia had with the group.

Yesterday’s second post was “How To Read Primary Results:”

When Nate Silver is good, he’s very good. This “swingometer” from FiveThirtyEight is exactly what we all need to make sense of Democratic primary results. Oh, and hold the Hillary-hatred and all that, OK? Whoever you support, this is a great tool for tracking your favorite’s progress or lack thereof.

What Silvers et al have done is to quantify something we all know: demography matters a lot in this race, with very white states better terrain for Sanders and very African-American states better for Clinton. They use available information to produce a benchmark for each state — the Clinton-Sanders vote margin we would expect if the candidates were, in fact, tied at a national level (which would probably mean a Clinton nomination thanks to superdelegates, but that’s not a road anyone really wants to go down.) You can then compare actual outcomes with that benchmark as an indicator.

What they find is that in all three contests so far — yes, including New Hampshire — Clinton has done better, and Sanders worse, than the 50-50 case would predict. In fact, Nevada was Sanders’s best showing by this metric, although I suspect making too much of that would be pushing the methodology too hard. So at least so far, we’re looking at a steady march toward a Clinton nomination, although by no means a blowout.

That is, of course, not at all what you’d think from media coverage, which flipped from Clinton doom after NH to Sanders collapse after NV. The prediction markets, on the other hand, have been pretty cool and rational:

There has been a gradual drift toward Clinton in these numbers, but that actually makes sense simply because each successive Clinton-better-than-the-spread increases certainty that she really is in front.

What you should be watching for Saturday, then, is not whether Clinton wins SC — she almost certainly will — but whether her margin is more than 20 percent, the 538 benchmark. The same for Super Tuesday, although at that point we’ll start talking about enough delegates that actual convention math starts to become an issue.

Now, if I could have everything I wanted, I would wish that the 538 team would supplement its probabilities of who will win a state — which is pretty much meaningless in the Democratic party, where there isn’t winner take all and states differ so much — and in addition gave us the probability that the Clinton or Sanders benchmark would be exceeded. As I read it, those probabilities must be reasonably high for SC, but nothing like the 99+ percent probability of a Clinton win.

Anyway, a great tool for cutting through the regular nonsense.



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