Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Free-For-All 2008: It Isn't Brett Favre's Year Either

After a three-month (or, should we say, one-semester) hiatus, the Chatter Rankings are back. Comparing my results to the semi-formal poll taken by Dave at RedState.org of potential Republican nominees, you'll see almost no correlation. So what do the Chatter Rankings actually measure, and does it matter?

At best, the Chatter Rankings are a proxy measure for public awareness of each candidate. That is to say, both absolute ranking and change in ranking are meaningful measurements. Possibly, one but not the other is meaningful. This is not difficult to check: if we see strong trends over time, and the upward-trending candidates outperform downward-trending ones in poll and primary results in 2007 and 2008, then change in ranking would seem to be meaningful. If high-ranking candidates outperform low-ranking candidates, then absolute ranking is meaningful.

But either (or both) of these measures may be quite uncorrelated with actual election prospects. Absolute ranking may be a function of current newsmaking capacity. For example, George Bush, Tony Blair, and Osama Bin Laden outperform most candidates on the list; but this does not reflect electability in 2008. At the same time, it may be that news cycles are sufficiently random that a candidate's improvement this month has little correlation with his expected improvement next month.

If I had understood anything from my Statistics/Econometrics course this fall, I could turn all of this into efficient and incomprehensible equations. More's the pity.

Does Russ Feingold belong on this list? Each month I profile at least one candidate. This month's newcomer is the senator from Wisconsin. Does he really belong here? The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel likes him in the race as a gadfly, to stir up intelligent debate. But they use the word "quixotic" in the concluding paragraph. A lefty Wisconsin paper praises him for standing up against the USA Patriot Act, both in 2001 and now. Like many paleocons, I view the USA Patriot Act as an excess comparable to some of our Cold War paranoia. If Americans react as strongly as they should to the NSA wiretapping revelations, and if more abuses come to light in '06 and '07, Feingold could become a savior for national integrity. Add to his defense of civil liberties a squeaky-clean reputation built around campaign finance reform and balancing the budget, and it's easy to see where 16 years of dubiously run national security could get a reformist some air-time.

Ultimately, however, Senator Feingold is liberal. Very liberal. Very liberal and Jewish and divorced. And while he may win over some civil libertarians with his principled stances, he'll have a hard time convincing anyone in his own party that he is electable. He may be a kinder and gentler Howard Dean, but we take the position that neither of America's top two cheese-producing states will be a president-producing state in the near future.

See also: Draft Russ site, blogs, Russ for President, Primary2008 profile, Official Senate site.
Rank Candidate ChatterRank Change
R.1 Sen. John McCain 1,130+3
R.2 Gov. Mitt Romney 1,090+1
R.3 Sen. Bill Frist 643-2
R.4 Secy. Condoleezza Rice 633+4
R.5 Rudy Giuliani 561+6
R.6 Gov. George Pataki 450-4
R.7 Gov. Jeb Bush 416+2
R.8 Sen. Chuck Hagel 219+4
R.9 Sen. George Allen 188+1
R.10 Newt Gingrich 70-5
R.11 Sen. Sam Brownback 66-4
R.12 Gov. Mike Huckabee 65-6
D.1 Sen. Hillary Clinton 1,4400
D.2 Sen. John Kerry 7740
D.3 Sen. Russ Feingold 695+9*
D.4 Gov. Mark Warner 621-1
D.5 Sen. John Edwards 545+3
D.6 Sen. Joseph Biden 425+4
D.7 Howard Dean 3470
D.8 Gov. Bill Richardson 329+1
D.9 Sen. Harry Reid 282-4
D.10 Sen. Barack Obama 169+1
D.11 Gov. Tom Vilsack 161-7
D.12 Sen. Evan Bayh 103-6
Notes: The Chatter Rankings are created by searching each candidate's name plus "2008" in the Google News database. This month's tested-but-not-qualifying list is Rick Santorum, Lindsey Graham, Wesley Clark and Dick Gephardt. Russ Feingold was tested but did not qualify in August; now he's high on the list after making noise about running. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dick Cheney continued to qualify, but as cannot and will not (respectively) run in 2008, and tend to make news for largely non-election reasons, they were left out.

See the Chatter Rankings from August, July, June, and May.


Barn said...


turtle said...

One way chatter ratings may be biased is in the direction of media bias. The media, well known for an anti-conservative bias, may prefer writing about Mitt Romney and mentioning again and again how he's a possible candidate in 2008. When they write about Newt Gingrich, they may not.

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