Monthly Archives: January 2016

Election 2016: Iowa (By the numbers)


Well, we have almost reached a momentous event in the 2016 election. Somebody, somewhere is about to actually vote, giving us meaningful data instead of all the flap-trapping that’s been going on so far! In the midst of all the flap-trapping, I tend to hew to the numbers anyway, since empirical data is handy at cutting through bullshit, spin and partisan bias. So here’s my take on Iowa, with 6 days to go.

The Democrats

If you look at the poll trend-lines over the past fourteen days, you can see that we’re at more or less a dead heat, with a very slight indication of a an up-trend for Bernie and down-trend for Hillary:


There are three cautions that need to be kept in mind about this:

1) Not all polls are equally high-quality, so adding them together without weighting them can mislead.

2) Even shortly before Iowa, the polls don’t have a great track record– they’ll show who’s in range, but can still be pretty variable compared to final results.

3) A caucus is not a primary. In a  primary, people show up, go in to a booth, vote, and leave. In a caucus they have to get to the caucus site, and stay and advocate for their candidate, sometimes hour after hour, until that site comes up with a winner. So caucus states tend to benefit those candidates who have highly motivated supporters, and a strong on-the-ground presence to do the logistics of getting those supporters to show up at the sites and stay.

Based on these additional factors (weighting polls according to reliability, and adding in factors like logistical strength, etc.), the folks at data-driven election site have produced a”polls only” and “polls plus” forecast for Iowa, both of which show Hillary as the favorite.



There’s one more thing we can look at, which is the betting markets. These aggregate the current bets of several thousand users who, extremely usefully to cutting down spin, have literally put their money where their mouth is. Those markets also have Hillary as a favorite to win:


My take? Bernie definitely has an enthusiasm edge over Hillary. His ground game, while quite strong, is not as strong as her’s, and nowhere near as strong as Obama’s when he pulled off an upset victory in Iowa in 2008. If you take the two as roughly cancelling each other out, it’s… more or less a toss-up. I know, way to waffle!

The thing that strikes me is that winning Iowa gives Bernie a shot at his best case- he wins Iowa, then New Hampshire, and does better than-expected in Nevada and South Carolina, and goes on to get a striking distance 40% or more of the states and delegates on Super Tuesday. A Sanders who does all that doesn’t have a lock, but he does have a competitive chance. A Sanders who doesn’t win Iowa probably still wins New Hampshire, but that’s discounted since it’s expected, and he then gets buried in South Carolina. He’s probably then mathematically finished on Super Tuesday by not winning any state except Vermont, and getting less than 40% of the delegates up for grabs. What he’d have to do to win the nomination from there would be prohibitive- it would have to be something like getting 65% of all the remaining delegates


The Republicans

Trump has actually had a bounce-back against Cruz over the past 14 days in a straight-poll setting:


Over at 538, their two models have actually diverged, with “polls-only” giving an edge to Trump, and “polls-plus” giving an edge to Cruz:



Meanwhile, the bettors are still picking Trump, but there’s some strong narrowing in the last few days:


I’d suspect Cruz will take it. While his perpetual-motion PR machine is second to none, Trump doesn’t have a good ground game most anywhere, and in Iowa that can really have an effect. Cruz also fits the profile of Republican caucus candidates who do well in Iowa- strong Evangelical backing is key there, and gave Huckabee a win in 2008 and Santorum in 2012. has a lively discussion on just how important winning Iowa is to Trump’s long game.  You could make a case that it could be the beginning of the end for him, showing that his strong poll numbers don’t necessarily translate to real registered and showing-up-at-the-polls voters. On the other hand, you could also say that caucuses aren’t his thing, but the divided field of more moderate candidates in New Hampshire allows him to walk away with that state, and then the more straight-up vote primary in South Carolina. He would then be in a very strong position through Super Tuesday.

What’s your take? Tune in on Tuesday and we shall see!



Writing 2015, by the numbers


Happy New Year everyone! In the grand tradition of one year ago, I’m taking advantage of this time of transition to look back at my writing stats for 2015, and set some goals for 2016.

Writing Hours: My goal is to eventually get to the equivalent of one hour per workday, i.e. five hours a week, or 260 total hours for the year. It’s pretty challenging with full-time work, full-time relationship, new house with lots of things that need to be done, etc., but I still figure you get further with a goal you fall short on than with no goal at all. For 2014, I ended up with 65.75 hours, an average of 1.26 hours per week. So how’d I do in 2015? My records (maintained, of course, in Excel) show that I logged 70 hours. I am duty bound to report that 70 does not equal 260. But, hey, it was an increase! A 6.5% increase, to be exact. So even if I fall short of 260 in 2016 (very likely), this gives me something to beat!

Weekly submissions: I aim for a submission each week of poetry, fiction or nonfiction, which would come to 52 submissions a year. Of course, life intervenes, and some years it intervened quite badly. 2014 was my submitingest year ever, with 43 weekly submissions. No longer a record! In 2015 I did 44. Stats on the leader board at this moment in time are as follows:

statsWe’ll see how those “pending” submissions turn out. And of course, having done this, I now aim to get at least 45 submissions out in 2016!

Novel/Poetry Collection submissions: I try to get my unpublished novel Out in the Neon Night, and my poetry collection Pushing 40, out to contests and independent publishers once a month. Life, well, you know life… So, not quite 12 each this year, but I did submit the novel 7 times and the poetry collection 7 times. Several of those submissions are still pending, so I’ll keep you posted. In the mean time, you can read a chapter from the novel here, and several of the poems from the collection have been published over the last few years, and can be found at the Poetry section on this website.

As you may have detected above, I sometimes get frustrated by the limited time I have available for writing. Maybe you have a similar problem. It helps me (and maybe might help you too, who knows!) to remind myself what I have been able to do with those 70 hours:

  • Launch this website!
  • Get back into regular (semi-)weekly blogging through the website.
  • Complete the penultimate draft of my full-length screenplay, and start on the (please let it be so) final draft.
  • Produce a passel of new poems, and complete revisions on several in-process ones.
  • Brought a short story that I haven’t worked on for several years to workshop, and used the comments to start a revision on it.

My goals for 2016? How about:

  1. Finish that screenplay BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY and start sending it out into the world.
  2. Use the block of time that frees up to finish a first draft of a novel-in-process.
  3. Complete the short story revision mentioned above.
  4. Finish a new short story I’ve been working on.
  5. Use darkly bright and sparkly poet Kim Addonizio’s book Ordinary Genius to spur some new poetry.

So that’s my 2015 by the numbers, and some of my goals for the coming year. Tell me about yours!