The Phony Campaign

2015-11-15 Update

PredictWise oddsmakers have increased Ben Carson's odds of gaining the Presidency just enough to return him to our phony poll after a week's absence. Yay, Ben!

I also should probably report a change in methodology for the "Hit Count" numbers in the table below. Previously, I ran the Google query from my Chrome browser and copied the result manually from the web page. I've switched over to the Google Web Search API to do all that programmatically.

Bad news: Google has deprecated this API. For over five years, as I type. If Google ever decides to kill it dead, I may have to do something else.

Good news: I now generate my phony table completely non-tediously. I have a Perl script that:

  1. Scrapes the previous week's table for the old hit counts;
  2. Scrapes Predictwise for an updated list of candidates with a 2% or greater probability;
  3. Queries Google for each candidate's phony hit counts;
  4. Generates the updated table, sorted into descending order by current hit count.

For some reason, the Google API gives much smaller hit counts than I obtain with a search via Chrome. I can live with that.

This is probably way too much effort to implement a methodology that is essentially meaning-impaired (as Carl Bialik noted ten years ago in the WSJ: "Estimates for Web Search Results Are Often Wildly Off the Mark". Nevertheless:

Query String Hit Count Change Since
2015-11-08
"Hillary Clinton" phony 72,900 -412,100
"Donald Trump" phony 72,300 -304,700
"Ben Carson" phony 52,300 ---
"Marco Rubio" phony 41,700 -102,300
"Jeb Bush" phony 39,200 -137,800
"Ted Cruz" phony 37,700 -133,300
"Bernie Sanders" phony 31,500 -175,500

  • Our phony leader, Hillary, took yet another unprincipled stand this week, as noted by the NYPost: "Hillary Clinton’s bought-and-paid-for betrayal of charter schools".

    Whoosh! There goes Hillary Clinton, hurt­ling leftward after another 180-degree cartwheel on a critical issue — this time, a flip-flop on charter schools.

    Charters once had no greater fan. Back in 1996, Clinton hailed them as being “freed from regulations that stifle innovation, so they can focus on getting results.”

    But the two national teachers unions — the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers — were first to endorse her latest presidential run.

    And so charters go under the bus.

    How many Hillary fans are shocked by this new demonstration of (hat tip: Jennifer Rubin) "ethical vacuity and policy hypocrisy"? At last count, zero.

  • You (on the other hand) will not be shocked to learn that (as reported by the Washington Examiner): Clinton has highest percentage of fake followers. On Twitter, that is.

    An audit of Hillary Clinton's main Twitter feed, @HillaryClinton, shows that 41 percent of her followers are not real people, a far higher percentage of fake followers than all other Republican or Democratic candidates.

    In contrast, Bernie has only 10% phony followers. GOP candidates range from 36% phony (Chris Christie) to 21% (Rand Paul).

  • But surely someone else was phony this week? Sure. Media Matters reports: "On Good Morning America, Donald Trump Gets Away With Promoting Right-Wing Media's Phony Unemployment Figures"

    On the November 10 edition of ABC's Good Morning America, host George Stephanopoulos allowed GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump to greatly exaggerate the nation's unemployment rate when he falsely claimed that "unemployment is probably close to 20 percent." Trump has a history of trumpeting debunked right-wing media myths as campaign talking points. He previously claimed that the unemployment rate "might very well be" 40 percent or more, echoing Rush Limbaugh. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, October's unemployment rate stood at just five percent, the lowest rate since April 2008.

    Well. Media Matters is… not wrong. My guess is that Trump pulled the 20% number out of his nether regions. The media reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) U-3 rate, most recently 5.0%, as "the" unemployment rate. But even the BLS's broader U-6 number ("Total unemployed, plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force") is "only" 9.8%. Unless you buy into dark insinuations of politically-driven statistics, there's no way to push that up to 20%.

    Some folks looking for bad news cite the Employment-Population Ratio (EPR) instead of the BLS unemployment numbers. And (check the link) that ratio plummeted starting in 2008, and has not come close to its pre-recession value since.

    These people have a point. More people working would be good for them, and good for the overall economy. But note that the current EPR is 59.3%; compare to the historic peak EPR back in 2000, just shy of 65%. Even bringing things back to that number is only about a 5-6% difference.

    Bottom line: if you want to make the case that the economy is lousy, do so without making up numbers.

  • Prepare for more of this sort of headline: "Rubio slams Bush’s ‘phony attacks’".

    Sen. Marco Rubio's campaign is slamming Jeb Bush for making "phony attacks" on the Florida senator.

    In a new online advertisement released on Tuesday, the GOP presidential candidate notes Bush's past praise for Rubio, including his statement that he could be a good president.

    Shorter: Jeb liked Rubio before he despised him.

    The article claims that the Bush-affiliated Super PAC "Right to Rise" is "willing to spend $20 million on criticism of Rubio’s 2016 Oval Office bid." Because they previously tried to make the case for Bush, that didn't work, so they're looking to destroy Rubio instead. Hey, they gotta do something with all that money.