Two thoughts spurred by FiveThirtyEight

* “FiveThirtyEight”: and other election watchers have made it crystal clear that candidate attention has moved entirely to swing states — and increasingly swing counties and swing demographics within those states. You have to believe this trend will continue, and we will see ever finer-grained focus on counties, on precincts, on finer and finer demographic cuts. By the time of the 2040 election, every political ad and pollster will be focused on dental technicians aged 24-32 in Hilliard, Ohio. Heck, one poor voter in Delaware, Ohio may be the swing voter for the entire election, the campaign buses will just park in front of his/her house. OK maybe not quite that bad, but I have no reason to believe we will ever see much of a presidential candidate in Washington ever again (save for primaries). Seems unfortunate.

* Traffic at FiveThirtyEight has probably been off the charts in the last several weeks, leaving me to wonder — is this the future of journalism? In-depth numerical analysis and modelling using big data tools, to back up insights and observations? Any blogger can spew opinions, so it does seem like “professional” journalists may have to move in new directions and embrace a new generation of analytic tools if they want to separate from the pack of bloggers. Journalism training becomes very different in this world, the standard toolset on a journalist’s desktop becomes very different.

  3 comments for “Two thoughts spurred by FiveThirtyEight

  1. Rennie Coit
    November 6, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    As a confirmed 538 junkie, I agree. But the distorted and distorting focus on arcane math and precincts is a direct result of the electoral college cascading function. Scrap the EC and we’d see very different dynamics and behavior. Rather than vying for the last swing voter, precinct, and state, candidates would be competing for sheer numbers, which would force a broader focus and more centrist platform. Move to a top-two primary system, and you’d disempower the wings even further. Imagine an election season where the political conversation attempted to be broadly inclusive. Yeah, I can’t either!

  2. Danny Glasser
    November 6, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    There’s a bunch of momentum behind the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (, which — assuming it survived the inevitable legal challenges — could obviate the electoral college without a constitutional amendment. The question is, what unintended consequences would it create? I don’t think it would drive money out of the system, it would just change where and how it is spent.

  3. john
    November 6, 2012 at 10:50 pm

    Good info Danny. I kind of like the Maine and Nebraska systems. I agree it won’t take money out of the races but might force a little more distributed campaigning.

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