Senate Update: The Clock Is Ticking
Let’s venture into the sweet spot, where sports and politics interest.
I confess to being a recovering sports junkie. I wrote sports for my high school paper (The Commodore’s Comments…I kid you not). I broadcast seven sports in college, and am one of the few non-athletes to be inducted into the Plymouth State Sports Hall of Fame. Until someone claims otherwise, I’m going to take credit as being the first person to broadcast a soccer game (my favorite sport) on a commercial radio station in New Hampshire.
I’ve spent far too many hours of my life rooting for a particular team and only recently, thanks in a large part to the World Cup, discovered that one can enjoy a sporting event, perhaps even more, by not caring who wins (I have zero interest in rooting for either team in the World Series).
But enough on sports. Regular readers should know that I’m far more a political than a sports junkie these days.
That’s why I love it when Five Thirty Eight’s Nate Silver (a far better political than World Cup prognosticator) peppers his political commentary with sports analogies.
Last week, in writing about the New Hampshire Senate race, Silver referred to how a team trailing by ten points in the third quarter would actually not improve its chances of winning much if it moved within seven points entering the final quarter. It makes sense—less time to catch up.
Here's how Silver phrased it: "Yep, time for another sports analogy. Say an NFL team leads 17-7 and has the ball at its own 20-yard line to start the third quarter. Its win probability is 83 percent. The third quarter is a bit wild, but the same team leads 27-20 at the end of it. Although its lead has narrowed, its win probability will have barely budged (it’s about 81 percent at the start of the fourth quarter) because there’s less time for the trailing team to complete a comeback".
That’s all fine and good, I thought, but there’s an even better sports analogy that could well come into play as these United States Senate races, including the hotly contested Scott Brown/Jeanne Shaheen race, head into the final two weeks.
In sports, especially in football, the problem is scoring too soon. Let’s say a team is down by five points with two minutes to go; it scores a touchdown to move two points ahead but leaves a minute on the clock and the opponent comes back to kick a field goal in the final seconds.
That happens all the time (it nearly happened to the Patriots against the Jets last Thursday night).
In politics, the problem is peaking too soon. Scott Brown cut a ten point lead in half and then cut it in half again with two weeks left on the clock. Would it be good or bad for him to take the lead in the next few days?
One could argue that, in fact, it would be a bad thing, that he might be peaking too soon. It would be far better to be within a point going into that final weekend and then hit the field goal as time runs out.
That’s not the only race in which this analogy could come into play. In North Carolina, Kay Hagan undoubtedly peaked a few weeks ago. Her four point lead is down to just over a point, and even Five Thirty Eight thinks she might be in trouble as Thom Tillis lines up for that last second field goal. (I understand Hagan is faced with a financial “scandal” in these final days, something about her husband retaining stimulus money when a project came in under budget).
In Kansas, clearly Independent Greg Orman peaked too soon. He was ahead by ten points, including in an NBC poll which Chuck Todd insisted on highlighting on Meet the Press last week to the exclusion of all other polls which show the race now dead even (shame on you Chuck; maybe it’s time to bring back David Gregory). Pundits on MSNBC’s Morning Joe this morning seemed to think Senator Pat Roberts is lining up that last minutes field goal (my analogy not theirs). In fact, Silver himself has dropped Orman’s advantage to 54-46.
Applying our sports analogy to Kansas, Pat Roberts seems to be in just the right position on the field as the clock winds down.
The same might apply in Georgia where Michelle Nunn has pulled to within less than appoint of David Perdue. But is she peaking too soon, scoring with too much time left on the clock.
To be fair to Democrats (and I always try to be fair), the peaked too soon analogy might, just might, apply to Republicans Joni Ernst in Kansas and Cory Gardner in Colorado…although Colorado incumbent Tom “Uterus” Udall (hey, Huff Post PC police, don’t blame me; I’m only parroting what I’ve heard often this past week) seems to be fumbling at every opportunity rather than setting up for a late field. Yesterday, he couldn’t even name three books which most influenced his life or even the latest music he’d listened to, and it wasn’t Fox News which pointed out this blunder but rather the liberal Chris Matthews on MSNBC.
Fumbles trump clock management any day, and Udall can’t seem to keep his hands on the ball. As for Joni Ernst, who knows? The “scoring too soon” sports analogy needs to play out…in Iowa, in New Hampshire, in North Carolina, in Georgia and probably in other states Nate Silver would be better at diagnosing.
Extra dose of trivia—what one book did Udall come up with? Hint—it most assuredly was not written by JFK!
Off the top of my head, for fiction, I’d go with “To Kill A Mockingbird”, “Huck Finn” and “The Cider House Rules.” For non-fiction-- “The Rise and Fall of The Third Reich”, Ron Chernow’s biography of George Washington, and “Redeeming the Dream”, the new Ted Olson/David Boies book on the marriage equality struggle.
Feel free to claim them as your own, Senator Uterus.