Saturday, July 21, 2007

Fundraising Poll at

Dr. David Terr has come up with some interesting numbers for the "Fundraising Poll" which I've written about previously. The new "top-tier," according to Dr. Terr, looks like this:

McCain 38%
Romney 23%
Giuliani 19%
Paul 14%

While I'm quite excited to see Ron Paul's numbers up so much, I have a few worries about the methodology used to come up with these numbers. It seems that Dr. Terr assumes an across-the-board average $200-and-under donation of $30. While this would be a fine assumption if it were anything close to true, I have seen no evidence (and indeed no way of finding evidence) that would support this assumption. Nor is it safe to assume that every presidential campaign has the exact same average donation size for the $200-and-under category.

I don't mean to pick on Dr. Terr, quite the opposite in fact; I'm glad someone else is interested in getting these numbers. I think that this method could actually be the best predictor of the real support each candidate has, and thus could give us the best early picture of how the primaries might play out. Because of this, I think it's highly important that we get these numbers as accurate as possible, and not make sweeping assumptions without any evidence to back them up.

Dr. Terr, if you're reading this, please clarify exactly how you came up with an average donation size of $30 for all candidates. I'm extremely grateful that you're interested in this method of statistical analysis, and if we can come up with more accurate average-donation numbers, I'd like to combine that with the number of donors reported to the FEC on line 14(a) of the campaign finance reporting form. This should give us a very accurate look at how much support each candidate has at this point in the election cycle.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Why I Support Ron Paul

In an effort to not make this longer than it has to be, I'll jump right in.

1) He is the only candidate who understands the nature of the "War on Terror" and is willing to tell uncomfortable truths about it. We aren't in the middle of an inevitable clash of civilizations, and we aren't being attacked because "they hate freedom."

In the 1980s, the CIA trained Usama bin Laden and the Mujahideen to drive the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan. Our CIA funded the group, gave them weapons, and capitalized on the Muslim fear of foreign occupation in order to push out the Soviets. We used UBL as a proxy to enforce our policy of containment of the USSR. America is now in the position of a man who trains an attack dog to go after his enemies, only to have that dog attack his kids.

When you're in that situation, the proper course of action is easy to see: you put the dog down and you stop training attack dogs. Yet, almost six years after 9/11, UBL is alive and well. Have we at least learned from our mistakes and stopped training attack dogs? Of course not! We're arming the Sunni insurgency in Iraq, so long as they promise only to fight Al Qaeda! Instead of dealing with both the problem and the policy that led to it, we're ignoring the real threat, and further destabilizing a historically volatile region using the same failed Wilsonian foreign policy that got us into this mess.

Ron Paul is the only candidate on either side of the aisle who is talking about actually changing our foreign policy at a fundamental level. While the "top-tier" candidates bicker over whether we have to "democratize the Middle East" as a unilateral action or with the help and assistance of the UN and our enemies in the area, Ron Paul has consistently been the lone voice of reason saying that we have no national security interest in the Middle East, other than leaving that god-forsaken desert.

2) He understands and will talk about the inner workings of the Federal Reserve System, and campaigns on abolishing this monster. It's really rather amazing that more of our lawmakers don't seem to understand or care about this issue. The fact that the value of our money is decided by an elite handful of unelected, unaccountable private bankers meeting secretly in a marble palace ought to be shocking to every American.

The fact that these private bankers, with the help of Senator Nelson Aldrich, wrote the very laws that give them such power ought to have every one of us ready to reach for our guns. Or at least ready to pull the ballot lever marked "Ron Paul." If you think I'm exaggerating, I urge you to read The Creature From Jekyll Island, Secrets of the Temple or Congressman McFadden's Speech then judge for yourself.

3) He wants to get rid of the Income Tax and the IRS. He's not alone on this; Duncan Hunter and Tom Tancredo both support the FairTax, which repeals the 16th Amendment and gets rid of the Tax Gestapo. What's different about Ron Paul is that he wants to replace the Income Tax with nothing.

The FairTax is revenue-neutral, which means the bureaucracy in Washington still gets the same amount of money, they just make it more expensive for us to buy nice things with a progressive national sales tax. Wouldn't a progressive sales tax just put things like computers, cell phones and automobiles further out of the economic reach of the poor, working class and the middle class?

I fully admit that Ron Paul needs to do a better job articulating where the federal government would get it's funding without an income tax, without the Fed, and without tariffs. I know we could use excise taxes or a flat national sales tax on all non-food items to generate revenue, but I haven't heard Paul really address this in any detail.


Update: I apologize most humbly for my ignorance of the FairTax. I was under the mistaken impression that it is a progressive sales tax; this is not true. The FairTax is a flat national sales tax, and while I still don't like the idea of a revenue-neutral tax structure, there is no question that the FairTax would be a vast improvement over our current system. On further reading, I think the FairTax may actually be the perfect vehicle for funding during a transition period to a smaller federal government. My optimistic side thinks that the tax rate could even be lowered as we need less money for the federal budget, but my inner realist (or cynic, whatever) thinks that's about as likely to happen as me winning the lottery, which I don't play.


4) The man has integrity! All the Washington games of vote-trading, vote-buying, special interest groups and lobbyists seem to have had no effect on Dr. Paul. His rhetoric and voting record have been consistently principled over 10 terms in Congress. To deliberately use rabid fan-boy hyperbole, it's like Ron Paul is Frodo Baggins: able to be trusted with the Ring of Power because of his relative immunity to it's corrupting influence. (Ok, so I'm a nerd. Sue me.)

5) He understands that the 2nd Amendment applies to individuals, not militias. (If you disagree with that, please let me know why so I can obliterate your argument with historical facts.) Ron Paul has consistently received A+ ratings from the Gun Owners of America. What can I say, I'm from Kentucky. We like our guns.

6) He is possibly our only chance to stay out of war with Iran. Having already spent more time than I care to in the deserts of the Middle East, and having recently separated from active duty in the Marine Corps, I'm really not too keen on the idea of being recalled to active duty to fight another war in the desert that has nothing to do with our national security.

I was listening to a Ron Paul interview the other day (sorry, no link) where he points out something I hadn't considered before: when we threaten Iran over it's nuclear program (and like it or not, Iran does have the right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes such as power, according to the Non-Proliferation Treaty) or we park warships off the Iranian coast, we're helping Ahmadinejad by effectively silencing his opposition. That's hard to follow, let me explain.

Remember the mood of the country from January to October, 2001? The Democrats were convinced that Bush had used foul play to steal the election. The fact that Gore had won the popular vote but lost the electoral college had many on the left wondering whether we even needed an electoral college, and of course there were the dangling chads and functionally-illiterate Floridians. Then, we were attacked. On September 12, 2001, there were no Republicans and Democrats. There were only Americans who were shocked, afraid and mad-as-hell. Those who opposed the president either changed their tune or shut up entirely after we were attacked, at least for a while.

This is what happens when any country is attacked, or under threat of an attack. Centrists and members of the opposition find themselves supporting their leader, or at least remaining silent in their opposition. There are Iranians who do not want to live under the Ayatollah's theocracy. While I don't think we should be supporting them financially or militarily, (see Attack Dogs above) I certainly think that we ought to take away Ahmadinejad and Khomeini's great unifying tool: fear of an attack on Iran by the U.S. If the Iranian government didn't have us there to portray as a menace requiring Iranian unity, they might just be forced to adopt the more democratic reforms of the opposition.

Ok, this ended up being a bit longer than I anticipated. If you made it this far, thanks. Now go spread the word and vote for Ron Paul!

Corey Cagle

Bad News (Q2 numbers)

For those of you interested in the Q2 numbers, I have some bad news. Evidently, campaign committees are only required to file FEC reports of donors who give more than $200. True, this is good news for those of us who don't relish the idea of the federal government having lists of where we live, what we do for a living, and which political parties/candidates we support. This is bad news, however, for my work on statistical analysis.

This means that the number of individual donors indicated on the FEC's website only reflects the number of over-$200 donors. Individuals who donated $200 or less are not listed here at all, meaning that a very large segment of the donating public would not be accounted for in my percentages.

For example, if we assume that all $1,423,883 of $200-or-less donations to Ron Paul came in exactly $200 increments, (Admittedly, this is mathematically impossible, and a horrible assumption in any case. Bear with me.) then we see that at least 7,120 donors would not be counted. This is more than thrice the 2,236 reported by the FEC, and could seriously affect percentages for candidates with low numbers. Obama's numbers are even more staggering; with $16,554,783 reported in $200-or-less, at least 82,774 of his supporters would not be counted.

I am left with no real option here. If I really want accurate data, I'm going to have to contact each individual campaign committee treasurer and get either the total number of individuals, or the average donation size for the $200-or-less category. I've already started this, but haven't heard back from anyone yet, which could mean they don't have the data, or it could mean they aren't going to waste their time giving it to someone who doesn't work for Fox, CNN, etc.

At best, the numbers I can come up with now are sketchy. I can either run with the numbers listed on the FEC's website, or I can make the obviously false, very poor assumption of exact $200 donations for the entire category, which will give me the minimum number of uncounted supporters. Neither of these options is particularly attractive to me, and I would consider either of them to be "For Amusement Purposes Only". Incidentally, my Q1 numbers were ran with the FEC-listed numbers, meaning they have the same problem. I will update that post accordingly.

So, what do you guys think? Interested in seeing numbers that you absolutely know are wildly inaccurate? If so, let me know and I'll do the best I can with the numbers I have. If/when I get numbers from the campaign committees, (and believe me, I'll keep trying) I will do this the right way, and we can get a really clear picture of who has the most support in the Primaries. Let's just hope I get the numbers sometime before Super Tuesday, or this whole thing will be pointless.

Corey Cagle

Monday, July 16, 2007

Statistical Analysis of First Quarter Data

In my previous post, I explained my method for analyzing the presidential primary election. I was able to find the data I needed for the first quarter; unfortunately, the much more recent Q2 data is not available at this time. As soon as it is available, I will update the numbers. Here is the data for the first quarter:

PartyCandidateDonors% of party total

RMitt Romney1427339%

RRudy Giuliani1023028%

RJohn McCain897325%

RSam Brownback6892%

RTom Tancredo4791%

RRon Paul4481%

RDuncan Hunter4021%

RMike Huckabee3981%

RTommy Thompson2311%

RJim Gilmore1060%

RJohn Cox60%

Total Republican Donors36235

DBarack Obama1697131%

DHillary Clinton1517128%

DJohn Edwards961718%

DChris Dodd47909%

DBill Richardson44318%

DJoe Biden33766%

DDennis Kucinich1730%

DMike Gravel380%

Total Democrat Donors54567

(Source: Federal Elections Commission)

Draw your own conclusions, make your own judgments. These are the facts. It will be interesting to see the numbers for the second quarter, and to see a comparison of the two.

Corey Cagle

*I've written a rather lengthy explanation of why these numbers are not accurate. Read it here.

Relevant Statistics: an Alternative to Public Opinion Polls

Ron Paul's campaign, and many observers, have noted that public opinion polls miss a certain portion of the population; namely, people like myself: those who are cell-phone only, who aren't called by Zogby, Pew and the rest. I think this trend is growing, and will continue to grow, as the old-style, copper-wire telcos continue to lose business to, or merge with, the cellular industry.

Given this growing trend, it seems that our pollsters, in order to remain relevant, must change the way that they do business. I have an alternative which is relevant, which is future-proof in that it doesn't rely on any particular technology, and which is a true measure of the political leanings of the most politically-active segments of the population. Here, in brief, is the Cagle Method.

The first thing we need to do is get information on the number of individuals who have donated to a presidential campaign. The amount of each donation is irrelevant. What we're looking for is the number of individual donors; i.e. people who are able and likely to vote in a primary. Then, we simply add up the number of total individuals.

This gives us a pie, not made up of campaign dollars, but of likely primary voters. If we're going to look for relevant figures, there is no more relevant study group than individuals who donate money to presidential campaigns. If someone is passionate enough about a candidate to donate money to them, then it is fairly safe to assume that if their state primary was held tomorrow, they would vote for the candidate to whom they had donated.

This method--like polling methods--does have some flaws. For example, not everyone who will vote in a primary is able to donate money to a presidential campaign. This is especially true of the young and the poor. No single poll should ever be viewed as definitive or as a total representation of the country at large, and neither should any single analysis of statistics. However, it seems to me that the relevance of individual donors cannot be discounted, and should be used alongside other forms of public opinion data.

The main problem I have is that this data doesn't seem to be available. The Federal Elections Commission only lists dollar amounts. So, I'm putting a call out to anyone who can get me reliable data (i.e. from a campaign treasurer or the FEC) on the number of individual donors to each campaign. I'm happy to crunch the numbers, do the math and make all the nice charts and graphs, I just need the numbers.

Again, I don't care if they gave $20 or the maximum of $2,300, just so long as the numbers reflect the total number of individuals who donated. I'm not interested in numbers for PACs or "Other" since a committee, corporate entity, union or other legal fiction cannot vote. Also, please ensure that each donation is not counted multiple times if they came from the same individual. If someone gave $20 a week for a month, the data should reflect one individual, not four donations.

Corey Cagle


Update: This information is on the FEC's website! It's slightly buried, and it's for Q1, not Q2, but it's there. I'm going to run through the numbers for Q1, while awaiting the updated numbers, then we can compare both.