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Saturday, March 05, 2016

Election fraud in Florida?

The GOP will do anything to insure that Trump does not grab the nomination, for three very understandable reasons. First: He would be a weak general election candidate. Second: A President Trump would be difficult to control. Third: The dude's a freak. A crass, vulgar, mendacious freak.

The Establishment has chosen Marco Rubio, but the electorate refuses to go along with the game plan. Nobody really likes Rubio. Trump's right: The guy is a lightweight. Eight years from now, twelve years from now, he might possess the skill set for this kind of campaign -- but right now, he doesn't have the chops.

Except in a purely theoretical sense, nobody can beat Trump outright in the primaries; the math simply does not allow for it. The trick now (from the Establishment perspective) is to insure that Trump's delegate count remains low enough to keep him from a first-ballot victory. If the convention goes to a second ballot, Trump is out.

Rubio needs to win in Florida, his home state -- a winner-take-all state. If he doesn't nab this victory, I strongly doubt that anything can keep Trump from winning the nomination on the first ballot.

(Yes, that goal would still be possible technically. It is also technically possible that I'll start dating Katy Perry next year.)

Problem: Recent polls have had Donald Trump besting Rubio by as much as 20 points in Florida. Polls from varying firms have given Trump a commanding lead in this do-or-die contest.

That's why I find this more than a little concerning:
A new poll by an anti-Donald Trump group has found a narrowing Republican presidential race in Florida, suggesting the barrage of TV ads by the group and its allies might be taking effect.

Trump leads Marco Rubio 35-30 percent ahead of the March 15 primary, according to the poll conducted for Our Principles PAC by The Tarrance Group, a Republican firm, and obtained by the Miami Herald. Ted Cruz drew 16 percent support, John Kasich 9 percent and Ben Carson 5 percent. (Carson formally dropped out Friday.) Six percent of respondents were undecided.

Earlier polls by other firms have suggested a wider -- in some cases, much wider -- margin between Trump and Rubio. The Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling found Trump ahead by 20 percentage points, Quinnipiac University by 16 points and Associated Industries of Florida by 7 points. All those polls were conducted last week, before Our Priorities and two other groups -- American Future Fund and Club for Growth -- unleashed their anti-Trump advertising.
Those ads are, in fact, pretty damned hard-hitting. (Here they are.) But have they really been so very effective?

Over the course of months, we've learned that nothing sticks to Trump. Nothing. If Ronald Reagan was the Teflon president, then Trump is Teflon immersed in a pool of olive oil. Any negative statement about Trump -- no matter how well-grounded -- is presumed to be a lie. His zonked-out followers love him the way Squeaky loved Charlie, the way Harley Quinn loved Mistah J, the way Lawrence Harvey in The Manchurian Candidate loved his mother. Those anti-Trump commercials, good as they are, won't snap the hypnotized hordes out of their collective trance.

If the ads do not offer a sufficient explanation for those narrowing numbers, then just what the hell is going on here?

Speculation: Perhaps those numbers have no basis in reality. Perhaps those numbers exist for the sole purpose of preparing us for election fraud in Florida.

Again: I offer this idea as blue-sky conjecture. Very soon, we will know whether my theory is irresponsible or reasonable.
I expect that the media claim of a narrowing gap is politically contrived.

On a related theme psychologist Robert Epstein has produced some powerful (and disturbing) research on Google:

In most countries, 90 per cent of online search is conducted on Google, which gives the company even more power to flip elections than it has in the US and, with internet penetration increasing rapidly worldwide, this power is growing. In our PNAS article, Robertson and I calculated that Google now has the power to flip upwards of 25 per cent of the national elections in the world with no one knowing this is occurring.

In fact, we estimate that, with or without deliberate planning on the part of company executives, Google’s search rankings have been impacting elections for years, with growing impact each year. And because search rankings are ephemeral, they leave no paper trail, which gives the company complete deniability.

Power on this scale and with this level of invisibility is unprecedented in human history.

I guess I'm a dumbass Fred but I don't get how Google search ratings can flip elections. What are the mechanics? How does that work?
Bob, I read that piece, and really should have written a post about it. Basically, a series of experiments proved that people really look at only the first ten search engine results -- therefore, if you can control what gets into the top ten, you control how people perceive the object of the search.

The study went on to demonstrate that this technique can be used to skew perceptions of political candidates.
It was a statistically controlled experiment from Robert Epstein and Ronald E Robertson at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology in Vista, California. They took 102 people in 3 groups and gave them briefings on candidates in a foreign election (Australia), in order to isolate their judgement from US politics. They were all given the same background briefings on two opposing candidates in that election and then asked to rate them in various ways, as well as to indicate which candidate they would vote for. Unsurprisingly, the three groups showed equal preferences for the two candidates.

The researchers then had the groups use an artificial search engine (‘Kadoodle’) which had 5 pages of web listings organized, the same contents to be listed in three different ways: one group saw candidate A primarily at the top, the second group saw a listing preferencing candidate B, and the third had a neutral listing.

What we actually found was astonishing. The proportion of people favoring the search engine’s top-ranked candidate increased by 48.4 per cent, and all five of our measures shifted toward that candidate. What’s more, 75 per cent of the people in the bias groups seemed to have been completely unaware that they were viewing biased search rankings. In the control group, opinions did not shift significantly.

The authors replicated the study with 2000 subjects from diverse backgrounds in all 50 states and obtained the same results.

Critically, if they included just one or two of candidate B items in a listing dominated by candidate A it had no effect on the outcome. And the manipulation process was undetectable to the viewer.
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