Sunday, September 25, 2016

Last Call For The Keys To The Keystone State

NY Times Upshot columnist Toni Monkovic talks to PredictWise prognosticator David Rothschild about the state this year that will decide the presidential election, and it's looking more and more like that state will not be Ohio or Florida, but Pennsylvania Rothschild argues.  We get into the weeds here on electoral tipping points and probabilities, but the bottom line is if Clinton wins the state, she's nearly guaranteed the White House...but the same goes for Trump.

Q. Based on the PredictWise state polling probabilities, the entire election could boil down to Pennsylvania. If Hillary Clinton wins the state, she’ll probably be president. If Donald J. Trump wins there, he’ll probably be president — because such a victory would suggest he’d also win Ohio, Florida, North Carolina. Today, PredictWise gives Clinton a 78 percent chance to win the state. This is close to The Upshot forecast(85 percent). Can you give some more insight into what makes Pennsylvania so important and what signs you’ll be looking for in the state in the next few weeks?

A. Pennsylvania has been the most likely tipping-point state since midsummer

It has been the state to put Hillary Clinton over 270 electoral votes, should she win all of the other more likely states for her. Conversely, it’s also the state that would put Trump over the hump, if he wins all of the states that are more likely for him.

Every day, I run 100,000 simulations of the election. I use the probability of each state going for Clinton or Trump, then I mix that with a correlation matrix that defines the relationships between the states. And every day since late July, Pennsylvania has been the state that most frequently is won by the candidate who wins the election. Currently, there are just 6 percent of scenarios where Clinton wins Pennsylvania but loses the election, and just 3 percent of scenarios where Clinton loses Pennsylvania and wins the election.

Since Pennsylvania is more secure for the Clinton camp than other swing states, it’s unlikely that Clinton loses Pennsylvania and wins either Florida or Ohio or other states to make up for the necessary electoral votes. And Trump could take Florida and Ohio and North Carolina, and go over the top with some other combination of swing states. But Pennsylvania is his most likely route.

What I will be looking for in Pennsylvania over the next few weeks is simple: polls in Pennsylvania; polls in Ohio, which have similar demographics (and a lot of polling); and national polls that correlate heavily among the key swing states.

Furthermore, I will be paying special attention to the crosstabs of national polls that focus on key swing demographics for Pennsylvania, when available and reliable, including white women. Beyond the polling for the presidential election, the ups and downs of the Pennsylvania Senate race could be important. The Democratic challenger, Katie McGinty, currently enjoys a slight lead, and that get-out-the-vote campaign will heavily overlap with Clinton’s.

Further, we will learn more soon about ad buys and get-out-the-vote operations in the state. Currently Clinton enjoys a comfortable margin in both categories. If they make a difference — and if they ever make a difference it will be this year with a massive disparity in both advertising and get-out-the-vote efforts — it should give Clinton a slight advantage over the polling average.

In other words, while I've talked a lot about Ohio this year, the state that will decide the election seems to be the Keystone State.  Florida decided 2000, Ohio decided 2004, and most likely Pennsylvania will decide 2016.

The interview goes on to talk about swing voters (they don't exist at this late stage in the game other than the Johnson/Stein third party vote), the ground game (Clinton's advantage there may be worth as many as two percentage points nationally), and why Rothschild and his team failed so miserably on the Brexit vote...a sobering lesson that all the punditry in the world is essentially meaningless in the end.  People either will vote or will not, and we'll see who they vote for in November.

Sunday Long Read: Star Chamber

The Silicon Valley Startup Shuffle model can be applied to just about anything, from vaporware hardware to financial double-dealing to organic mayo, but what has to be the biggest ongoing scam is, of all things, a video game about space that at this point may turn into one of the biggest ripoffs in crowdfunding history: Star Citizen.  Julian Benson at Kotaku UK lifts the lid on the gaming industry's biggest elephant in the room, and wonders like I do when it will all come crashing down and take PC gaming with it.

For the past seven months, I’ve been talking to the people who have been makingStar Citizen. This includes its directors, a number of anonymous sources who’ve worked on it, and the man who drives the whole project: Chris Roberts. From the outside, Star Citizen appears to have been wildly successful; to date, it has raised more than $124 million from passionate fans. The money has allowed its developer, Cloud Imperium Games, to open studios around the world and employ more than 325 talented developers.

Behind the closed doors of CIG’s studios, however, it’s been far from an easy ride, according to staff. They have all faced a unique challenge: how to nail down the scope of a game whose budget and ambition is always growing. Star Citizen has now been in development for five years, and over that time it has suffered through significant changes and unrest among its staff, huge delays and, 18 months ago, a radical restructuring of all its studios. CIG has released several discrete demos over this time, but there is still not even a date for the final game, which was originally planned for 2014.

Star Citizen’s development has been high-profile enough, expensive enough and, yes, troubled enough to spawn a whole ecosystem of theories as to what’s going on at Cloud Imperium Games, from theorising about the project’s technical challenges to wild accusations about what’s happening to the money. Various community scandals have added yet more fuel to the fire, turning Star Citizen into a lightning rod for controversy. The questions I wanted answers to were: what exactly has been happening over the past five years? What are the reasons behind Star Citizen’s various delays, and what specific development problems has it encountered? Have things been mismanaged? And, as many Star Citizen backers are now beginning to wonder, can it ever actually be finished?

Chasing this information has not been easy. There’s a reason that many of the sources in articles like this are usually anonymous: people fear both legal and professional repercussions for speaking out. In the course of contacting over 100 different people while researching Star Citizen’s development, I was told by multiple sources that they were worried about legal repercussions if they spoke to the press. Speaking out publicly about a previous employer carries professional peril, too; prospective future employers may see you as a risky hire. Nonetheless, over the course of the year we found that many of the people who had worked on Star Citizenwere willing to talk about their experiences, which painted a picture of a development process riven by technical challenges, unrealistic expectations and internal strife.

The other side to the story, of course, is that told by Cloud Imperium Games’ current staff: its director, Chris Roberts, its project leads, and the developers who have survived the upsets that drove others away. At the stage where CIG allowed us access to Roberts and other members of the Star Citizen team at its Manchester studio, we already had a pretty clear picture of the problems that have dogged the project thus far. Roberts and his team did not deny any of them (though they did contest the severity of the problems’ impacts). But despite everything, most of the staff we talked to still passionately believe in this unwieldy, ever-changing dream project. Many of its backers still believe, too, even as others have been demanding (and mostly getting) refunds.

Plenty of people have sermonised about Star Citizen’s future. We can’t pretend to know how it will work out in the end. But we can know how it got to where it is today.

Keep in mind that people have invested $120 million in a game that hasn't come close to being out yet, and is still in extended alpha testing now.  At best the game won't be out until 2018.  At worst, this is a portrait of Chris Roberts and his ego, and it's doing the kind of damage to people that we usually reserve for Big Pharma, banks, campaign finance cons and Silicon Valley disasters.

And yet people I know continue to hope and dream this game will come out someday.

It's amazing, and more than a bit sad.
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