Does Roy Moore still have a chance in the Alabama Senate race? Some recent polls show him flagging, but an average shows the race to be tight. Watch the video above for more on what might happen in Alabama, and for whether any of it is changing how Americans think of President Trump.
At about 11:15 this morning, an hour or so after Leeann Tweeden published an allegation that Democratic Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota had groped and kissed her without her consent in 2006, I assumed that Franken was headed toward resignation. I didn’t necessarily expect Franken to resign immediately or without putting up a fight. But barring some highly exculpatory evidence, I expected Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and other prominent Democrats to be pushing Franken out the door.
Here’s why I thought that. First, the timing. The accusations against Franken came in the midst of a major scandal involving Roy Moore, the Republican nominee for Senate in Alabama, who has been accused of sexual misconduct toward multiple girls and young women. And it comes on the heels of scandals involving sexual assault or sexual harassment by some of the biggest names in Hollywood and the media business: Harvey Weinstein, Roger Ailes, Kevin Spacey and Louis C.K., to name some of many examples. It also comes about a year after Donald Trump was elected president even though he was accused of sexual misconduct by many women and was caught on tape bragging about grabbing women by their genitals. The conduct Franken is accused of is just the sort of behavior that he has condemned, potentially making he and other Democrats look hypocritical.
Second, there was the photograph that Tweeden published with her article. It appeared to show Franken groping Tweeden’s breasts while she was sleeping — not providing a lot of room for “if true” statements about Franken’s conduct.
And third, there was political expediency. If Franken were to resign, it probably wouldn’t cost Democrats a Senate seat. Instead, an interim replacement would be named by Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton — a Democrat who would almost certainly appoint another Democrat. Then, a special election would be held next year to elect someone to serve the final two years of Franken’s term, which expires after the 2020 election. Next year’s midterms are likely to be blue-leaning (perhaps even a Democratic wave election), and Democrats are likely to hold Senate seats in states as blue as Minnesota under those circumstances. And Democrats have a deep and relatively diverse bench in Minnesota, with plausible candidates including State Auditor Rebecca Otto, Attorney General Lori Swanson, Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, U.S. Reps. Keith Ellison, Tim Walz and Collin Peterson, former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and others.Several of these candidates are running for governor in 2018, but some would probably be happy to switch to the Senate race because of the crowded gubernatorial field.
In other words, I thought the Democrats had an opportunity to maintain the moral high ground without having to pay a political price for it. They could keep the pressure up on Moore, who has put Republicans in a no-win situation in Alabama. And they could help to establish a precedent wherein severe instances of sexual harassment warrant resignation. In the long run, that might create more of a problem for Republicans than for Democrats, because the overwhelming majority of sexual harassment is conducted by men, and there are 265 Republican men in Congress compared with 164 Democratic ones.That includes the two independent senators who caucus with the Democrats.
Instead, Democrats basically punted on the question. Here’s what Schumer said, which echoes the statements made by many other Democrats:
Almost all of these comments said that sexual harassment must be taken very, very seriously. But the remedy they propose for Franken — referring the allegations to the Senate ethics committee, a step that Republican leader Mitch McConnell, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Franken himself have also called for — isn’t particularly serious. Unless, that is, the committee process led to Franken’s expulsion. But there have been many ethics investigations and very few expulsions — none since 1862 — and none of the statements made by Schumer or the other leaders raised the possibility of expulsion.
Moreover, it’s not quite clear what behavior the ethics committee would actually be investigating: Franken hasn’t really denied Tweeden’s claim that he kissed her without her consent, and there’s already photographic evidence that appears to show he groped her. It’s possible the investigation could turn up evidence of similar incidents involving Franken and other women. But if Franken is a repeat offender — as so many sexual harassers are — that’s all the more reason for Democrats to want him out of office now instead of dragging the party through the mud.
Of course, what might be politically expedient for Democrats isn’t necessarily expedient for Schumer — or for McConnell, or for the White House, all of whom may be acting out of a sense of institutional self-preservation. If there’s a precedent that sexual harassment is grounds for removal or resignation from office, then a lot of members of Congress — including some of Schumer’s colleagues and friends — could have to resign once more allegations come to light, as they almost certainly will. President Trump’s conduct could also come under renewed scrutiny, as could the conduct of former presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush. Politics is a male-dominated institution, and a conservativeConservative meaning change-resistant, not politically right-of-center.
“>3 institution, and conservative, male-dominated institutions have pretty much no interest in flipping over the sexual harassment rock and seeing what comes crawling out from underneath it.
When we were thinking through the Franken story in FiveThrityEight’s internal Slack channel today, most of the men in our office thought that Franken was in deep trouble (“I think he’s toast,” I wrote at 11:07 this morning). Most of the women thought he’d hang in and survive. We’re less than a day into the story, but no surprise — it looks like the women will be right.
Late last month, FiveThirtyEight published an article that noted that the FBI’s most recent accounting of crime data in the United States was missing almost 70 percent of the data tables that had been included in past editions. The FBI has since disputed that the removal of those tables was out of the ordinary. But closer scrutiny doesn’t seem to bear this claim out.
In our earlier story, FiveThirtyEight reported that a large number of year-to-year data tables that typically appear in the FBI’s Crime in the United States Report had been removed in the most recent edition, which covers data from 2016 and is the first report of its kind published during the Trump administration. The yearly report is considered the gold standard of crime-trend tracking and is used by law enforcement, researchers, journalists and the general public. Changes to the structure of the report typically go through a body called the Advisory Policy Board (APB), which is responsible for managing and reviewing operational issues for a number of FBI programs. But this change was not reviewed by the APB. One former FBI employee told FiveThirtyEight the decision not to consult with the APB was “shocking.”
Following our story’s publication, the FBI informed FiveThirtyEight that it took issue with what Department of Justice spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle called “a false narrative.” The agency also publicly posted a statement on the data tables in the report, titled “Understanding Changes in ‘Crime in the United States, 2016.’” The statement, which was published about a month after the data was initially released, noted that the FBI “has been working on what has become the UCR-Technical Refresh since 2010” and that “throughout the planning of this project, it has been the intention of the UCR program to streamline the publications, including Crime in the United States (CIUS), and to reduce the number of data tables in the reports.”
But while the FBI says the plan to remove data tables had been in place since 2010, state-level UCR managers do not seem to have been informed of it until late 2016. “State UCR Program managers were advised of the FBI’s plan in the fall of 2016 through individual teleconferences,” Hornbuckle said in an email.
While it’s true that the FBI is on record saying it hoped to improve the report, the FBI had not publicly included the removal of data tables as part of those improvements until the statement it released following the FiveThirtyEight story. Instead, the FBI’s past statements said the agency aimed only to make data available more quickly and to improve digital features to allow users to access more data more easily.
The UCR-Technical Refresh page that the FBI links to in its statement asserting that the intention of the project has always included reducing the number of data tables, appears to have been created only relatively recently. A search through the Internet Archive fails to retrieve a cache of the page, suggesting a relatively new URL.
What does appear to have been referenced as early as 2010 is what was called “the UCR Redevelopment Project.” In 2010, the FBI described the goals of the UCR Redevelopment Project as: “decrease the time it takes to analyze data,” “reduce … the exchange of printed materials,” “provide an enhanced external data query tool,” and “decrease the time needed to release and publish crime data.”
In essence, the UCR Redevelopment Project appeared to largely be concerned with improving the process by which agencies submit data to the FBI, along with creating a tool for analyzing the data. This intended direction can be seen in project updates from March 2013 and December 2013.
In September 2016 the project became the “New UCR Project,” which had the stated goal “to manage the acquisition, development, and integration of a new and improved data collection system.” Sometime between September and October 2017, the New UCR Project became the UCR-Technical Refresh, though the overarching goals seem identical to its previous iterations.
While it is possible that reducing the number of available data tables was always a goal of the UCR Redevelopment Project, we were unable to identify any evidence of this objective in any publicly available publications or presentations on the subject. On the contrary, this project appears designed to improve the speed and efficiency with which law enforcement data can be submitted, processed and provided to the public.
A digital presentation dated April of 2012 describes the technical changes to the project with no mention of removing data tables. The earliest webpage reference to the project appears to be from March 2013, and it largely details technical upgrades intended to improve reporting from local law enforcement agencies to the FBI. The Internet Archive’s last capture of the site came as recently as May of 2016. We reviewed the documents and found no mentions of removing data tables in any of these iterations.
The April 2016 update lays out the plan in more detail. Of note is the last bullet point, which says, “We will continue to keep the APB and the broader UCR Program stakeholders apprised of our status as we work toward successful implementation of the new UCR System.” The APB was ultimately not involved in the decision to remove data tables from the 2016 report, but rather the tables were removed after consultation with the FBI’s Office of Public Affairs.
In a capture of the page that includes an update from February of 2017, the project is noted to have moved from development to implementation. One of its stated goals is to “provide a streamlined publication process that will give users quicker access to the data,” though it again makes no reference to data table removal.
When the New UCR Project became what is now called the UCR-Technical Refresh this fall, The FBI published a page devoted to the Technical Refresh that has very few details of the plan. But there is a change to wording that is striking.
One bullet-pointed goal of the project that once read, “Provide a streamlined publication process that will give users quicker access to the data,” now reads as two bullet points: “Provide a streamlined publication process” and “Provide users swifter access to the data.”
That may seem insignificant, but that grammatical sleight of hand could mean that the FBI is looking to justify a new interpretation of what it means to “streamline” the publication process. Rather than streamline by providing users swifter access to the data, perhaps the FBI is now looking to streamline by decreasing the amount of data they provide. Given that the FBI has not yet responded to further requests for comment, we’re left to read between the lines.
Welcome to FiveThirtyEight’s weekly politics chat. The transcript below has been lightly edited.
micah (Micah Cohen, politics editor): Greetings, colleagues! For your consideration today: Do Democrats need to win the special election for Alabama’s Senate seat in order to have a chance to win control of the chamber in 2018?
Implicit in that question, obviously, is: Can Democrats win the Senate in 2018?
So let’s start off with this, from friend-of-the-site Sean Trende of RealClearPolitics:
He says he would buy Democrats to win the Senate at 30 percent. And that it would be 50-50 if Democrat Doug Jones wins in Alabama.
Would people buy at 30 right now?
clare.malone (Clare Malone, senior political writer): Yes. While I don’t think it’s a sure thing by any means, this environment is a lot friendlier for Democrats than Republicans.
harry (Harry Enten, senior political writer): Ohhh boy. I tell ya. This is where a formal model would really help. Here’s what we know: Incumbent senators of the opposition party (the party that doesn’t control the White House) rarely lose in midterms, and Democrats have two clear pickup opportunities in addition to Alabama (Arizona and Nevada). They need a net gain of three seats to get the majority, so the math is there. Of course, the Democrats are defending seats on some very red turf, including in Missouri, North Dakota and West Virginia, to name just a few.
natesilver (Nate Silver, editor in chief): Answer the question, dude.
micah: You answer it, Nate!
natesilver: A-N-S-W-E-R. T-H-E. Q-U-E-S-T-I-O-N. H-A-R-R-Y.
micah: Clare is the only brave one here.
natesilver: I’d hold at 30.
harry: Holdin’ Nate.
natesilver: HARRY WHAT WOULD YOU DO?
harry: Fine. Fine. I’ll sell at 30 percent and buy at 25 percent.
natesilver: Oh, give me a break.
micah: You’re holding, in other words.
natesilver: You’re like, “We don’t have a formal model, blah blah blah,” and then you’re parsing the difference between 25 and 30 percent.
micah: Clare, why would you buy?
And how contingent is your buy on Jones winning in Alabama?
Like, if I told you that Republican Roy Moore is going to win, would you sell at 30 percent?
natesilver: I’d just point out that if Moore wins, he’d probably get expelled, which would compel another special election.
clare.malone: As I said above, before all the bullshit equivocating, I think the Alabama thing, if it happens for Democrats, could really build some momentum.
Would I sell?
micah: My prediction: Moore wins, he gets expelled. He runs again in the new special election and wins.
natesilver: Then gets expelled again?
I’m not convinced Republicans would even expel him to begin with.
clare.malone: It feels a bit like an intimidation tactic right now.
natesilver: Moore would be a huge problem for Republicans if he stays in office. He’s not going to be cooperative at all with the GOP leadership. And he’s basically every liberal’s worst stereotype of a Republican, which isn’t great for the GOP brand. I think the expulsion threat is pretty real.
harry: Read up on your Powell vs. McCormack. Adam Clayton Powell was expelled by the House of Representatives, then elected again and seated.
micah: But here’s my argument for buying Democrats at 30 percent: They basically need one seat in addition to Arizona and Nevada. They might get that in a month. And even if they don’t, if it’s a super Democratic-leaning year, as we think it will be, I’d bet Democrats in red states will be mostly safe.
Moreover! I think people think too narrowly about what states could be in play.
Like, if Democrats have a +10 advantage on the generic ballot and it’s an anti-incumbent year, who’s to say Ted Cruz won’t be in trouble in Texas?
clare.malone: Welcome to Team Buy, Micah.
micah: TEAM BUY!
Defend yourselves, Team Sell!
natesilver: I’d buy at 30 percent on Democrats winning three or more seats. But they also have a lot of their own seats to defend.
I’m not Team Sell, by the way, I’m Team Hold.
micah: You’re Team Sell, Nate.
natesilver: I’m Team Hold, Micah.
clare.malone: The coward’s choice.
micah: You’re Team
harry: I mean, it’s pretty simple why you wouldn’t buy. Other than Arizona and Nevada, the most Democratic-leaning seat that’s up in 2018 and has a Republican incumbent is Texas. Beyond that, where can Democrats pick up a seat? There aren’t good choices. Maybe they have a shot in Tennessee if the Republicans nominate an archconservative and Phil Bredesen, the former governor, wins the Democratic nomination.
natesilver: Given that there are approximately 6 jillion Democratic seats up for re-election and only a few Republican ones, I think Democrats having a 30 percent chance of taking the Senate is pretty good.
harry: What Nathaniel Read just said.
natesilver: The fact that it’s as high as 30 percent indicates that things are going pretty bad for Republicans.
micah: The Cook Political Report rates the Texas Senate race as more solidly Republican than the one in Tennessee.
natesilver: So, traditionally people place a lot of weight on incumbency. Tennessee is an open seat, and Texas isn’t.
I think that incumbency is maybe a little overrated. The incumbency advantage has been dwindling. (We’ll have an article on this soon.)
micah: What if Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch retires, then Mitt Romney wins in Utah and caucuses with Democrats?
clare.malone: He won’t caucus with Democrats.
harry: What if my mother’s dog starts talking, Micah?
micah: So, Nate, you basically think Democrats need Alabama?
natesilver: No, I don’t. I think Texas is plausible-ish. And I think a second Arizona seat could open up for obvious reasons.
clare.malone: OK, what are seats that Democrats hold that we think they are in danger of losing?
I mean, here are the Cook ratings on Democratic-held seats:
clare.malone: Yeah, I mean … they could DEFINITELY get cut up in some of those.
natesilver: I think Missouri and, to a slightly lesser extent, Indiana are the biggest problems for Democrats.
The reason being that Claire McCaskill and Joe Donnelly had the benefit of running against really poor opponents last time.
clare.malone: Yeah. “Legitimate rape.”
micah: Joe Manchin may have enough of his own brand in West Virginia to be in OK shape. Right?
natesilver: Manchin is still fairly popular there, yeah.
clare.malone: But there’s also the fact that Team Trump could go all out and pool support against Manchin in that state if they wanted.
harry: I wouldn’t discount Florida myself, given that Rick Scott could spend more money than most Americans dream of seeing in a lifetime.
natesilver: Yeah, Florida — you could see Bill Nelson blowing that race, somehow.
Or Sherrod Brown in Ohio.
And to the point earlier about the incumbency advantage diminishing — that could hurt “generic” Democratic incumbents like McCaskill who don’t have their own brands carved out.
micah: I don’t really buy Florida. If it’s a really Democratic-leaning year, why would they lose Florida?
Ohio is more believable. But I think even that would go blue in a blue-wave year.
clare.malone: The Republican candidate in Ohio (Josh Mandel) is … not super likeable. But who knows.
harry: Democrats in Florida are heavily dependent on a Latino vote that may not show up for a midterm.
natesilver: Democrats probably wouldn’t lose Florida, Micah. And it’s true that all of these outcomes are correlated. But sometimes individual races deviate from the trend, like when Democrats won by a huge margin in Michigan in 2014 despite having a really bad year everywhere else.
New Jersey is also a trouble spot for Democrats with the Bob Menendez trial.
clare.malone: Yeah, Menendez is very unpopular there.
natesilver: He’d probably lose a primary challenge — New Jersey Democrats tend to be fairly pragmatic — but it’s a wild card.
harry: My guess is New Jersey ain’t gonna happen for Republicans. It has a powerful state party that will get Menendez to lose the primary or step aside if necessary.
natesilver: So maybe there’s a 50 percent chance that Democrats win 3+ seats, but some of those times, they also lose one or more seats of their own. Which puts us at 30 or so.
If I were actually betting on this stuff, I’d also want to know how the contracts handle post-election party switches.
If Maine Sen. Collins switched parties, for instance, I think it would be right after the midterm and not before.
Sorta like Jim Jeffords or Arlen Specter after the 2000 and 2008 presidential elections.
clare.malone: Do we think Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski would switch parties post-midterm? Or caucus with the Democrats?
micah: That would be exciting!
harry: And to think, in 2011, I believed that politics had become boring and predictable.
natesilver: Collins is more likely, just because she’s more out of step with the Maine GOP, which is getting more like Gov. LePage.
clare.malone: Yeah, that’s true.
We’re just considering WILD CARDS!
natesilver: But if the Senate balance is 50-50 after the election — and let’s say the Republicans have really gotten slaughtered in the House, so the mood of the country is pretty clear — it becomes very tempting to switch if you’re a pivotal Republican senator. You arguably have more power that way (although you have a lot of power either way).
micah: OK, so party-switching and wild cards aside, does your read on Democrats’ Senate chances basically come down to how you think red-state Democrats will fare?
harry: I think that’s right.
natesilver: I mean, it also comes down to Alabama, where I’m slightly more skeptical of Jones’s chances than the consensus.
And it comes down to where you come down on Arizona and Nevada, on the spectrum between “toss-up” and “leans Democrat.”
I think both are leans Democrat, for what it’s worth.
micah: So, my read, to take just one example, is that Harry and Nate are looking at these races like gubernatorial races, which tend to be more about state-level concerns. But we know Senate races tend to be more nationalized, and the odds are that Trump is going to be super unpopular in 2018, perhaps with a much-ramped-up Russia investigation.
clare.malone: I’d agree with that.
micah: Why wouldn’t we expect the to hit the Senate?
natesilver: Even if you have a wave, Democrats might only gain two seats.
That’s the point.
In a non-wave year, they might lose six seats.
So the wave is what takes them from -6 to +2.
It’s a realllllllllyyyyyyy bad map for Democrats
micah: That seems circular to me.
harry: I’ll just drop this in here.
micah: “Democrats will have a really hard time winning races, so they won’t win many races.”
OK, so let’s go back to Alabama …
harry: I love Alabama.
micah: Imagine it’s Dec. 13, and Doug Jones is the senator-elect from Alabama. I give you even odds that Democrats take the Senate back in 2018. Buy, sell or hold?
And remember, if you hold, you suck.
clare.malone: I’m holding and then selling once all the suckers in the betting markets get amped.
micah: That’s the right answer.
natesilver: 50 percent seems in the right range to me, if Jones wins.
harry: Apparently, you suck.
natesilver: Apparently. But it’s actually pretty hard to estimate this stuff without a model
because of how the outcomes are correlated, etc.
micah: We should build a model.
natesilver: Too soon.
harry: We should build a motel.
clare.malone: OK. Let’s cut through the crap: Do you guys think Jones is going to pull this out?
natesilver: If there’s no write-in bid, then I think Moore is still the favorite.
harry: Wait. That’s trash. Do you think there will be a write-in bid?
natesilver: Well, I have a whole freaking article about that, which I’m filing to Micah.
Basically, I think all the other outcomes are so bad that it doesn’t hurt the GOP to try a write-in bid, even though it probably helps Jones.
harry: For those wondering, PredictIt has Jones shares selling at 42 cents, as I’m writing this. Moore is at 41 cents, Luther Strange at 6 cents, Mo Brooks at 2 cents and Trip Pittman at 1 cent.
So the conventional wisdom seems to be that Moore won’t win?
micah: Final question: Does the outcome in Alabama matter solely in terms of the seat math? Or would a Jones win tell us something about the political environment? Or would it have more nuts-and-bolts consequences?
harry: Moore would win this race if the environment was neutral to pro-Republican.
clare.malone: I think a Jones win — which might be dependent, as Nate said, on McConnell and national Republicans trying to screw over Moore — would be yet another little battle in the “establishment vs. Bannonites” or whatever we’re calling that emerging wing of the party.
The wing that now makes the tea party look moderate in tone.
natesilver: Right. It would tell us a little something. But, again, mostly it would tell us things that are consistent with what we already know. And people are liable to over-interpret the difference between, say, a 3-point Moore win and a 3-point Jones win — both of which would count as a really bad performance for Republicans, but either of which could sort of be blamed on Moore also.
So basically I think the actual consequences of the Alabama race are larger than the predictive info it contains. In contrast to, say, the Georgia 6th or something.
harry: Right, I think Jones winning is both a sign of the environment and of candidate quality. But yeah, one Senate seat is worth a whole lot when the majority party is at 52 seats.
In the past week, several women have accused Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore of making inappropriate advances toward them while they were teenagers. Two of those instances allegedly included forced sexual contact. On this episode of the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast, our team discusses how the accusations have affected a race that Republicans were expected to win handily.
The crew also assesses the disunity within the Democratic Party after a strong showing in the 2017 off-year elections.
You can listen to the episode by clicking the “play” button above or by downloading it in iTunes, the ESPN App or your favorite podcast platform. If you are new to podcasts, learn how to listen.
The FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast publishes Monday evenings, with occasional special episodes throughout the week. Help new listeners discover the show by leaving us a rating and review on iTunes. Have a comment, question or suggestion for “good polling vs. bad polling”? Get in touch by email, on Twitter or in the comments.
SACRAMENTO — In any of the past three seasons, the Kings beating the Sixers would have been seen as simply business as usual. After all, Philly — which had been mired in one of the worst stretches of any team in history — was liable to lose to just about anyone, even lowly Sacramento.
When it happened Thursday, though, it was surprising. The Sixers entered the contest as one of the NBA’s hottest teams, riding a five-game win streak. Somehow, expectations had been born.
That’s a key difference between the Sixers of yesterday and the Sixers of today: We actually expect them to win sometimes. The other distinction — the team’s two young potential superstars — means it’s finally possible to see how Philly could someday reach the point where it’s always expected to win.
It’s impossible to overstate just how bad the Sixers were until very recently. That was mostly by design, of course — an elaborate rebuilding experiment under the direction of former general manager Sam Hinkie — but it still resulted in the Sixers’ exploration of the extreme depths of North American team sports. Here’s Philly’s decline in graphical form, tracing its trajectory using our Elo ratings (which measure a team’s strength — or, in this case, weakness — over time):
Philly hit its peak Elo of the past five seasons — 1485, nearly a .500-caliber team — early in Hinkie’s first season at the helm, but then quickly dipped to its Hinkie-era nadir later that same season with a rating of 1175, which is good for about 13 wins per 82 games. From there, most teams tend to improve their rating just by sheer regression to the mean, but the Sixers found a way to drop back below 1200 again in April of 2016. (Perhaps not coincidentally, the 2015-16 season was Hinkie’s last as GM.) Over the past couple seasons, though, they’ve managed to climb back toward the league-average mark of around 1500. Philly’s trajectory has few parallels in NBA history; they’re only the sixth team ever to start at an Elo above 1440, dip below 1200 within two seasons, and then rise back above 1440 within the following two seasons:
|YEARS||TEAM||HIGH IN YEAR 1||LOW OVER NEXT 2||HIGH IN FOLLOWING 2|
This may be only the beginning of the Sixers’ rise. Going into the season, ESPN ranked Philly sixth in its NBA future power rankings, representing each team’s potential over the next handful of years. And since the start of the season, only two teams — the Magic and Celtics — have tacked more points onto their Elo ratings than the Sixers have.As of Nov. 9.
We asked Brett Brown, who’s in his fifth season as Sixers coach, about that unusual transition.
“I do it multiple times every day,” he said when asked if he’s already given serious thought to making a title run with this core group at some point. “But I also feel incredibly grounded, because I’ve seen four championships, and my Spurs life helped me understand how hard it is and how long a process it is. You cannot skip steps, and you need some luck with health. I’m not young anymore, so the excitement of what could be is always with me. I think about it all the time.”
And for good reason. In Joel Embiid and rookie sensation Ben Simmons, the Sixers appear to have finally found what The Process ordered: a duo that has the advantage of both being very young and having the sort of size and skill that can’t be taught, a rare combination that the league has seldom seen.
Since the ABA-NBA merger in 1976, only five teams have had a pair of players age 23 or younger who each logged at least 25 minutes per game and posted a Box Plus/Minus of +3.5 or greater: The 1984-85 Portland Trail Blazers, with Clyde Drexler and Sam BowieYes, that Sam Bowie, who was infamously drafted one spot ahead of Michael Jordan. Before injuries ruined his career, though, Bowie was a solid up-and-coming big man.
‘>2; the 1993-94 and 1994-95 Orlando Magic, with Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway; the 2011-12 Oklahoma City Thunder with Kevin Durant and James Harden; and, if they keep it up, the 2017-18 Philadelphia 76ers with Simmons and Embiid.
Somewhat lost in the wild stat lines Simmons and Embiid are compiling is the fact that they excel by going against today’s NBA grain. The 6-foot-10 Simmons, much like scoring leader and early MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo, has managed to foil defenses and log triple-doubles without the threat of an outside shot. In fact, through 11 games, Simmons hasn’t even attempted a true jumperMeaning one that wasn’t an end-of-quarter heave from the backcourt.
“>3 of 20 feet or more, yet he is skewering foes with nearly 18 points and eight dimes a game while shooting 50 percent.
Embiid, on the other hand, would appear to be a bit of a throwback. He’s most comfortable in the post with his back to the basket — his 22.5 post-ups per 100 possessions lead the NBA by far, according to data from Second Spectrum — even as he possesses the new-age ability to spot up.
The two display good chemistry, scoring an above-average 0.94 points per pick-and-roll they orchestrate, according to Second Spectrum data. They sometimes catch opponents off guard at the start of possessions, when defenders expect Simmons to come to the 3-point line to get the ball and initiate the offense, but he darts backdoor instead, with Embiid finding him for an easy bucket.
On a separate play against Dallas, Simmons calls Embiid over to set a screen for him, prompting Dirk Nowitzki to take a step or two forward in anticipation of the pick. That allows Embiid the space he needs to dive behind the future Hall of Famer for an easy lob.
In the nearly 200 minutes Simmons and Embiid have shared the court, the Sixers have played like a contender, scoring 106.2 points per 100 plays while surrendering just 97.2, marks that would rank them inside the NBA’s top 10 on both ends of the court.While it’s early in the season, it’s still noteworthy that the team’s net rating is even better, with slightly better offense and much better defense, when Embiid plays without Simmons. That sample size of 61 minutes is less than a third of the size of the sample for their time playing together, though.
This duo is clearly the source of Philadelphia’s new identity, but a number of other factors also help explain the team’s promising start.
The club — which for years might have had better shooters in the stands than it did on its bench — is lighting things up from deep, thanks to free-agent addition J.J. Redick and two-way stud Robert Covington (who’s outpacing Klay Thompson as the NBA’s best high-volume catch-and-shoot 3-point gunner so farAmong players taking five or more such shots per game.
“>5). The Sixers have made their plays following timeouts count, scoring 1.05 points per possession in those situations, second-best in the league, per Synergy Sports. And the young defense, still holier than a bible at times, is making an extraordinary effort as it learns the ropes. Philly boasts the NBA’s best defensive efficiency after committing live-ball turnovers, per Inpredictable; that’s noteworthy because the Sixers fumble it away more than any other team.
To be clear, no one is saying that Philadelphia, at 6-5, has it all figured out. Forward Dario Saric and Embiid ranked worst and second-worst in turnover rate, respectively, when being aggressively doubled in the post last season,Among players with 100 or more post-up opportunities.
“>6 per Synergy, and Brown said his team still needs to reduce the number of “my bad” situations it finds itself in over the course of each game. Simmons’s reluctance to pull the trigger on jumpers may be an extension of him still figuring out which hand he wants to shoot with on a primary basis. (Simmons, who shoots free throws left-handed, spent time during Thursday morning’s shootaround in Sacramento practicing midrange jumpers with his right hand. He missed the rim four times during a two-minute span.)
Philly’s rim protection crumbles into dust when Embiid goes to the bench, as opponents shoot just 57 percent from the restricted area with him in the game, yet hit a whopping 71 percent — which would rank worst in the league — when he’s sidelined, according to NBA.com. Then, obviously, there’s the question of whether the team’s key pieces can stay healthy, which is far from a given considering their injury histories. (The calculus could also change for the better depending on the status of No. 1 overall draft pick Markelle Fultz and what he’s able to give the Sixers once he comes back.)
But make no mistake: A healthy Sixers team — with Simmons infusing life into the offense by forcing help when he drives to the basket and Embiid bringing the sort of post D that makes players think twice about shooting — will factor into the playoff race this year, with a chance to do far more damage going forward.
Simmons’s creativity on offense is bolstered by his ability to see over the top of the defense. His 10.6 assists per 100 possessions and 2.1 assist-to-turnover ratio compare favorably to the first few seasons of LeBron James’s career. And the Philly point forward, who leads NBA ballhandlers in passes per game, at times has flashed a James-like ability to spray the ball around to shooters.
As for Embiid, whom Brown referred to as his “crown jewel,” his impact can’t be overstated, particularly on the defensive end of the floor. As ESPN stat guru Micah Adams pointed out, teams have seemingly avoided trying to post up Embiid at all this season, perhaps aware of how effective he was at the rim last season, even when compared with the league’s other elite bigs.
Asked if it’s difficult to stay focused on what’s right in front of the team rather than thinking big-picture, Embiid smiled. “I guess I’d just say that I have to trust the process,” he said.
On Thursday, the U.S. Senate race in Alabama became the latest avenue of American life to be rocked by a scandal involving improper sexual conduct. The Washington Post reported allegations that Republican Roy Moore pursued relationships with four teenage girls, one of whom was 14 at the time of a sexual encounter with Moore. Moore has unequivocally denied the report.
The Alabama special election was already getting national attention as one of the fronts upon which former Trump adviser Steve Bannon said he would be waging his war against the Republican establishment, so the race has several facets to be closely watched — social, cultural and, yes, political.
Although it’s difficult to predict what effect a scandal will have on an election, here’s what we’re looking at and considering as it unfolds.
Where did the race stand before the Post story?
The five most recent public pollsters to survey the race — all before Thursday’s allegations — found, on average, Moore ahead of his Democratic opponent, Doug Jones, 48 percent to 42 percent. That sounds like a pretty decent lead until you realize that President Trump won Alabama by 28 points in 2016.
Why was Moore underperforming?
Alabama is a ruby-red state, but Moore has a had a long and controversial record there — which might explain why he’s not doing as well as you might expect for a Republican.
Polls differ a bit on why Moore has been struggling, but they all agree that he’s having trouble with voters who don’t identify as evangelical. (Moore has been doing fine among Alabama’s heavily evangelical Republican base.) Hillary Clinton won non-evangelical voters in Alabama by 12 percentage points in 2016, according to the Cooperative Congressional Election Study. But Moore is doing much worse than Trump did among that group. Jones was leading Moore among non-evangelical voters by around 40 points, according to a JMC Analytics and Polling survey and an Opinion Savvy poll.
Another weakness for Moore? Alabama’s independent voters. Both a Fox News poll and the Opinion Savvy poll have Jones winning independents even though Trump carried them in Alabama by 49 percentage points according to the CCES.
It’s possible that Moore has already lost the Alabama voters who would have been most likely to abandon him in light of the Post story. That said, the Fox News poll found that 42 percent of Moore’s supporters had reservations about him, so either they’ve made their peace voting for a candidate they see as flawed or they already have one foot out the door and the Post story could send them the rest of the way.
What will Republican officials do?
How national Republicans react to the scandal could do quite a bit to tip the balance of the race, forcing talk of the scandal into the conservative media and increasing pressure on Moore and his campaign.
Senators from the establishment wing of the Republican Party who have already been at odds with the Bannon-esque contours of the Moore campaign were quick to speak out. Sen. Lisa Murkowsi of Alaska and Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona were among the first to tell reporters that if the reports of sexual conduct with minors were true, Moore should resign from the race. Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania said much the same, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made a statement to the same effect.
Republican elected officials, perhaps aware that Moore was already problematic, seem to be in a holding pattern, loath to out-and-out call for him to drop out (and risk angering the base) but far from willing to vouch for Moore. Arizona Sen. John McCain went the furthest of his caucus, calling the allegations “disturbing” and “disqualifying.”
How will Trump react?
The president is, as always, a wild card. Trump didn’t endorse Moore in the primary, instead favoring McConnell’s choice of Luther Strange. But in the waning days of the race, Trump seemed to express some regret with his decision, and after Moore won, he deleted some tweets expressing support for Strange.
Trump, who has weathered his own sex scandals, seems to always take the line of fighting allegations, so he might stand by Moore. Or, ever eager for approval from the electorate, Trump might bide his time to see how conservative media reacts, gauging how he thinks his base might take the news — as “fake news” or troubling allegations involving teenage girls.
How will the conservative media react?
News of the Post story first made its way onto the internet by way of a Breitbart report headlined, “After Endorsing Democrat in Alabama, Bezos’s Washington Post Plans to hit Roy Moore With Allegations of Inappropriate Relations with Teenagers; Judge Claims Smear Campaign.” Breitbart is, of course, Bannon’s domain, and Moore is Bannon’s horse in the race — so the website’s sympathetic coverage makes sense. How Fox News and other conservative outlets cover the scandal could play a part in how the Republican base comes to view it.
Trump won the presidency despite allegations of sexual assault, but the allegations against Moore involve underage girls, which might change how Republican voters view the scandal. The allegations led the right-leaning Drudge Report and Washington Examiner on Thursday evening, as well as Fox News’s homepage.
Can Moore be replaced on the ballot? Could there be a write-in campaign?
No and yes.
Moore’s name will appear on the ballot — it’s too late to switch it out for the Dec. 12 election — but there’s certainly still a chance for Republicans to launch a write-in campaign. Who’s at the top of the list? Strange. Murkowski, who famously won a write-in victory of her own, has already said that she’s in touch with Strange about this very thing. Should Moore stay in the race — as he has said he will — and Strange jumps in, the Republican vote could split. That would be good news for Jones.
Does it matter that Moore ran as a “values” candidate?
How the GOP base in Alabama reacts to this story is certainly the big looming question in all of this. Moore has made his name in the state as a fierce champion of evangelical Christian values, often testing the limits of democratic governance along the way; he was removed from the Alabama Supreme Court in 2003 for refusing to take down a replica of the Ten Commandments that stood in front of the court.
Allegations of sexual contact with children are incredibly serious, but it remains an open question whether the state’s Republican voters will see the story as true or not. As the past year has shown, in a highly politicized and polarized national environment, every story seems to take on political shading, including the allegations of sexual assault against men in positions of power. Party loyalty overrode personal affront for many Republican voters in 2016. And Clinton and other Democratic politicians, for instance, were quickly linked to Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein — who has been accused of a litany of wrongdoings, from harassment to rape — given his donations to various Democratic campaigns.
In some ways, the allegations against Moore might test how much American society, in all corners, has absorbed the national conversation on sexual assault allegations. Emerging narratives around that conversation feature a hope that more credibility is being lent to victim allegations. But some also fear witch hunts of powerful men. The next few weeks will surely tell us more about how Alabama voters are grappling with this cultural sea change.
Are there precedents we can look to?
There are past political scandals that involved underage or teenage victims, though most came before the highly polarized political environment of the past 10 years and most candidates dropped out of the race before election day.
In 1990, Republican Jon Grunseth dropped out of the Minnesota gubernatorial race after allegations of sexual misconduct. Among these allegations were that he had encouraged two girls — one 13, the other 14 — to take a nude swim with him. Grunseth’s primary challenger, Arne Carlson eventually won the race as a write-in candidate.
In 1983, the U.S. House formally censured two members, Republican Dan Crane and Democrat Gerry Studds, for sexual relationships with 17-year-old pages. Both ran for re-election, with Crane losing and Studds winning.
In 2006, Republican Mark Foley resigned from office after he was accused of sending explicit text messages to an underage former page. Foley’s name was kept on the ballot, and Democrats won the seat.
Alabama itself is fresh off another sex scandal (though it didn’t involve anyone underage). Republican Gov. Robert Bentley resigned from office in April as he was facing impeachment for allegedly having used his office to cover up an extramarital affair. His approval rating dropped precipitously after the revelation of the affair, showing perhaps, that there are instances when moral outrage outweighs partisan interest.
Is there empirical research on how much “scandals” can change electoral outcomes?
One paper from researchers who looked at senators running for re-election from 1974 to 2008 estimated that scandals involving immoral behavior cost the scandal-plagued candidate 6.5 percentage points and raised his opponent’s vote share 6.5 points, for a net change of 13 points. We don’t know if the Alabama race will move that much, but any penalty approaching that size would be more than enough to significantly darken Moore’s prospects of winning this Senate seat.
Scoring 50 goals in 50 games is the crowning achievement of an NHL goal scorer. Players who do so join a club of legends including Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Maurice Richard. The club is exclusive — it has only five members, and it hasn’t accepted a new application in 25 years. There are dozens and dozens of active NHL players who weren’t alive yet the last time someone scored 50 goals in 50 games, when Brett Hull did it during the 1991-92 season.
As with throwing dead octopuses onto the ice and shaking hands with the opponent after a playoff series, the 50 in 50 club is like many things unique to the NHL: steeped in history and perhaps devoid of logic. The attention bestowed on the exploit dates back to the days when there were only 50 games on the schedule. So when Richard became to first to do it in 1945, it meant he averaged a goal a game for a whole season. When the schedule expanded to 60 games — and then to 70 games, and then 74, 76, 78, 80 and 84 games, finally settling at 82 games — 50 in 50 remained a thing. Because, you know, why not?
Like with many exclusive clubs, there are also a lot of rules. To gain access, you must score 50 goals in your team’s first 50 games, not your own. Alexander Mogilny scored 50 goals in his first 46 games in 1992-93, but an injury forced him to miss three weeks at the beginning of the season. Mogilny’s 50th tally came in his team’s 53rd game, so he’s not allowed in. No exceptions!
It’s not easy to sustain a goal-per-game pace for 50 consecutive games, but so far this season, Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov is doing almost exactly that. With 14 goals in 15 games, the young Russian with a hellacious shot has set himself up to make a legitimate run at hockey’s goal-scoring holy grail.
Of course, many others have started the season on a similar tear in recent years — and all of them ended up way short of the benchmark. Here’s how every player who notched at least 14 goals in his team’s first 15 games post-lockout stacked up against the last three 50/50 players.
Amazingly, only one of these players (Jaromir Jagr in 2006) exceeded 50 goals on the season, let alone in 50 games. In the 2005-06 season, winger Simon Gagne scored 17 in the Flyers’ first 15 games, but he ultimately scored only 17 more in the next 35. In that same season, both Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson had 15 goals through the first 15 games. They both cooled, too — like Gagne, they each netted 17 goals in the following 35 games.
But there’s reason to believe this year might be different: The league itself seems different.
So far this season, goalies are stopping pucks with less success than they have since 2008-09. But not all of the blame can be placed on lackluster goaltending — a number of rule changes have led to an increase in power play opportunities per game. More power play opportunities equal more high-quality scoring opportunities, which means more goalies left hung out to dry.
It’s not shocking to see an analog in the 2005-06 season, when Jagr, Gagne, Heatley and Alfredsson each flirted with a goal-a-game pace: The league instituted rule changes in the wake of the 2004-05 lockout with the express purpose of increasing the number of goals per game, which had tanked in the NHL of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Chief among those rule changes was the elimination of the two-line offside pass. Defenses were slow to adjust to the rule change, which led to a preponderance of breakaways and two-on-one situations.
In the 1980s and early 1990s, the NHL was a wide open league, and goaltending often seemed like an afterthought. From 1980-81 to 1993-94, the goals against average for the league never dipped below 3.0 — and the 50 in 50 was accomplished seven times.Mike Bossy, Gretzky (three times), Lemieux, Hull (twice).
“>1 From 1994-95 to the present, the goals against average has risen higher than 3.0 in only one season. It hasn’t climbed quite that high this season, but it’s close.It currently sits at 2.89.
Kucherov isn’t the only one taking advantage of the increase in scoring. Like during the 2005-06 season, this year’s NHL has a handful of players vying for NHL legend status. Alex Ovechkin has also started the year on fire (13 goals in 16 games), while Islanders’ captain John Tavares has 12 goals in 15.
Of course, a goal scorer is nothing without dime-dishing linemates, and Kucherov has benefited from playing with the league’s leading point getter in Steven Stamkos (who missed 65 games last season, and the Bolts missed the playoffs). Stamkos is known best for his goal scoring prowess — he’s a two-time recipient of the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy, awarded to the league’s top goal scorer — but this year it’s his passing that has him at the top of the NHL’s scoring list. He’s still scoring goals, but his 18 assists pace the league. And 10 of those helpers have come on goals scored by Kucherov.
Every player to hit the 50-goals-in-50-games milestone played on a line with one (or two) very good passers. Lemieux — who also unofficially scored 50 in 50 in two other seasonsSuper Mario scored 50 goals in his first 50 games in both the 1992-93 and 1995-96 seasons, but neither exploit came on or before his team’s first 50 games. Sorry, Mario: Hockey conservatives say this doesn’t count.
“>3 — played the bulk of his career on lines with some combination of Jagr, Kevin Stevens and Ron Francis. Hull played on a line in St. Louis with Adam Oates. Gretzky had Jari Kurri, Mike Bossy had Bryan Trottier and Clark Gillies, and Richard had Elmer Lach and Toe Blake. And it’s not a stretch to place Kucherov and Stamkos among these all-time great duos and trios.
Kucherov’s gaudy numbers aren’t surprising — he’s scored no fewer than 29 goals in each of his three full NHL seasons and has an astounding career shooting percentage of 15.1. But that historically good shooting percentage is up dramatically this season: At the moment, Kucherov is scoring on 24 percent of the shots he’s taking. That’s destined to regress to the mean, but for now, Kucherov’s shot looks damn near unsavable.
Who knows if Kucherov — or Ovechkin or Tavares — can sustain a goal-per-game pace for all 50 games. Even if they don’t, they’ve already made the NHL feel a little bit like the wild old days of the ’80s and early ’90s. And they’ve given every hockey nerd something to pull for.
We’re getting more results from New Jersey, and Murphy’s margin is now up to 15 points, according to The New York Times (which has more results reported than the networks do). But looking at a more comprehensive set of counties, I’m less sure about my earlier assertion that Murphy’s margin will eventually get into the high teens — 15 points may be about where it settles.
If you were tuned in to your TV last week as news broke about the first indictments in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, you likely had a very different experience depending on which news channel you were watching.
Russia-related coverage was much more plentiful on MSNBC and CNN than it was on Fox News as Americans learned of the charges against President Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort, Manafort’s former business partner Rick Gates, and Trump’s former campaign adviser George Papadopoulos. However, our analysis of the three major cable news outlets showed that the networks had all been airing Russia-related stories, some of which were about the investigation, in the days and weeks before the indictments became public. It’s just that the ideological leanings of the network tended to determine when each covered Russia-adjacent news and which stories it focused on.
We investigated how those cable news networks covered the story by turning to the Television News ArchiveAnalysis by the GDELT Project using data from the Internet Archive Television News Archive.
“>1 for all mentions of the words “Russia,” “Russian” or “Russians” in roughly the past month.Our query starts Oct. 1 and ends Nov 4. All times reported by the TV News Archive are in Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), which is four hours ahead of Eastern time in the United States.
In the first two weeks of October, MSNBC, whose audience leans left, aired more coverage of stories related to Russia than either Fox, whose audience leans right, or CNN did. (CNN’s audience is between the two ideologically but also leans left.) Some of those stories were about Mueller’s investigation.For example, on Oct. 14, when coverage spiked on MSNBC, the network led several segments with a story that was originally reported by NBC News about Manafort’s connections to a Russian oligarch.
‘>3 Other Russia-related coverage that MSNBC broadcast in the first two weeks of October included revelations originally reported by the The New York Times that Russia was using Facebook to influence what Americans read online during the 2016 election cycle. But perhaps the most interesting spike in MSNBC’s Russia coverage occurred on Oct. 6, when MSNBC’s Russia-related coverage frequently mentioned a dossier of allegations of compromising information about Trump from Russian sources that a former British intelligence officer had compiled during the 2016 campaign.The Television News Archive allows us to query its database for phrases that occur in close proximity to each other, defined as within four sentences.
“>4 The coverage focused on the news that the author of the dossier may have been willing to speak to Senate investigators about the contents of the document.
Although CNN was relatively quiet on Russia during those two weeks, we did see a spike in its coverage near the beginning of the month, when much of it mentioned Facebook.
All three networks’ Russia-related coverage began to spike again when Attorney General Jeff Sessions testified in front of Congress on Oct. 18 about President Trump’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey and other topics. However, Fox News’s Russia-related coverage spiked the most — in addition to airing coverage of Sessions’ testimony to Congress, it alone among the networks was giving airtime to a re-emerging story about the sale of uranium to Russia while Hillary Clinton was former President Obama’s secretary of state. This story, which was first reported in 2015, returned to Fox after The Hill published an article on Oct. 17 containing new information about an FBI probe that had collected evidence about the corrupt practices of Russian nuclear industry officials involved in the matter. That night, Sean Hannity aired a Fox News segment on the uranium deal, and the story picked up steam from there.
The dossier story also made a comeback during the second two weeks of October, but this time on Fox News rather than MSNBC. That followed a Washington Post report Oct. 24 that the company that had hired the former spy who authored the document was paid by a law firm representing the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
Both of those stories appeared more in Fox News’s Russia coverage than in MSNBC’s or CNN’s during the second half of October.Interesting tidbit I found in my research: Among the major cable business news networks, Fox Business featured the dossier and uranium stories, while Bloomberg and CNBC hardly aired any coverage of them or Mueller’s investigation, right up until the indictments went public.
CNN first reported on Oct. 27, a Friday, that charges had been filed in the Mueller investigation and that subjects could be taken into custody as soon as Monday. That led to a spike in Russia-related coverage at both CNN and MSNBC, but less so at Fox News. On Saturday and Sunday, just before the indictments were made public, words such as “uranium,” “dossier” and “Democrats” repeatedly popped up in Fox News coverage. The table below shows how much more or less often a word appeared in segments about Russia on each network that weekend compared with the three-channel average, expressed in standard deviations above or below the mean. For example, the word “collusion” appeared more often on CNN than it did in the average of the three networks; less often than that average on MSNBC; and right about average on Fox News.The list of words in this table was created by combining the 20 most commonly used words in Russia coverage from each network, with duplicates and common, filler words such as “going” and “think” removed.
|STANDARD DEVIATIONS FROM THREE-NETWORK AVERAGE|
As the news broke and in the days that followed, Fox News’s coverage of Russia tapered off, while coverage on CNN and MSNBC continued. On Oct. 31, there was a notable drop in Russia-related coverage by all three networks after a deadly terrorist attack occurred in New York City.