Paul Waldman

Paul Waldman is a contributing editor for the Prospect and the author of Being Right is Not Enough: What Progressives Must Learn From Conservative Success.

Recent Articles

The Difference Between Accuracy and Fairness In Campaign Ads

From a Mark Pryor ad explaining that Tom Cotton may or may not want your children to get Ebola.
Before we get to today's campaign nastiness, a word about that creature known as "opposition research." Most people who are familiar with the term probably think it means something like "digging up dirt" on your opponent, which must involve things like going through the transcripts of his divorce to read about that time his wife came home early to find him doing unspeakable things with a roll of cling wrap, or rooting through his garbage to read his credit card bills. Every once in a while it can, but oppo researchers' biggest job is usually going through every vote the client's opponent ever took to see what sort of hay can be made out of them. Since bills are often complex—particularly budget bills that can have hundreds and hundreds of items in them—it's usually possible to say, "Our opponent voted for this horrible thing," or alternatively, "Our opponent voted against this wonderful thing," whether or not that was the intention of his vote. Even on bills whose provisions are less...

The Silver Lining for Democrats if They Lose the Senate in 2014

Click inside for the full charty goodness.
There are really only two possible outcomes for Democrats in this year's Senate elections. Either Republicans are going to win enough seats to take control of the chamber, or Democrats will hold on by the skin of their teeth. The first outcome is more likely, simply because of the map. Democrats are defending twenty-one seats while Republicans are only defending fifteen seats. Furthermore, many of those Democratic seats are in conservative states like West Virginia, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Montana, making it even tougher. So if you're a Democrat who's getting depressed by the prospect of a Republican Senate and all the loveliness that would bring, here's something that might make you feel a little better. A couple of weeks ago, I made a graph showing all this year's Democratic candidates and the tough environment many face. I decided to duplicate it for the 2016 races, as a little liberal pick-me-up. Here's the good news for Democrats: Even if Republicans take the Senate this year,...

Why We Need Killer Robots

See, they can be our friends. (Flickr/Brian Gyss)
If there's one thing we can all agree on, it's that we don't want killer robots on the battlefield, mowing down the pathetic human meatsacks in front of them as they practice for the inevitable uprising in which they enslave us all. Or do we? The other day, Rose Eveleth reported in the Atlantic about a company called Clearpath Robotics that had issued an open letter foreswearing the manufacture of killer robots (which we can define as robots that can make the decision to kill human beings without the approval of a human being). This follows on a lengthy 2012 report from Human Rights Watch laying out the case against any military creating such machines, and a UN meeting in May at which countries were urged not to develop autonomous systems with the ability to kill on their own. But I'm here to say: we need killer robots. Let's understand first of all that we're some time away from having software sophisticated enough that we could trust it to operate a lethal machine on its own on a...

Why Rand Paul Is a Press Management Wizard

Flickr/Gage Skidmore
How does Rand Paul do it? He's not someone who can give a speech that'll make you cry, like Barack Obama can, and he's not someone who lights up a room like Bill Clinton. He's never written a law, let alone an important one that improved people's lives. Nobody thinks he's some kind of super-genius. When he first came on the political scene he was stumbling all over himself to reconcile his quasi-libertarian beliefs with mainstream opinion. And yet he gets way more attention than anybody else running for president. While it would be foolish to talk about anyone being a front-runner at this point, he seems to have at least as good a shot as anyone at being at least one of the main contenders vying for the Republican nomination. So how does he do it? Let's take a look at today's case study, a front-page article in the Washington Post about a trip Paul took to Guatemala to do some charitable ophthalmological work. (Paul is an ophthalmologist.) The Post sent a reporter down with him, at no...

The Incompetent Pollster Mystery Solved!

So many numbers...
In today's Washington Post, there's an article about pollsters who fail miserably, asking how wrong you have to be to never work again. The answer, of course, is that there is simply no level of wrongness that will keep you from getting more clients. While the article has some interesting information in it, it fails completely to answer the real question: Why does this happen? Well, I'll tell you the answer in a moment. But first here's an excerpt: A pollster is one of those jobs — like a football lineman or an oil-tanker captain — that normal people tend to notice only when one of these specialized professionals messes up. In that sense, 2012 was a banner year for Republican pollsters. Romney may have lost handily in his quest to become president, but he famously thought he was going to win right up until the last minute. A lot of that blame fell upon a polling firm called Public Opinion Strategies. Neil Newhouse, who acted as Romney’s top pollster, still doesn’t like to talk about...

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