Monday, October 27, 2008

A picture is worth a lot of column space

You may or may not be familiar with the website, which is one of several that take a daily whip count of the electoral votes that each candidate would secure if the election were today. (Incidentally, fivethirtyeight is a superior site, if in this respect only, in that it's the only one that I am aware of that uses econometric inference to regress this data and project a winner on November 4th.)

One of the things that electoral-vote has added to its site since its inception during the 2004 contest, is a line graph showing both candidates' support in the electoral college--both with- and without the "leaners." The implicit argument goes, if either candidate shows a clear trend in electoral vote support, minus the closely-polling states, then that will tell a great deal about the underlying structure of the race without all the day-to-day noise.

So here then is the line graph of electoral college support for Barack Obama and John McCain, without leaners, from mid-March to the present day:

You will perhaps have noticed a few things: First, except for McCain's convention bounce, the clear trend-line for Obama has been inexorably upward. Not even the Paris Hilton ad, and the ten-day vacation that Obama took in Hawaii while it was running, made more than an insignificant dent in his consolidated electoral tally. In non-leaner states, he's been trending up all year. Second, while Obama has apparently been pulling leaner-states into non-leaner status (leading to yet more invocations of the exhausting "close the deal" expression), McCain has been losing his solid-vote count, particularly since the Lehman collapse and his "fundamentals are strong" gaffe--which may well be the only thing anyone ever remembers about this race, in another few years. Third, and entirely by the way, Obama's support without leaners adds up to significantly more than 270 electoral votes.

While the McCain team is arguing about when and whether to release Sarah Palin's medical records (latest word is that they'll be issued later today--Monday, October 27--though such promises have been made and broken before), while they're discussing how to reply to the devastating Sunday New York Times article, while they're finger-pointing over the issue of who leaked the fact that they were finger-pointing, Barack Obama continues to strengthen his grip on this contest in a manner that has impressed even many Republicans. At the moment Mr. McCain isn't even leading outside the margin-of-error in his home state of Arizona, and with the dubious assumptions being brought to the polling of this contest, particularly with respect to who is- and is not a "likely voter," the eventual margin could well be significantly larger.

As reported yesterday, Mr. Obama's crowds continue to dwarf those of McCain/Palin rallies (he had another eye-popper yesterday in Denver), and in a mainstream press that has spent much of the past three months trying to hold the matter artificially close, the topic has shifted to just how badly the down-ticket Republicans will be clobbered by the final act of McCain's ritual sepukku in the Capitol Hill parking lot. Stu Rothenberg has continually revised downward his House GOP head-count, and across the Capitol there is grave talk that Minority Leader Mitch McConnell himself may go down to defeat in Kentucky, if Obama's wave extends far enough into southern Appalachia to swing working-class independents in the Bluegrass State.

And so, as we await those Palin medical records, as early voting continues to show massive advantages for Team Blue from coast to coast, and as Senator Obama prepares to make his "closing argument" in a speech to be delivered later today in Ohio, the rest of us are left casting about for something poignant to say about the matter that won't sound tautological or redundant or both. So how's this for poignant: Sunday, the day that Senator McCain was failing to name the fifth Secretary of State who support his candidacy on Meet the Press, was the forty-first anniversary of the day McCain was shot down the first time--over Vietnam.

Dave O'Gorman
("The Key Grip")
Gainesville, Florida

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