Monday, November 3, 2008

If They Say "Tightening," You Have to Drink

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AUTHOR'S NOTES: Late Monday evening I will upload a final electoral map showing my predictions for the final results, and Tuesday evening I'll be live-blogging the election returns as they come in, complete with my own version of lighting-up the map.

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If you're anything like me, you'll probably be spending an even bigger chunk of your productivity today, devouring political news in whatever forms you can get it. And assuming that you aren't taking all of your news from The Guardian (or perhaps even if you are, since I haven't seen the Guardian lately), it won't take you ten whole seconds of perusal to trip over the word "tightening"; it's as ubiquitous today as the phrase "probable fifty-seat majority in the House" was in the weeks following Bill Clinton's impeachment trial. And it's equally silly. There's no scientifically tractable evidence that this race has tightened one tiny little bit since the nadir of McCain's aimless and crank-headed wanderings through the three Presidential debates. Indeed for all of the breathless "developments" in the story, this election has been remarkably stable since the "suspending my campaign" fiasco, with Obama holding between a five- and thirteen-point lead (depending on a particular poll's house effect), and McCain's numbers stuck in the mid-40's and going absolutely nowhere.

So, never mind the usual avalanche of disconnected factoids. Never mind that the early voting canvass in places like North Carolina and Florida and Nevada and Ohio is running so dramatically better for Obama than his statewide polling numbers in any of those four places. Never mind that improbably red places like Montana and Arizona and Georgia are suddenly in play, or that while everyone has been watching Pennsylvania for signs that it might somehow move eight points over the past eight days, the states that Obama needs to win even without Pennsylvania (like Nevada and Ohio and Virginia) have receded farther and farther from McCain's reach. Never mind that, in a recent television ad, the McCain folks revealed to us that they may not even be capable of basic spelling. (Okay, I had to sneak one disconnectged factoid in there at the end--mostly because it's just too much fun not to share.) Never mind any of that. The news of the hour and the day is that Senator McCain has simply and inescapably run out of time.

And really, when the dust has truly settled and all the statistical noise is evident in hindsight for being just that, it is little wonder that McCain's comeback has fallen so short. As has been noted elsewhere, this past summer it took John McCain two solid months to whittle Barack Obama's national lead down from four points to zero with the Paris Hilton / Celebrity gambit. After the "suspending my campaign" fiasco, McCain woke to find himself trailing by twice that margin with fewer than six weeks to go, some of which included early voting in crucial states.

A careful examination of the crosstabs from one early-voting canvass by CBS and the New York Times reveals something about the measure of McCain's longshot status all along. According to that particular survey, Obama is leading in nationwide early voting by 57-38, almost double his overall lead in the tracking polls being conducted by the same two media outlets. But what makes the result so ominous for McCain is the underlying question about who these early voters supported in 2004, and only 45% of them indicated that they supported John Kerry in 2004. The conclusion is inescapable: Barack Obama's improbably strong showings aren't merely (or perhaps even mostly) the result of his superior turnout operation, or the result of a higher percentage of self-identifying Democrats this time around, either. If this one result is indicative, it suggests that a significant percentage of the middle-electorate is crossing over--from having supported George Bush in 2004, to supporting Barack Obama in 2008. What it suggests, in other words, is that John McCain has lost the only swathe of the population with whom his popularity was supposed to be inviolable: he's lost the independents.

...And in this country, when you've lost the independents, all the rest of this vote-counting, all the rest of this analysis, all the rest of this piecemeal discussion about which news stories will move the numbers and which ones won't, all of it is just so much rearranging the North Vietnamese bombing targets on the flight-plan.

Barack Obama is your next President.

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

5 comments:

isuyankee said...

You are right Dave. The media wants badly for this race to get interesting, but it's over. Intrade, the online prdictions market, has Obama trading at a 91% probability of being your next President. It was 87% late last week, so the race is actually turning into a biggger and bigger blowout.

Calvin and Hobbes said...

Don't forget that InTrade markets follow polling, not the other way around. Because of this, it's not a true futures market ala OJ, pork bellies, corn, etc...

isuyankee said...

If I'm correct, Intrade allows people to "bet" on the winner of the election. The way I read it, the "market" sees Obama as a 91% probability to win. Of course the gamblers on Intrade are watching the polls as they make their trading decisions. Is that your point Calvin? My only point is that 91% probability is a a pretty big number. This thing is over.

shabec said...

Thank heaven you guys are so rock-steady and sure! I have been out walking precincts here in mid-Florida, and the people who are against us are down-right ugly. My yard sign has been stolen 3 times and my friend's have been taken twice. He asked me if people wanted them or just wanted you not to have them. It is incredible for me to think that they who don't think you should have the right to vote or speak, don't understand that it their own rights they are willfully giving away.
A friend just phoned from NC and she reported that it is seeming very blue. She is from the same town as the first of guests to get a trip to the winning party (Cary, NC)However, my friend said all the media is saying FL is going red. How about it guys?

Calvin and Hobbes said...

shabec, I've heard other stories. My friend's parents live in Richmond and her mom was walking down the street and was asked by two other women if she was the one w/ the Obama signs. She said yes and they told her to "go to hell." I mean really? Grown adults telling other adults to go to hell because of their candidate support? They also received some unmarked hate mail, a photo copy of an Obama bumper sticker with the words "wise up" written underneath.

Pretty sick actually.

isuyankee, you are right and those are essentially the odds on what people perceive the election to be, however, if you were to plot the daily polling and the InTrade markets for the general election, you would see remarkable similarity.