A Bunch of What-If’s
If Barack Obama is re-elected soon after you read this column—as I think he will—it will reinforce a couple of truths, one quasi-scientific, the other the stuff of legend. If it turns out differently, it will give credence to beliefs or tenets of the right.
The quasi-scientific issue is the art of polling accumulation and analysis as practiced most notably by Nate Silver of the New York Times, but also by the lesser celebrees Mark Blumenthal and his colleagues at Pollster.Com, Drew Linzer at Votamatic and the Princeton Election Consortium.
They each have their own systems of weighting and averaging the numerous state and national polls, often adding history and macroeconomic factors into the mix, coming up with estimated electoral votes and the odds on a candidate’s (in this case Obama) winning.
Despite different methods, both Silver and Blumenthal came up with similar estimates of mid-70 to 80 percent chances of an Obama victory in the popular vote and the Electoral College. The Princetonians probability is in the high nineties. The market bettors at Intrade put the odds in the mid-60s.
Silver, the best publicized, has become a security blankie for liberals and other Obamanians. If he’s wrong their world will be shattered.
I omit the well-known Real Clear Politics, which does a simple, unweighted accumulation of polls regardless of their reliability, does not engage in its own projections and is very conservative in assigning states to a candidate.
The other factor in the Democratic belief system is in the once and possibly still spectacular Obama ground game, which, it is believed, can add as much as two points on Election Day. That’s why the Obama pros are not phased by narrow margins or seeming ties—even a one-point lag.
Some acknowledge that the 2008 enthusiasm is not there; I also have had knowledgeable friends from different states advise that the mechanism itself now has kinks or even ineptitude. We shall see.
On the other hand, as we CYA artists say, if Mitt Romney wins, the pollsters themselves—even the GOP leaners—were wrong because they constructed bad models, oversampled Democrats or were otherwise biased or incompetent i.e., the only reliable poll is on election day.
Of course the right has its own analysts with their own intuitive interpretations, such as Karl Rove and Dick Morris, to say nothing of George Will. Could be that Rove and his ever-present mysterious whiteboard or Morris with his “secret” polling sources actually have the real dope.
They too believe in their own lower profile ground game, touted by Ralph Reed, which often includes hordes of Evangelicals or, in this unique instance, a huge cadre of Mormons in the Mountain States who will turn things around. In fairness, the former materialized in the past, notably in rural Ohio in 2004, which overpowered John Kerry’s forces, depriving him of an Electoral College victory.
There will be red faces on one side or the other come Wednesday—apart from the losers’ Niagara of tears. Expect both from me should Obama miss.
Don Roese is a regular columnist for the Chicago Daily Observer