Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Chase for Change 2008: Election Countdown and Some Perspective from 2000/2004

Well for somewhat obvious reasons my focus was elsewhere these past two months, so I think this would be the first post in this series since Palin was picked as McCain's VP. Well what’s changed since then? Let’s see well Palin slowly lost credibly and has gone from being seeing as a genius gambit and to a massive drag on McCain’s campaign as she goes “rogue” for 2012, McCain lost credibility as the economy tanked and he suspended his campaign and seemed clueless what to do, McCain has launched desperate attack after desperate attack hoping something will stick, Joe the Plummer became official John McCain spokesman, and Sarah Palin’s friend Ted Stevens became a convicted felon and opened up another Senate on the Democrats’ quest for a filibuster proof majority in the Senate.

Meanwhile Obama has stayed consistently on message (notwithstanding some less than helpful remarks from some of his surrogates), put in 3 strong debate performances, responded to the economic crisis well and now has a chance to rout McCain on Election night. He’s put the Democrats back on the map in places where they’ve been out of the game for over a decade and has raised phenomenal amounts of money ($150 million in September alone!). Liberals here must make his campaign operation a case study for ourselves (and if they get some of the top guys who worked on his campaign to advise us all the better)

BUT, let’s NOT get too confident here. Obama is clearly leading, but McCain sits pretty much exactly where Al Gore sat in the polls at this point so late in the campaign in 2000. In the end he won the popular vote and should have won the election if they re-counted all the ballots in Florida. And in 2004...well take a look at these electoral college predictions from TWO DAYS before E-day last time. Kerry is seen is solidly ahead in Iowa, yet he lost. Kerry is ahead in Florida and he ended up being trounced losing by 5%. Kerry is ahead in Ohio and he lost there too. If you look at the next day you see Kerry up by 5% in Florida so that's 10% off the actual result.

So you can see that state polls in 2004 just two nights or even one night before E-day were off by more than 5 percentage points in several cases. Lucky for Obama he is in the lead in far more states than Kerry was, but if the national tide turns against Obama in the final days (as it did against Bush in 2000 and Kerry in 2004) then so would these state polls and McCain could pull ahead or Obama may only win by a razor thin margin late in the night. In 2000 the race was far closer than polls a week out predicted, in 2004 Bush won by many more votes than the polls a week out predicted, so let’s keep in the mind.

Even so, I'll be Chicago Tuesday cautiously optimistic that I’ll bear witness to Obama’s victory speech (and hopefully before midnight lest the crowd get too restless), but it definitely ain’t over till it’s over.

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