Political Weekly: One Month to Go

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White House Bureau Chief James Downie returns with an early prediction on who will win the White House.

Recently I was rewatching the most recent season of the hit BBC show Top Gear. For the non-Anglophiles among my reader(s?), Top Gear is technically a car show, but it’s really much more about three middle-aged British “blokes” clowning about, driving fast cars, and staging epic stunts/races (including one to the North Pole) — with all the top production quality of the best American television. Anyways, last season they staged a race across Japan (which starts at 6:10 of this video), with one driving, and the other two taking the famous bullet train. After several hours, one side won — by only three minutes.

Sometimes, races are really that close. Most races, though, never reach the dramatic heights in the closing stages that the pre-race hype suggests they will. In fact, sometimes it is the blowout that becomes news. In politics, pundits have been blessed over the past eight years with two amazingly close presidential elections, and the greatest primary season since primaries began. This October, though, the only drama is on the baseball diamond. Barring a scandal of Lewinsky proportions, Senator Barack Obama will win in November. It’s now the same question that we had with Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps: Obama will win, but by how much?

Due to Bwog space restrictions, you’ll have to read below the fold to find out why. And now, the news:

In the Bag: Obama supporters can be reasonably confident just by looking at the national polls, which continue to show 6-7 point leads for Obama. But that’s not the measure that elections are decided by – it is the electoral college. According to their calculations, Obama has 269 electoral votes in states he is projected to win by five points or more. That is before adding in states like Nevada, Ohio, Virginia, New Hampshire, and Florida (all five of which are looking more and more favorable to Obama), as well as North Carolina, Indiana and Missouri (which remain just barely in McCain’s column). McCain has to win all of these to even get a tie, an almost impossible feat.

You Can’t Add What Isn’t There: There are three more factors that should have McCain supporters worried beyond just the poll numbers. First, almost every poll will be underestimating Obama’s numbers at least a little. Why? Because the pollsters will not account for youth and minority turnout, which have spiked significantly this election, and will favor Obama immensely. One example from early voting: in Georgia, blacks are making up 40% of early voters; if that number held, Obama would actually have a good chance at winning Georgia.

It’s The Best Kind of Criticism: Let me interrupt myself for this Onion news bulletin on Obama’s latest ads.

Just No Comparison: Factor #2 – there is no comparison in the turnout machines of the two campaigns. Thanks to voter enthusiasm, the experience of the primaries, and smart operatives, the Democrats are far ahead. Salon’s Walter Shapiro compares the two campaigns in Wisconsin.

So…We Don’t Chant “Defense?”: Factor #3 – most importantly, McCain is no longer trying to win any state that went Democratic 4 years ago, except for Pennsylvania. As his Florida numbers have dived (and therefore have needed more money to move back up), McCain has had to pull out of Michigan entirely, and pull back in other 2004 Democratic states like New Hampshire. Rumors are now swirling that he’ll also have to pull out of Pennsylvania as well, making it impossible to win any Democratic-leaning states without a gaffe by the Obama camp.

The Talking Heads Start to Notice: No, not those Talking Heads. Anyways, much of the media is still trying to portray this race as close, but hints of admission are starting to sneak in. On the Democratic side, former Hillary Clinton campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson, now at The New Republic, declared the race done yesterday, and, on the right, Karl Rove’s election map gives Obama 273 electoral votes already.

About That VP Debate: The Biden-Palin showdown last Thursday was the most watched debate since 1980. Pundits on both sides of the aisle thought their candidate did extremely well, with some thinking that Palin has set herself up for 2012. Viewers, though, gave the debate to Biden by a similarly large amount to the first Obama-McCain debate, and the debate has had little effect on polling numbers.

The Long-Awaited Comedy Break: SNL’s take on the VP debate, in which both sides get their fair share.

Serious Free Viewing: Frontline’s quadriennal series “The Choice” premiers tomorrow night on PBS (and online as well!), and is highly recommended as the best portraits of the candidates you will see all year.



  1. cmon now  

    take a look at the bradley effect:
    it basically hypothesizes that people over-report voting for a black candidate in live polls to seem socially progressive. It's a controversial hypothesis but its been proven true in some instances in the past. Looking at poll numbers from swing states in this election, it looks like the effect may strike again.

    Check out ohio, for instance:
    using the filter tool, we can take out live interviewer polls (where people are more likely to be dishonest) from the average.

    Obama's numbers go from up 48.0%-46.1% to down 47.5%-45.8%.

    Thats a big deal.

    A similar trend exists in most swing states (except Virginia). The numbers are all still within the standard margin of error, but the trends seem pretty clear to me.

    • James  

      The Bradley effect does not exist anymore, and has not at least since the early to mid 90s. The wikipedia article has no confirmed incidences of it since 1992. The two most recent race that it mentions (Tennessee senate and Louisiana governor) both refuted the existence of a Bradley effect. Furthermore, there has been nothing even approaching conclusive evidence whatsoever that any race involving Obama this election cycle has been affected by the Bradley effect.

      • actaully james

        there is some analysis of the dem primary season which suggests that the bradley effect may in fact exist for states without high AA populations

        in fact, your reference to Louisiana in the wiki article as refuting the bradley effect is shortsighted because the wiki bit itself if pretty bad--remember Jindal lost in his first attempt at governor despite being tied or ahead in just about all polls directly before the election...secondly, the fact that he won doesn't refute it either considering that he was a conservative who was pretty much backed by the establishment as well as key dems--on top of that the main opponents he had (all white males) did actually outperform their poll numbers on election day [which might have also been because of a near unanimous break of undecideds for them because jindal essentially won w/the numbers he'd polled with]

        anyway i'm sure you read 538 just like i do (though the bloggers there are getting more partisan and bitter by the day)..anyway..the response sean oxendine had to silver's off handed attack of him is actually an interesting read which suggests that there may actually be some evidence for a bradley effect..i've put all the relevant links if you want to take a look (though the 4th is the interesting one)





        as for whether the race is over--obama is clearly in the lead and even if it tightens up probably holds an advantage. however, i'd caution that its still close enough in enough states that if it does tighten up a little then mccain does have a slim chance at winning---it would probably depend on a clean sweep of states that initially had been pegged as mccain ones (NC, VA, OH, FL) along with one or two suprises (CO and NV or WI or something). This is unlikely, but definitely possible even in a Obama +2-4 scenario

  2. superstitious  


  3. gundamfan  

    I love Top Gear! I spent the summer watching it, and managed to get through the first 8 seasons. Only 3 to go...

  4. top gear  

    top gear is easily one of the best shows around. season 12 is starting in less than a month. WOO!

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