by JS O’Brien
The mainstream media is reminding me more and more of football announcers struggling to keep viewers from changing channels.
Bud: Well, the Bumblin’ Bombers are down by 15 with just under two minutes left, Clint, but the game is far from over.
Clint: That’s right, Bud. They have no time-outs left, but if they run their two-minute drill effectively, they can certainly move the ball down the field, get the touchdown, make a two-point conversion, then cover an onside kick, drive for another touchdown, and send the game to overtime.
Bud: Though the Bombers have been held to only 42 yards in total offense in the second half, this is an explosive team, and they’ve come back from situations like this, before, right Clint?
Clint: Right you are again, Bud. Why, just five minutes ago, the Raiders were down by 18, recovered a fumble on the Kickin’ Keesters’ 15-yard-line, and put the game within reach with a field goal. So, don’t go away folks! We have an exciting finish coming up right after these messages from our sponsors.
Give me a break. Sure, I have seen amazing comebacks in many sports (or at least their reruns), but they are extremely rare, and election comebacks of that magnitude are even rarer. We’re not talking about the Heidi Bowl, here.
Why is this one over? Let me count the ways.
Has there been some tightening in the race in recent days? Yes. A bit. But the tightening is well within what’s expected at the end of a campaign. The Real Clear Politics national average stands at +6 for Obama as I write this, and that’s down from a high of +8 on October 14, which is an average gain of a bit over a tenth of a point per day for McCain — and there are only four days to go before Election Day.
The range (standard deviation) among the major polls is quite wide, and that gives many people pause. I have pored over the cross tabs and polling methodologies of those polls that publish such things (and not enough do), and it is clear that the discrepancies come from two pollster assumptions: (1) the number of Democrats vs. Republicans that are interviewed and/or weighted, and (2) a further screen to determine “likely voters.” Even the polls with the most favorable (for McCain) D vs. R assumptions and the most favorable likely voter screens still have Obama with at least a +3 lead, and those polls anticipating record Democratic turnout and much-heavier-than-normal turnout among African Americans and young voters are producing Obama leads as high as +15.
In other words, it’s highly unlikely that the +3 national number is correct and just as highly unlikely that the +15 number is the right one. The real number is most likely somewhere in between, and the RCP +6 poll average is a realistic guess.
Virtually every story in the media, from Sean Quinn’s excellent series of on-the-road observations on FiveThirtyEight to Liz Sidoti’s piece on the resources both campaigns are putting into the ground game lauds Obama’s organizing effort. It seems very likely that the Democrats will out hustle the Republicans in getting their voters to turn out come election day, and there is evidence that, in some states, they are already successful in turning out large numbers of Democratic leaners in early voting.
Obama has an enormous financial advantage, and has been spending as much as four times what McCain is spending on advertising in battleground states for weeks. McCain has husbanded his limited resources until the last weeks of the campaign, and is now matching, or is closer to matching, Obama’s ad expenditures in key states. Still, the Obama campaign announced today that they are taking out new advertising time in Georgia, North Dakota, and McCain’s home state of Arizona. They feel they have an outside shot at winning in those states, and have so much money available, and so much confidence, that they feel they can devote resources to outside shots.
In the meantime, the GOP is changing its message strategy to try to convince voters not to let the Democrats “have it all.”
Clearly, despite public pronouncements to the contrary, both campaigns think this presidential contest is over, and the GOP is trying to salvage what it can.
The Electoral College
According to RCP’s electoral map, Obama currently has 311 votes either solidly in his camp or leaning towards him, and McCain has 142 votes. Much has been said about how important Pennsylvania is to this election, since this is the only state Kerry took in 2004 that he is now trying to capture. Sure, Pennsylvania is important, but ONLY if McCain can win ALL of the toss-up states (which gets him to 227 of the 270 votes he needs) and then takes states away from Obama to get the other 43. Without running the table on toss-up states, Pennsylvania is very nearly irrelevant. IF he runs the table and IF he can take Ohio and Pennsylvania away, he’s still two votes away from victory. If he takes only Ohio away (more likely than taking Pennsylvania), then he needs to find a way to get 23 more votes, and that would require taking one of the following combinations: Virginia, New Mexico, and Nevada; or Virginia, Colorado, and either New Mexico or Nevada.
Some pundits have called this an uphill battle and I suppose it is if, by uphill battle, one means climbing Mt. Everest in a howling blizzard at -50F without oxygen.
This one is over, folks. Don Meredith, one of the original sportscasters on Monday Night Football, must have felt the same way I do about talking heads who try to make a game that’s over still seem exciting. He used to sing a little song at the end of a game that seems apt for this presidential race:
Turn out the lights, the party’s over.