Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Very very softly. It's over.

The Phillies are in the World Series, Obama is winning the election. There may be a God--The Pew Research Center, one of the most trusted polling establishments, this afternoon reported that Barack Obama was 14 points ahead of John McCain in the national race. If that is correct, Obama is about to blow this thing open with two weeks to go.

In fairness, that Pew poll is an outlier, higher than any other poll, some of which have it down as close as 2 (another outlier). The general consensus before Pew published was Obama by around 6, still a handsome number. Remember, the record is 8.5 points, Bill Clinton over Bob Dole. Fourteen is a bit much.

In the last few days there were signs that the race was tightening the way races always tighten at the end, but that tightening (think sphincter) levelled off the last day or so and the Pew poll (which incidentally had a very large number of respondents, almost 3,000), is either a blip in the polling statistics or the beginning of a blowout.

Polls are not predictors; they are snapshots. But there are statistical ways of projecting one of those snapshots out to the end. Several good sites do that. Here's what some of them say.

  • Pollyvote out of the Wharton School, has Obama ahead by 6. This uses a statistical package plus input from political experts and all kinds of razzamataz I won't even try to understand. It has a repution for accuracy.
  • Nate Silver's fivethirtyeight.com, which uses something like baseball's sabermetrics, gives the chances of an Obama victory at 92.5%. The chances of a landslide are 33.43% and Obama is most likely to win 344 electoral votes and the Democrats to wind up with 56 Senate seats.
  • The Princeton Election Consortium has Obama winning 362 electoral votes.
  • Real Clear Politics, the standard most journalists use, has Obama up by 6.9 points
  • Gallup tracking has an 11 lead.
  • Pollster.com has Obama up by 6.1. You can see the EV chart to the right.

Now, very quietly so the evil spirits don't hear us--no candidate as far behind as John McCain is at this stage of an election, has ever come back to win. Shshsh.

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