Saturday, October 16, 2004

So Now, Who is Going to Win the Presidential Election?

From Jonathan Last's recent newsletter:

"So who's going to win? I've heard every scenario imaginable in the last few days: Bush by a landslide; Kerry by a landslide; Bush loses the popular vote but wins the Electoral College (or vice versa); they tie at 269; the election turns on a Supreme Court decision about Colorado--you name it, people are talking about it.

"In one sense, this is sort of exciting. Think about how often the outcome of the presidential election is a complete mystery just a few weeks out. This doesn't happen every day.

"I have my own pet theory, which is that whoever wins, it isn't going to be close. Here's why:

"While everyone is looking at previous presidential elections for models, it seems to me that the most recent set of elections--the Democratic primaries--are as good as any. The results in Iowa, New Hampshire, and elsewhere differed radically from pre-vote polling. In large part, this was because voter turnout was much, much high than expected. I see no reason not to believe that, for the general election, voter turnout is going to be similarly enormous for both parties (and independents).

"The greater the number of voters, the more meaningless pre-election polling is. That's because today's polls use sample-sizes based on normal turnout years. They simply aren't built to evaluate a super-high turnout election--look at what happened to the polls before the Iowa caucuses.

"The second part of this theory is that increased turnout magnifies the distance between the candidates. So while the election might look close with normal turnout, that spread will be much more visible to the naked eye with an extra several million votes thrown into the mix.

"And the final, non-statistical, factor in my theory is that I have difficulty that America could be evenly divided on such stark contrasts on the issue of war. The body politic probably has a marked preference for one view of the other.

"In truth, there may be one other factor in this--my own personal desire for a clear-cut winner. Whatever happens, I hope we don't have another disputed election. If we do, it's not the end of the world; this is why we have a Constitution. But still, all things being equal, I'd rather we have a clear-cut winner so that whoever is president can start his term looking forward, with a country behind him that is more-or-less united."

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