Sunday, August 3, 2008

I wish I may, I wish I might

I think there are two sins in prognostication of a presidential election. The first of them is overconfidence. There is absolutely no question that there is data about the state of the race that ought to cause every supporter of Barack Obama a little concern. The two daily tracking polls show a tight race, and Obama's current projected margins in the electoral college are based on whisker advantages in a lot of states. Does Obama have this thing wrapped up in a pretty bow? No.

The second sin is hand-wringing. While there is good reason for caution, I do not think the data warrant an assumption that the race is tied. If it were tied, we could expect:

1. about third of the polls to show Obama with a lead,

2. about third of the polls to show McCain with a lead, and

3. about a third of the polls to show the race straight up tied.

Moreover, the polling data state by state would reflect the national polling. In most analyses of the electoral college, Obama consistently has led in the electoral college since the start of June. In other words, the data on the state level reflects the data on the national level.

I believe in steely-eyed honesty about the race. If I think Obama is down, I am going to say so. If I think Obama is tied, I am going to say so. But I think that Obama is up right now. My guess is that it's about four to five points.

Do I wish this were a blowout? Yes. But it isn't. Right now, it's very close, but if I wanted to be president, today, I would prefer to be Barack Obama than John McCain.

Can Obama screw this up? Yes. Can we his supporters screw this up? Yes. Do I believe there is a need for concern? Yes. Do I think the race is tied? No.


Anonymous said...

I basically agree with what you're saying. Both tracking polls do show a trend (and because they are updated daily, they're useful in identifying trends)--that Obama's lead is smaller now than it was seven weeks.

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