Monday, July 21, 2008

November Spoiler Alert


If you blog about politics and want to continue to bloviate about November's top spot, avoid Alan Abramowitz. He's pretty damned sure who'll win and has the formula and results to support that.

The Emory University professor's electoral barometer has far exceeded any and all polls' ability to predict. Looking at this year, as my favorite Financial Times columnist Clive Crook puts it, "History suggests Mr McCain is toast."

We should well demand to know how that could be. After all, as the winger broadcasters and bloggers, and even many of the MSM types who ostensibly favor Barack Obama say otherwise. Many point to numerous polls that show a tiny difference between the two presumptive nominees.

Well, Professor Know-It-All cares little for such feeble forecasting. Instead, he uses EB=NAR+(5*GDP)-25.

His electoral-barometer score results from starting with the President's net approval rating in the Gallup Poll (that's approval minus disapproval figures). Then adding five times the annual gross domestic product growth rate. Finally, if the President's party has been in the White House for two terms or longer, subtracting 25.

For this election, the old EB gives Obama a strong win, with McCain facing what Abramowitz writes is a triple whammy — "an unpopular president, a weak economy, and a second term election." McCain's EB would factor -39 NAR, with a growth of 0.6% and Bush's party in for eight years. That's what Abramowitz figures as "a dismal -63."

The only comparable figure was in 1980, when Jimmy Carter lost his smile and the election in very similar circumstances.

We can ask why anyone should believe some academic's noodling and doodling. After all, don't financial advisers always have to advise that past performance is not predictor? Sure they do, but national politics seem different. Consider:
  • EB nails 14 of the past 15 elections from 1948
  • Its miss is the extremely narrow Hubert Humphrey loss in 1968, and even there he was up only 2% and the popular-vote difference ended up at 1%
  • EB is also a grand predictor of the margin of victory
Those who find employment or amusement in writing and speaking about polls will likely be hostile to Abramowitz' smugness. Regardless of his excellent stats, we like the agon. Pinkos as well as wingers enjoy the struggle; that's the American way. Nearly everyone wants McCain to have a decent chance and thus to provide cheap thrills over the next four months.

Moreover, as both Hillary Clinton and McCain pointed out, doesn't the first black Presidential candidate for a major party have a serious issue with white voters? Abramowitz didn't avoid that one either. He writes that even if Obama doesn't a get a mass infusion of white voters, he's still looking good. As Prof. EB put it:
With whites expected to comprise less than 80 percent of the 2008 electorate, and with a 20-1 margin among black voters and a 2-1 margin among Hispanic voters, Obama's current nine point deficit among white voters would translate into a decisive victory in November.
Without even factoring in young and new voters, that seems to be yet another passing of the guard. The national demographics continue to shift from total dominance by white voters.

The short of it is that the EB looks vastly superior to polls, particularly the summer ones. I shall continue to pretend that American voters are eager for debates on the very substantial policy differences here. I'm not so sure any more that is true, but hey, I'm American too. I like a good contest.

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