Monday, September 8, 2008

Is it time to panic?

Why is this election so close? Shouldn't Obama be cleaning McCain's clock, given his advantages in funding, organization, charisma, party ID trends, etc?

Not necessarily. Most presidential elections just aren't blowouts. In particular, presidential elections without incumbents are usually pretty close. As I've mentioned before, the last non-incumbent to win by more than 10 points was Ike in '52. Even Dukakis, who basically refused to fight back under attacks from the Bush Sr. campaign, only lost by eight points.

To me, the closest historical parallels to this election are those of 1952 and 1968. In both cases, the incumbent administrations (Truman and Johnson, respectively) were terribly unpopular with voters, largely because of unpopular wars. The incumbents declined to run that year for fear of losing. Their anointed successors (Adlai Stephenson and Humbert Humphrey, respectively) were solid candidates wearing the albatross of an unpopular party label. And in both cases, the incumbent party lost, but it was actually pretty close in 1968. Indeed, it might have gone the other way had George Wallace not taken some southern electoral votes from Humphrey as a third party candidate that year. McCain is in the unenviable position of Stephenson and Humphrey, trying to argue that he'll pursue the incumbent party's policies but in a more competent manner. It's difficult, but again, Humphrey almost pulled it off.

Most predictions I've seen (including my own) based on the economy, presidential approval, etc., suggest that Obama will win, but only by 4 to 6 points. Is there a penalty for being black? Possibly, which would knock Obama down by one or two points. So again, a really close race, which is exactly where things were just before the convention. Then Obama got a bounce out of his convention, and then McCain got a bounce out of his convention. After a week or so, things will probably settle down to where they were just before the conventions, which was pretty close.

Of course, we should still recognize that presidential elections are not national contests, but rather 51 statewide contests. In the state polling, Obama's position still looks pretty strong, as he's likely to take all the Kerry states, and traditionally red states like Montana and Virginia are in play.

Again, we'll have a more realistic idea of what the race looks like in a week or so. But it's likely to remain a nailbiter.


Josh Putnam said...

And the first wave of polls out of the battleground states doesn't seem to be giving McCain the boost that he appears to have gotten on the national level following the GOP convention. It is an incomplete picture, certainly, but the initial signals are promising from the Obama campaign's perspective.

I hesitate to fall back on this "things will settle back in to the equilibrium that existed prior to the conventions" argument. Conventional wisdom would tell us that that is the case, but all the same, we aren't going to know for sure until things do in fact settle down. The compression of the two VP rollouts and the conventions really make parsing out the trends a difficult enterprise.

Eric Rubin said...

sethro, what question would you ask palin if you were only allowed one? ahhh being charles gibson.....

Eric Rubin said...

my question would be:

why did you think these books should be banned from the public library in your hometown and why did you try and fire the librarian for not complying?

> A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
> A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
> Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden
> As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
> Blubber by Judy Blume
> Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
> Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
> Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
> Carrie by Stephen King
> Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
> Christine by Stephen King
> Confessions by Jean-Jacques Rousseau
> Cujo by Stephen King
> Curses, Hexes, and Spells by Daniel Cohen
> Daddy's Roommate by Michael Willhoite
> Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Peck
> Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
> Decameron by Boccaccio
> East of Eden by John Steinbeck
> Fallen Angels by Walter Myers
> Fanny Hill (Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure) by John
> Cleland
> Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes
> Forever by Judy Blume
> Grendel by John Champlin Gardner
> Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam
> Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
> Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
> Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
> Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
> Have to Go by Robert Munsch
> Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
> How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
> Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
> I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
> Impressions edited by Jack Booth
> In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
> It's Okay if You Don't Love Me by Norma Klein
> James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
> Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence
> Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
> Little Red Riding Hood by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
> Lord of the Flies by William Golding
> Love is One of the Choices by Norma Klein
> Lysistrata by Aristophanes
> More Scary Stories in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz
> My Brother Sam Is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and
> Christopher Collier
> My House by Nikki Giovanni
> My Friend Flicka by Mary O'Hara
> Night Chills by Dean Koontz
> Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
> On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
> One Day in The Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander
> Solzhenitsyn
> One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
> One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
> Ordinary People by Judith Guest
> Our Bodies, Ourselves by Boston Women's Health
> Collective
> Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
> Revolting Rhymes by Roald Dahl
> Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones by Alvin
> Schwartz
> Scary Stories in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz
> Separate Peace by John Knowles
> Silas Marner by George Eliot
> Slaughterhouse- Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
> Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs
> The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
> The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
> The Bastard by John Jakes
> The Catcher in the Rye b y J.D. Salinger
> The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
> The Color Purple by Alice Walker
> The Devil's Alternative by Frederick Forsyth
> The Figure in the Shadows by John Bellairs
> The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
> The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
> The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
> The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Snyder
> The Learning Tree by Gordon Parks
> The Living Bible by William C. Bower
> The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
> The New Teenage Body Book by Kathy McCoy and Charles
> Wibbelsman
> The Pigman by Paul Zindel
> The Seduction of Peter S. by Lawrence Sanders
> The Shining by Stephen King
> The Witches by Roald Dahl
> The Witches of Worm by Zilpha Snyder
> Then Again, Maybe I Won't by Judy Blume
> To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
> Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare
> Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary by the
> Merriam-Webster
> Editorial Staff
> Witches, Pumpkins, and Grinning Ghosts: The Story of the
> Halloween
> Symbols by Edna Barth

Eric Rubin said...

OK, so the list has been proven false, but it is true that she asked about banning books and then fired the librarian afterwards.