04 / November
04 / November
Don't Drink the Kool-Aid Until That Fat Smiley-Faced Red Guy Jumps Through The Wall

Four years ago, I went on SkyNews with Sidney Blumenthal. Despite being the token conservative talking head, I refused to put on a brave face and tell the world that John Kerry would lose. I didn't believe it. I had encountered the same exit polls as my debating partner. They indicated a Kerry triumph. Blumenthal was absolutely giddy and I was, though not glum, a bit angry inside that a Bush presidency had not only resulted in bigger, less Constitutional government and a needless war, but in a John Kerry presidency to boot. It didn't look good for George W. Bush, I said to my overseas audience.

Later that night, as I attended a huge Election Night party with free booze and massive multi-screen televisions, several Bush partisans basically taunted me that their guy had won--as if I had been rooting for Kerry. I hadn't been, but in politics when one takes a realist position that concludes that the other candidate will win, partisans interpret that as treason and assume that a prediction of a sour outcome somehow reflects a hope of that outcome. The Super Republicans, then, weirded me out, but ultimately, as the returns showed Bush capturing states, like Colorado, that the polls indicated that he had no business winning, I came to the realization that even the most partisan Republican hacks generally have a better feel for electoral politics than seasoned liberal pros like Blumenthal (I would have paid to have seen a time-lapsed image of his smirk morphing into a frown that evening). When you see Dan Rather declare Dick Swett the next senator from the state of New Hampshire, then see Bob Smith give a raucous victory speech a few hours later, this has the tendancy to make you trust your gut more than your television. This is why so many Republicans go into this election with the feeling that, yes, John McCain has a fighting chance.

Should Barack Obama lose, Democrats will cite the much-hyped Bradley Effect--the notion that white voters talk one way but vote another way when it comes to black candidates. I don't think this phenomenon exists, at least to an extent that it effects the outcome of elections. What does exist, let's call it the Kerry Effect, is a pattern of Democratic candidates performing better in opinion polls--exit, phone, and otherwise--than they do in the actual polls. This seems especially true of Obama, whose fanatical supporters seemed to find a way to share their opinions with exit pollsters far disproportionate to their number of actual votes. Always and everywhere in the Democratic primaries, Senator Obama's exit polls outperformed his votes. Add to this the strange decision of many pollsters to discard traditional sampling models in favor of a model that anticipates massive turnout among young people and African Americans. This seems more wish than science. Tonight's results, because of these factors, will be much tighter than these blowout-predicting models suggest.

That said, I do not believe John McCain will win. My prediction of a Democrat victory four years ago, then, wasn't wrong but merely premature. The Real Clear Politics poll of polls shows Obama commanding a seven-point lead. That's just too great a chasm for John McCain to bridge, even with the flawed polling methodology that assumes African Americans and young people--two groups that traditionally don't vote in huge numbers--will buck all past voting trends and the fanatacism of Obama supporters who sit in the dark waiting for that call from a pollster, any pollster. Tim Carney's exhaustive election analysis predicting a 291-247 victory for Obama strikes me as trustworthy.

Can John McCain win? Sure, it's possible. Remember, when pundits mock him for playing "defense" in states like Ohio and Virginia they ignore the fact that all McCain needs to do is defend the states the Republicans won the last time around and he'll be the next president. It's Obama that needs to recolor the map, not McCain. Heck, McCain can even lose a few states that Bush won--say, Colorado and New Mexico--and still become president. I highly doubt this scenario, but, as the opening paragraph indicates, I've drunk the pollsters's Kool Aid on past election days to my regret. I won't be drinking the Kool Aid this year, at least until that fat, smiley-faced red guy jumps through my wall or McCain concedes--whichever comes first.

posted at 01:20 AM

Should McCain win today then the results will be contested and it will drag out for the next month or so. Regardless of how well it were proven, how irrefutable the facts, a McCain win will be forever claimed to be a stolen election and only happened because America is racist.

Posted by: Opus on November 4, 2008 07:45 AM

It took The Messiah 15 minutes to vote today. What on the ballot was so confusing that it required a quarter of an hour to figure out?

Haavaaghd? Right.

Posted by: asdf on November 4, 2008 10:49 AM

Dan, you make it sound like you were not supposed to be on Sky News as a conservative. Aren't you forgetting that the entire Sky broadcasting empire is owned by our dear friend Rupert, who also owns everything branded Fox? Just wondering. ;-)

Posted by: Gittle on November 4, 2008 01:40 PM

Gittle, wasn't something branded Fox, i.e. Fox Network often castigated for smarmy edgy comedy? Married with Children was *hated* by the real traditional crowd.

Murdoch contributed to Bill and Hillary Clinton's campaigns. He's only an arch-conservative in the liberal mind, because it makes a handy circumstantial ad hominem to those buyers-in.

Ailes made a pitch that there was a market for a news and information network that didn't automatically dismiss conservative viewpoints. Murdoch, who likes dollars, and it has paid off for him many times over.

Posted by: Sea King on November 4, 2008 05:35 PM

A giant pitcher of Kool Aid just crashed through my living room wall after two little children shouted, "Hey, Kool Aid!" I guess that settles it: Barack Obama is the next president of the United States.

Posted by: Dan Flynn on November 4, 2008 11:01 PM
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