Election 2008: It’s Over

Ken AshfordElection 2008Leave a Comment


It’s over?!?  How can that be?  Election Day is 100 days away.

But that’s what many are already saying.  Check out this electoral map from Pollster.com:


[The actual map at Pollster.com is better — it’s interactive, so you can see the underlying polls on which this map is based]

Now, with 270 electoral votes needed, Obama is already there (barring, of course, a huge gaffe of epic proportions). 

To win, McCain would have to maintain all his "lean McCain" states, win ALL the tossup states (in yellow above), and snag a major "lean Obama" state (like Ohio).  That’s a very tall order.

Experts are starting to way in that this is shaping up to be a blowout.  In an essay titled "The Myth of a Toss-up Election," Alan Abramowitz (Emory), Tom Mann (Brookings) and Larry Sabato (Virginia), jointly declared:

[V]irtually all of the evidence that we have reviewed – historical patterns, structural features of this election cycle, and national and state polls conducted over the last several months – points to a comfortable Obama/Democratic party victory in November. Trumpeting this race as a toss-up, almost certain to produce another nail-biter finish, distorts the evidence and does a disservice to readers and viewers who rely upon such punditry….

It is no exaggeration to say that the political environment this year is one of the worst for a party in the White House in the past sixty years. You have to go all the way back to 1952 to find an election involving the combination of an unpopular president, an unpopular war, and an economy teetering on the brink of recession….[I]f history is any guide, and absent a dramatic change in election fundamentals or an utter collapse of the Obama candidacy, John McCain is likely to suffer the same fate as Adlai Stevenson.

Other political science academics aren’t quite as willing to go that far out on a limb:

Vanderbilt’s John Geer, in turn, is by no means convinced that McCain will lose as badly as Adlai Stevenson in 1952.

"We all know it is a Democratic year. But that does not mean Obama will win. Yes, the odds are in his favor. But there are at least 3 reasons why the election may be close, with either McCain or Obama winning," Geer said.

First, according to Geer, "we live in a post 9-11 world and the public has to be comfortable with a candidate’s ability to deal with foreign policy. Many voters are not yet comfortable….Second, McCain is a good candidate….Third, the last two presidential elections have been very close. Yes, there have been Democratic gains in some quarters and turnout may be up. But turnout was up in 2004 from 2000 and Republicans had made gains right after 9-11 and yet the election remained close."

Robert Y. Shapiro (Columbia) also sees a close election, but he adds that the closeness means the quality of the two campaigns will become all the more crucial: "This is where I see Obama as the likely victor not only in the popular vote but in winning, perhaps by very close margins, in the past blue states he needs to hold on to, and in Ohio and states in the west and possibly a few surprises. This will happen if, as I expect, Obama outcampaigns McCain."

Along similar lines, Michael S. Lewis-Beck, of the University of Iowa, said he and a colleague, Charles Tien of Hunter College, City University of New York, have just written an essay forecasting "that Obama will win, but just by a hair. The reason the contest will be so close is because of what we call ‘ballot box racism.’ We estimate that about 11 or 12 percent of voters who would otherwise vote for Obama will not vote for him because he is black. Our forecasting model, if uncorrected for the race factor, predicts a landslide for Obama. But once the ‘racial cost’ is corrected for, we get a bare Obama majority (about 50.6% of the two-party popular vote)."

Helmut Norpoth of Stony Brook University has an even closer prediction based on his model: a virtual tie, 50.1 percent for Obama, 49.9 percent for McCain.

Interestingly, nobody is predicting a McCain win right now.  Even by a hair.

My personal feeling is that, while I’m happy about this news, it would be bad to get complacent about this.  After all, if people already think it’s a done deal, turnout will be low, and that could tip the scales in some close states.