The Mark Shields Post (Who I Think Will Win The Presidential Election)

Back when I first got interested in politics, which, strange as it may seem, was only four years ago, one of my favorite columnists was Mark Shields.  Back then he was writing for CNN as one of the Democratic counterpoints to Bob Novak.

What was perhaps ironic about my affection for Shields’ regular contributions was that his columns weren’t the kind of inside baseball material that I usually thirst for.  Novak thrived on beltway gossips, and Paul Begala focused on process and political science dynamics.  But Mark Shields had this ability to humanize politics, to make that connection between the kind of politico vernacular that is the life blood of political junkies and regular folks sitting on their couches and watching reruns while they wait for the evening news.

One of the most formative columns I’ve ever read actually came from Mark Shields.  On the day before election day in 2004, he wrote a column simply titled, “A Pundit’s Gotta Predict.”  While the piece was his vehicle to describe what he felt would happen on the following day, the true heart of it was something different.  It was a premise; if you’re a pundit, or a political analyst of any sort, there comes a time when you have to put your chips on the table and say who you think will win and why.  To do anything less is to kind of cheat in a way; to delegitimize your role as someone who reads the tea leaves of this crazy game of politics.

To spend an entire election cycle commenting on what is good and what is bad, what are wise moves and what are poor decisions, and then not come up with a final answer is the equivalent of saying that you don’t have faith in your own wisdom and analysis.  For me, the post that is to follow is my final conclusion; the summation of nearly two years of continued observation and analysis.  After all, a pundit’s gotta predict.

First, let’s take a quick stroll through the last minute polls, shall we?  In the Gallup Daily, we see that Obama is up by eleven in all three of its models, registered voters, traditional likely voters, and expanded likely voters A CBS poll has Obama up nationally by thirteen points with undecideds dwindling, and most people (90%) locked inWashington Post and ABC also have Obama up by eleven with the undecideds down to only seven percent, suggesting that if the remaining undecideds break towards McCain by one hundred percent, it still won’t be enough.  Perhaps the most McCain friendly national poll out today is the Pew Research Poll which has Obama up by only six points, but still shows Obama at 52% which all but locks out a potential for McCain to make up the difference.

As for the final state by states, even Zogby, who is running off of 2004 turn out models, has Obama up in most of the battle grounds.

What is to be concluded by all of this?  That the general premise that the race would tighten in the closing days was essentially wrong.  This premise was grounded in several assumptions; that Obama had hit a ceiling of support, and because of this undecideds would break in a way more favorable to McCain.  However what we see in the closing days is undecideds breaking more in favor of Obama, letting the race stay in double digits nationally among many polls, and showing a dramatic uptick for Obama over the past day or two in his overall trend.

The most significant point to me, though, is that Obama remains comfortably over fifty percent when you average all of the polls together.  This means that even potentially outlying data is being corrected for.  If Obama is over fifty percent, that nullifies just about any hopes that McCain could possibly have–I believe that Obama will win the popular vote by a margin no less than four points, but potentially as much as six points.

Still, we all know that popular votes don’t decide presidents; if they did we would likely be seeing the end of the Al Gore administration, and believe it or not Joe Lieberman of all people might have been the Democratic nominee.

So when we look at the states and the electoral map, I believe the best starting point is Pollster’s map.  The aggregated trends provided here make it the most reliable source.  In this electoral dry run, Obama comes up with 311 electoral votes while McCain has 142, leaving just Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, Missouri, Indiana, North Dakota, and Montana too close to call.

In my analysis I assume that each candidate will win both all of his strong states and leaning states.

Florida: Initially I was going to say that Florida goes to McCain, but after thinking on it some more I feel inclined to change that opinion.  Given the demographics of the state and the intensity of polling, I have reason to believe that McCain’s support across the polls may have in fact topped out in the state.  Those voters that McCain would depend upon the most, the elderly, are going to be the easiest to poll, and therefore one has little reason to believe their is a hidden core of McCain support somewhere that just isn’t getting measured.  Thus, if McCain is down by two and already at his ceiling, this makes Florida likely to go to Obama.  Obama is now at 338.

Georgia: Georgia’s a battleground, but it’s going to go to McCain; it’s simply too red, and McCain has a slight edge in the state.  There is potential that the Obama ground game could turn it blue, but I think that’s an outside chance, and the safe money is that Georgia’s fifteen electoral points will go to McCain bringing him up to 157.

North Carolina: Obama has a slight edge in a state with a high African American population.  This could actually be the toughest state to call, but given that Obama has a two point edge and a superior GOTV effort, I think the advantage and fifteen electoral votes go to him to bring him to 353.

Indiana: McCain’s only got a two point edge in this notoriously red state, and Obama hasn’t been making as tough of a play here as he has in other states.  I think Indiana’s 11 points are going to go to McCain to bring him to 168.

Missouri: Much like North Carolina, I think a small edge witha  superior ground game gives Obama the eleven bellweather electoral votes to put him at 364.

North Dakota: This state, according to Pollster, is four points in Obama’s favor.  I don’t think that’s a narrow enough gap for McCain to overcome, and thus that’s three more ev’s for Obama which will round him off at 367.

Montana: Montana’s probably going to go to McCain.  He’s got a two point edge and this is classic Republican territory.  This gives McCain his last three points and puts him at 171.

Thus, I believe that tomorrow night what we will see is Senator Barack Obama elected as President of the United States with a total of 367 electoral votes to John McCain’s 171.  This is a pretty audacious prediction, I admit, and shouldn’t preclude anyone from the work and voting they have to do.  But this is about how I think it will break down.

Even if I am terribly wrong, I still predict an Obama victory by some slimmer margin; simply put it’s just far too easy for Obama to get to 270, and far too difficult for McCain.  But I guess we’ll find out tomorrow night, won’t we?

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  1. Closer Than Nate | Comments from Left Field - [...] to Obama, that would bring Obama’s electoral vote tally to 364.  If you’ll remember, I predicted he would win 367…

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