With one hour to go before the polls close in Indiana and the first returns start trickling in, the exit polls are already being leaked. Ignore them. Mark Blumenthal notes that there are numerous problems with exit polls, including overstating Democratic support and “refusal bias”. Also, the networks will begin to report “composite” exit polls as soon as the polls close, but these are actually a mix of exit polling and pre-election polling – in other words, probably not reflective of reality until later in the evening. Nate Silver also offers ten more reasons for ignoring exit polls tonight.
The best way to keep tabs on what’s going down tonight is probably Daily Kos’s real-time scoreboard, and Twitter – particularly @nprpolitics. Also, Patrick Ruffini is going to be directly monitoring the county-by-county results and will be able to call states earlier than the media.
Happy election day! (Some crazy towns in New Hampshire started voting at midnight).
Courtesy of Nate Silver’s simulations, here’s how McCain might win. The most plausible (but still improbable) scenario: Obama takes all the Gore and Kerry states, and McCain takes everything else. Everything else in this case includes states like Colorado (9 EV), where Obama’s lead is the widest it’s ever been and early voting favors Obama heavily. In other words: not gonna happen. Also, Virginia (13 EV) is looking very, very good for Obama, too.
However, continuing the scenario, if McCain can pick up Pennsylvania (21 EV), then he can compensate for VA and CO and win the election. This is probably Obama’s worst-case, leaving him at 265, just shy of victory. However, despite McCain’s late surge and heavy focus on PA, Obama still has a healthy lead. In fact, I think Obama will take PA, in part because of early voting, heavy turnout (weather in PA today is high 40s – low 50s statewide, no rain), and also racist placards like this, which are sure to hurt McCain more than Obama, due to backlash:
case it’s hard to see, some of the text reads: “Black ruled nations are
among the most violent, unstable nations in the world.” and “Do you
really want an anti-White President?”
But let’s suppose McCain does pull an upset in PA. Also, despite some indications of an upset by Obama, I’m assuming WV and ND
go for McCain, and going out on a limb and predicting MT goes
Obama. To win, McCain still needs to take all of the following: OH (+3%), FL (+1.5%), MO (+1%), IN (-1%),GA (-3%), and NC (tied).
For McCain to win all of these would be an unbelievable coup – and he has no margin of error. If I had to guess, I’d say that FL will again go steady with the GOP despite flirting shamelessly with Dems for three cycles now. In Ohio, Obama maintains a healthy lead, but McCain has some recent momentum and Obama has been flat, so I’ll give it to McCain. The same holds true in NC, where McCain has closed the gap rapidly in recent weeks, so I’m giving it to him. In MO, however, Obama is the one with the momentum, and McCain has lost ground, so I’m calling it for Obama. Likewise, I am calling Indiana for Obama – McCain has been flat there all year and Obama has sharply trended up since September.
A few more notes about Indiana – most of the population resides within the Chicago media market, so Obama is well-known to Indiana voters. Unlike Kerry who conceded the state without trying, and McCain who took the state for granted, Obama has 30 field offices and plenty of money on the airwaves there, and is headed there right now after casting his vote in Chicago this morning. So I am going to predict IN for Obama, which if correct is a major turnaround from 2004 where Kerry lost the state by a 20-point margin. Note that polls close in IN at 6 PM EST, so I think we will know as early as 8 how the state pans out, and it’s likely to be a bellweather for the election as a whole.
In Georgia, Obama again has the upwards momentum, at McCain’s expense. The momentum favors Obama going in but McCain still has a 3-point lead. However, with a large Arican-American population, and make up 40% of the early voters there. AA’s make up 29% of the registered voters this year, 4 points higher than in 2004. And the weather today is great. I’m going to predict an Obama upset victory over McCain in GA, accordingly. The polls close at 7 PM EST in GA (and VA) so we should again know by 9PM what the situation looks like there.
So, here is my final projection: Obama 305, McCain 233:
Of course, I am going out on a limb calling IN (11 EV), GA (15 EV) and MT (3 EV) for Obama. Those states add up to 29 EVs, so Obama could lose all of them and still win by 276 – 262. Likewise, I am being very pessimistic in calling PA (21 EV), OH (20) and FL (27) for McCain – losing any one of those would be catastrophic for McCain. So, my projection is actually about as favorable as you can get for McCain, albeit some speculative victories which Obama can afford to lose.
My most likely alternate projection, where Obama wins PA and loses GA and IN, is Obama 300, McCain 238. My best-case scenario for Obama is where he takes PA, GA, IN, and MT and wins without OH and FL, 326 – 212. There is no best-case scenario for McCain today.
Cold electoral math aside, the playing field is stacked against McCain, partly due to Obama’s superior campaign message and strategy, in part because of decisions by McCain himself, and in part due to factors beyond McCain’s control.
One final thought: Obama’s win today will be in large part due to Hillary Clinton. bama won his Senate seat against a lightweight, and had never been really tested in a bitter, tooth-and-nails fight for office. Hillary was the fire that forged him into the blade that will seal his victory today. Hilary is the one who tested Obama severely, on experience, on character, on associations, on Reverend Wright. Obama took those opportunities to respond, and thanks to the high-profile Democratic primary, the people heard him. By the time McCain faced off against Obama for the general, it was all old news, and Obama was ready for them. Obama is where he is today because Hillary fought hard and held nothing back.
Reihan Salam, poet-pundit at The American Scene, provides some perspective on today:
here’s the thing: America is a strange, diverse, sprawling country, and our elections reflect that fact. There are loyal black Democrats in California who will turn out for Obama and who will also vote yes on Prop 8, a measure that will strip a non-trivial number of married couples of their rights. There are lukewarm Republicans who will turn out because they believe that Barack Obama is a Muslim. There are good and decent people who believe crazy, bigoted, terrible things. And they are part of this process. I don’t think we do any good by demonizing each other. Let’s forcefully argue against equal marriage rights, let’s educate people about the canard that a believing Christian is somehow a Muslim, or, for that matter, that American Muslims like yours truly represent a danger to democracy in the first place. But we have to find some way to live with each other. Good grief.
I think there’s plenty of reason to be optimistic. Regardless of who we are and how we vote, I strongly subscribe to the belief that people are fundamentally rational.And that means that there’s always something we can find common ground on.
In my projection, I gave McCain Nevada by default without really thinking about it. However, looking at the poll trends, it looks clear that Nevada is not even going to be close. Nevada has 5 electoral votes so it won’t make much difference either way. Still, that bumps up my worst-case scenario for Obama from 305 to 310, and my worst-case scenario for Obama from 326 to 331.