Victory probability mapObama lead over time

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Much to my surprise, Al Franken is likely to win the Minnesota Senate seat. The race is currently tied (to be precise, Coleman leads by 5 votes), with slightly more Coleman challenges (2761) to go than Franken challenges (2614). This means that Coleman has to do better on his challenges than Franken does on his. But so far, Coleman has done far worse than Franken on his challenges: The average Coleman challenge has resulted in net 0.73 votes for Franken, while the average Franken challenge has resulted in net 0.40 votes for Coleman. If the 887 resolved ballots are even close to being representative of the remaining 5375, Norm is toast.

My current projection, if Coleman challenges continue to net 0.73 votes for Franken and Franken challenges continue to net 0.40 votes for Coleman, is that Franken will win by 957.

(These numbers are quoted from the Star Tribune's website. I don't know whether it includes the absentee ballots that the MN Supreme Court ruled today must be counted.)

Football picks of the week: Ravens+4 (71% certainty), Bills+7 (66%), Cardinals+7.5 (66%). I've made a pretty good system for picking football games since the election finished, and am now up to 3rd place out of 85 in my pool.

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Saturday, November 08, 2008

Post-election recap

I feel great about how this site performed in this election. The key points are:

  • The estimate of 365.7 expected electoral votes was extremely close to the actual outcome of 365.
  • The only individual electoral votes I mis-called were MO and NE2. For MO, I only asserted a 76% certainty of Obama winning, so I don't feel too bad that I mis-called it. I had called a 10% chance of Obama winning NE2.
  • The final 6.0% popular vote spread was well within my margin of error. I had predicted 6.7% +/- 3.0%.
  • Individual state predictions went well, particularly for close states. My average error was 3.61%, which is similar to 538's average error of 3.64%.
  • There is a high correlation (+77%) between how well Obama did in each state and how much he exceeded my expectations by. Here are the states where my predictions of the Obama-McCain spread were off by over 5%: AK, AR, DE, HI, LA, MA, MS, NV, ND, OK, VT, WV, WY. In each of these states, my prediction underestimated the amount of the winner's victory. And only NV and ND were real battlegrounds this year. My best idea for an explanation is that these are states where one party has a dominant machine which is more effective at voter turnout; however, that idea can't account for AR, which is dominated by Democrats at all levels except the presidential.
  • Because the above effect exists across many states, it would be foolish to use my prediction (or any similar site's prediction) as evidence that vote fraud existed in AK.
  • Because I was too busy campaigning to do data input, the last analysis I did on 11/3 did not include data from national polls for the last two weeks. I intend to rerun the process this weekend to include that information, so that I can get a better sense of how the process did.

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Monday, November 03, 2008

Last post through e-day -- Polls not significantly tightening

I do not find evidence of significant poll tightening, maybe by about 1 percent. McCain must see something in his internals that makes him think he can take PA, but I see Obama with a clear lead. I look forward to seeing our field program blow his out of the water.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

This is a good post that points to an important flaw in sites like mine: "Taking a poll-of-polls is tantamount to saying that you think the 'correct' approximation of voter sentiment is the average of all approximations in use by pollsters. Polls-of-polls tend to ignore methodological differences and blithely hope that everything comes out in the wash." The situation where my method would fail is if the average pollster's methodology skewed the average results towards one candidate.

Back to cutting turf.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Now is not the time for me to be on the blogs

Updates will be rare for the remainder of the election, as I'll be volunteering full-time in Bucks County, PA.

I just ran the numbers again, and am observing the same as Jonathan Singer. The race has been very static in the past couple weeks. This makes sense to me: Obama is near his ceiling, and McCain has seen one news-cycle after another wasted on unhelpful stories like Sarah Palin going rogue or the disturbed CRNC staffer in Pittsburgh.

The persuasion phase of Obama's campaign ends on Thursday evening, when the news cycle following his half-hour advertisement ends, and it has been a success: He leads roughly 50-43 going into the final get-out-the-vote weekend, and will have the support of a majority of the nation on election day.

However, despite the central McCain campaign's so-so field program, the Republican Party remains well organized in most swing states, and aspects of their base have been energized by Sarah Palin. To paraphrase John McCain, they know how to get their voters to the polls, and they will get their voters to the polls.

That means that this race is real simple. There are more Obama supporters than McCain supporters, so if we Democrats get every Obama supporters to turn out on election day, we will win this race together. If we fail to get our voters to the polls on election day, John McCain and Sarah Palin will have a chance. So stand up, go to your local field office, and contact some voters.

And go Phillies!

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Roundup up other sites

Sam Wang is right that there's a ceiling to the number of EVs that Obama is likely to get, that that ceiling is around 380 EVs (I'd call it 386), and that the race is a lot more stable now that you would think based on some other sites. (This is part of why I'm only bothering to update every week or so.)

The big media companies continue to have an interest in increasing ad revenue by making people think that the race is close. CNN in particular behaved this way in the primaries until the moment Clinton conceded (long after I had decided it wasn't worth the effort to calculate Clinton-McCain forecasts), and continues to do so now. No intelligent, disinterested person could simultaneously think that IN is still "lean McCain" but that NV is still "tossup," as CNN purports to.

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Obama will win

Just before his 1983 election, Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards famously said, "The only way I can lose this election is if I get caught in bed with either a dead girl or a live boy." This election is now in dead-girl-live-boy territory for Obama. He is going to win, and likely with an electoral vote count more similar to Clinton than to Bush 43.

Let's look at the remaining 16 days of the election:

  • Current situation: Obama leads by 5-7% and about 200 electoral votes. The only silver lining for McCain is that the bleeding has stopped. If the race were in the 0-2% range as it was just before the conventions, then McCain could hope that random drift, earned media, wise choices in resource allocation, or systematic pro-Obama errors in polling could make up the difference. However, there simply isn't enough time for McCain to win based on the sort of steady drifty 4% gain he received through July.
  • Money: Obama is flush with cash, and has no spending limit; McCain chose (sort of) to receive public funding, and therefore has a spending limit. To be specific, Obama raised 150MM USD to spend in September alone, while McCain is limited to 84MM in spending through the whole general campaign. It must make McCain furious that he has legitimate beef about Obama declining public funding, but that he doesn't have enough money to tell voters about it. What's more, the RNC may not be spending as much on McCain as McCain has been counting on. Leaders of the six major national committees (with the possible exception of Howard Dean) like to spend money effectively, on campaigns in close races with competent leadership. At this time, McCain's campaign meets neither of those criteria.
  • Air (paid): Because of his fundraising advantage, Obama is drenching McCain in paid media, and his clincher ad is outstanding. The ad's libretto effectively associates McCain and Bush, while the visuals drive home the Obama message about McCain's temperament. (In fact, even on mute, the ad is great.) I don't know what McCain's clincher ad is, or even what his campaign's message is at this point.
  • Air (free): For several weeks now, McCain's campaign is behaving as though they are desperate for earned media, as well an understrapped campaign should. Some gimmicks (Palin's rollout) have worked better than others (campaign suspension), but a campaign only gets so many stabs at gimmicks before they lose their punch and the whole campaign seems, well, erratic. This Ayers/Acorn stuff isn't doing anything significant for them, and even if it were as effective as the March Wright controversy (a 4% swing in Obama's lead), it wouldn't be enough to make up for Obama's current lead.
  • Air (free): The other avenue for McCain to get free media was the debates. They failed to alter the race in any significant way.
  • Ground: McCain's volunteer base is more enthusiastic since he put Palin on the ticket, but Dems are pumped up (unlike for Kerry), Obama will still smoke him on the ground on the four GOTV days. In PA, where I'll be spending election day, and where McCain is spending some time, Obama has about 60 offices, while McCain has about 30. In many key areas, I expect that targeted voters will get at least half a dozen attempted contacts on election day alone.

Weekly football picks: Cowboys, Titans, and Bucs to beat their 7, 8, and 10.5 spreads against the Rams, Chiefs, and Seahawks.
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Sunday, October 12, 2008

No news is good news

I haven't made any substantive updates in several days because the race is been static. Even my view of WV has not changed significantly on the basis of ARG's outlier poll. The state of the race continues to be that Barack Obama will almost certainly win (probably with 300-400 electoral votes) barring an extraordinary performance by McCain in the final debate or an extraordinary exogenous event (aka an October Surprise). For Obama, no news is good news. Some time tonight I'll adjust the sidebar to reflect the new predictions.

Top 3 football picks of the week: Redskins cover the 12-point spread against Rams; Seahawks fail to cover the 1-point spread against the Packers; Texans to fail to cover the 3-point spread against the Dolphins.

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