1NC OBAMA WIN
OBAMA WIN – THE SMALL MARGIN IN POLLS IS MEANGINGLESS – HISTORY VERIFIEDPREDICTORS ARE ON HIS SIDE.
[Clive, Financial Times Columnist, Sr Editor – Atlantic Monthly, Sr Writer – National Journal, Financial Times --http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/3bf5c59a-5666-11dd-8686-000077b07658.html?nclick_check=1]
Yet look at the polls. A recent Gallup reading says that Mr Obama’s slender lead hasnarrowed; last week Rasmussen’s tracking poll called the race a tie.
State-by-state polling,filtered through the electoral college arithmetic, gives Mr McCain a real shot at victory.
All this despite thefact that the incumbent Republican president is deeply unpopular and the economycontinues to tank.
How does one make sense of this? The simple answer may get me ejected from the guild of political commentators, who havea lot of space to fill between now and November – but I report it nonetheless. It is that these early head-to-head polls and thevast enterprise of political analysis, nit-picking and minute speculation they support, are, to a first order of approximation,worthless. In short, you resolve the paradox by ignoring them.
Note that if you do, science is on your side. Alan
Abramowitz, a politics scholar at Emory University,has shown that summer head-to-head polls convey almost no information about theforthcoming election.
(Subsequent head-to-head polls are not much better.)
Instead, he has a simple“electoral barometer” that weighs together the approval rating of the incumbent
economic growth rate and
whether the president’s party has controlled theWhite House for two terms
(the “time for a change” factor). This
metric hascorrectly forecast the winner of the popular vote in 14 out of 15 postwar presidentialelections.
The only exception is 1968, when the barometer (calibrated to range between +100 and –100) gave Hubert Humphrey awafer-thin advantage of +2; he lost, with a popular vote deficit of less than 1 percentage point. The barometer not only pickswinners but pretty accurately points to winning margins, too. In 1980, Jimmy Carter had the biggest postwar negative reading(–66); Ronald Reagan beat him by nearly 10 percentage points.
President George W.
(favourable minus unfavourable)
is currently –40;the economy grew at a 1 per cent annual rate
in the first quarter
; and Republicans have hadtwo terms in the White House. Plugging the numbers
into Mr Abramowitz’s formula
gives theRepublican candidate a score of –60, about as bad as it gets:
second only to Mr Carter’s in theannals of doomed postwar candidacies.
The barometer says Mr Obama is going to waltz tovictory.Why has this barometer been so much more accurate than the wisdom of Gallup? That ishard to say – but as a factual matter, its superiority is indisputable.
Even if you do not buy it, itought to inform your reading of the polls.
A wide winning margin, which is what the barometerpredicts for Mr Obama, renders moot all the detailed electoral map analysis of swingstates, solid states, toss-up states, states leaning one way or the other.
All this wonderfulstuff might matter if the margin in the national popular vote is thin. If it is wide, the toss-up states movetogether and that is that
The unsettling thing about this way of predicting the outcome, of course, is that it does not matter whether the Democraticcandidate is Mr Obama or Hillary Clinton – or Joe Biden or Dennis Kucinich, for that matter. The Republicans’ choice of MrMcCain was equally beside the point. On the merits, one candidate may be much better than another – a separate andendlessly interesting question. When it comes to predicting the result, the barometer says that as long as the incumbent is notrunning, it makes no difference.
Are there special factors that could throw the calculation off? No doubt, and this year one above all cries out.Mr Obama would be the first black president, a possibility the barometer has not yet had to contemplate
. Whoknows what difference his colour will make, whether it will help him on balance or hurthim. History suggests neither; that the choice of candidates, their strengths andweaknesses and the way they fight their campaigns, matters less to the outcome thanone might suppose and infinitely less than the political commentariat is honour-bound tomaintain. History suggests Mr McCain is toast.