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November 3, 2008

Expect an Obama Victory


After a two-year campaign that has been one of the most fascinating in U.S. history, the finish line is finally here. Election Day is Tuesday, and we'll finally learn whether Barack Obama or John McCain will be the 44th president of the United States.


Despite a post-convention bounce by McCain in early September, Obama has led in the polls, both nationally and in key battleground states, ever since. And while there has been little evidence of the polls tightening in the final weeks of the campaign, some McCain partisans – and even some worried Obama fans – still believe McCain can pull off the surprise victory.


I wouldn't count on that. Obama has advantages in money, registration, enthusiasm and ground-game. He has run a great campaign, while McCain has run an awful one. The better campaigner usually wins. Obama has run up huge leads in the early voting in various swing states, and it is expected that record-breaking turnout, among African-Americans and others, will lead him to a big victory.


There are eight tracking polls that come out daily, and several more that come out weekly or at some other frequency. Obama has led every one of these polls for the past seven weeks. Until the Zogby poll of last Friday that showed McCain up by one in single-day polling (contradicted the next day), there has not been a single reputable poll showing John McCain with a lead since mid-September.


Sure, the conservative media would like to obscure this. Every day for the past few weeks, Matt Drudge has taken the one tracking poll most favorable to McCain, proclaims it a "poll shock" that Obama is only up by 2-4 points, and slaps that at the top of his page. So what if several of the other polls have Obama up by eight or 10 – or if that very poll had the lead at seven or eight yesterday and probably will again tomorrow. (By Sunday, even Drudge seems to have resigned himself to things, linking to a Gallup poll showing a “historical blowout” for the Democrat.)


Then there's the idea, popularized by conservative bloggers, that Obama's big lead in the polls is all a big liberal media conspiracy, because the polls come from the "mainstream media" and all that. This implies that pollsters, who gain legitimacy and respect from accuracy, would compromise that for ideological reasons. Along with ACORN, liberal media bias will be blamed for an Obama victory, because hey – that's the reason everything happens, according to the GOP.


There's also the argument that John Kerry was ahead in the polls going into the 2004 election and still lost – an argument contradicted by the fact that, uh, Kerry wasn't ahead in the polls. Early exit polls on Election Day placed him in the lead, but pre-election polls gave Bush a small but consistent lead in the weeks prior to the '04 vote.


Meanwhile, liberals are wringing their hands and worrying. That is, after all, what liberals do. Yes, after the last eight years they're used to disappointment. There are worries about the Bradley Effect, or Florida 2000-like voter suppression shenanigans, bringing down the totals for Obama.


I wouldn't worry too much about that either, though. Obama has a big enough lead to overcome the negligible amount of voters who are lying to pollsters about being racist, and I imagine the lawyers on both sides have learned from 2000 how to avoid massive amounts of suppression.


This year, with Nate Silver's brilliant FiveThirtyEight.com, as well as Pollster.com and RealClearPolitics providing us with polls, polls and more polls literally around the clock, we can glean a bit more from the polling than ever before. This gives us every indication that Obama will win, probably by five or six points in the popular vote, winning 348 electoral votes, to McCain's 190.


It ain't over, of course, until it's over. But that's the most likely outcome for this long, crazy election.


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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