Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Pointless Predictions

Today is not-quite-super Tuesday and my junior pundit’s license demands that I make some kind of prediction about the results. This is something resembling a guess, educated only by polling data, which has been, to put it kindly, less than reliable. The problem with polling in primaries has always been about predicting turnout. In most cases, the likelihood of getting an accurate sample in an extremely low-turnout election is small. In this case, there is a whole new wrinkle, polls have to try and guess not only the turnout, but the very composition of the turnout, since that seems to be key to the results. Historical turnout numbers and demographic composition has been blown away in this election, leaving pollsters with numbers that are next to useless. Once in a while someone gets it right. This is probably sheer luck, rather than a superior methodology. Survey USA has had the best luck so far – in particular, getting Wisconsin sort of right. But there is no guarantee that they will be more accurate tonight than anyone else.
Having said all that, all I have to judge is polling data and I will fire a few bullets in the general direction of the moving target. I figure VT goes to Obama and RI to Hillary, ending the streak. Which brings us to the big two – OH and TX. A clue about the results can be found in where the candidates are going to be tonight – HRC is in OH, Obama in TX. This tells me that both camps expect her to win OH – if Obama thought he was about to win it, or even had a 50-50 chance, he would be there, since it is a more valuable place to be for the fall campaign. The polls seem to have turned around late for Clinton there, possibly based on health care, possibly on the Canadian NAFTA nonsense. Or maybe it’s just a parallel to the other big states, where Obama closes in the polls, then falls short in the end, as Hillary voters return to the fold. In any case, I expect a Clinton win there, maybe by a sizable margin.
A quick comment on the Canada story: is it unreasonable for Obama’s economic advisor to say to the Canadians “look, for the campaign, we have to be evenhanded about this, but there are no extra standards we will propose that you guys don’t already meet, so clearly you have nothing to worry about”? Of course, no one can say that publicly, since Mexico and folks in border states (like Texas) will get very nervous. It’s all silliness, but then, so is much of what we hear these days. Anyone who trusts Clinton more than Obama on changing trade deals is a fool – the Clinton Administration’s biggest accomplishments were trade deals and it’s hard to believe she is that far from the economic policy of the administration she is so proud of.
As for Texas, who knows? One thing is almost certain: Obama will win more delegates there. The system and the allotment of delegates by district will help him. Given the way this campaign has gone, a Clinton primary win there (as opposed to caucuses) wouldn’t surprise me. Her final numbers in most of the big states have exceeded her polling numbers and it may go that way again.
If Hillary wins OH and TX, it will be a big night for her, with much celebrating and a story line of “she wins the big states where more people get to vote, therefore she is the better candidate”. (This story will last about 48 hours, which is when Obama wins North Carolina and everyone realizes that despite Hillary’s two big wins, Obama actually widened his delegate lead this week. At that point, look for a number of notable names (Bill Richardson among them) to move to Obama.)
Edit: I misread the electoral map, NC is on May 6th, not March 6th. Mississippi and Wyoming are coming up in the next week and Obama can recover with those.

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