In any honest election (which this may not be), I predict a Kerry landslide tomorrow. Why? See below.
I’ll confess to being ratherpartisan here. I am spending tomorrow in Wheeling W. Va. at the DNC Voter Protection Project. since the Republican Convention, I have been dismissing the claims that Bush will win handily or that Bush will even win. In the last few weeks, I’ve become convinced that a Kerry landslide is a serious possibility. (I’ll define landslide as 55% or more of the popular vote and enough electoral votes to make it no contest).
Why? Here’s my reasoning.
1) The Red Sox won the World Series in four straight. Go Sox! I grew up in Massachusetts and — while usually pretty indifferent to sports — you cannot have grown up in MA without feeling _something_ when the Red Sox won. My wife, who is even more indifferent to sports than I am, insisted on watching all the games, all the post-game shows, and wearing her Red Sox cap around _everywhere_.
In a world where the Red Sox win the world series, anything is possible.
O.K., more seriously now, here are the real reasons.
1) For many years, polling data has been becoming increasingly unreliable. The real wake up call for anyone paying attention was the California Gubenatorial recall. As folks may recall, the polls showed a very tight race between Davis and a vote to recall. It was also widely predicted that even if Davis was recalled, it would go to a run off between Schwartzeneger and Bustamante (the Lt. Gov.)
Instead, it was a landslide for Schwartzeneger, a result utterly unpredicted by any major polling organization. While this is just a single, dramatic example, there are other examples of error and misprediction that have steadily crept into the polling system that make it increasingly less reliable.
Pollsters have started to acknowledge some major sampling problems. For example, more and more people have cell phones, and pollsters only contact people with landlines. More and more people are generally suspicious of pollsters (or any unsolicited call) and therefore don’t respond. Worse, a growing number of people exhibit a quality technically called (and I am not making this up) “perversity.” i.e., they will tell the pollsters the opposite of what they are actually thinking for the pure pleasure of screwing up polls.
That, of course, only tells you the polls predicting a dead heat may be wrong. It doesn’t tell you who will win.
But pollsters have been conceding in interviews that many of these errors favor Republicans over Democrats. (i.e., that Republicans are more likely to have landlines, more likely to answer pollsters, and less likely to exhibit perversity than democrats).
2) Huge numbers of new voters. Yes, both sides have been “energizing their base” and have been working on getting their boys to the polls. But the Republicans have persued this strategy for years. By contrast, the Democrats under Clinton persued a policy of courting registered undecided voters rather than focusing on registering those disenchanted with the centrist positions staked out by the Democratic Leadership Conference. This is one reason for the abysmal showing of the Dems in the 2002 elections. Republicans got their people to the polls by appealing to unregistered conservatives while Democrats courted independents and refused to cater to the party base.
In 2004, however, the anti-George Bush movement has galvanized millions of new voters. Yes, if you watch T.V. the news shows are all careful to give you one Kerry voter and one Bush voter, making it look like a split. Don’t believe it. That both political parties see new voters as overwheliming likely to vote Kerry is demonstrated by the level of effort put forward by the parties to challenge new voters.
These new voters, however, are uncounted by traditional polls. Many polling organizations only call people who have voted in the two most recent elections, as these are traditionally viewed as most likely to vote. How these new votes break (and whether they get counted) will make a huge difference in the elections, and I am predicting that in the key states the huge new voter turnout goes overwhelimingly to Kerry (although, as a percentage of national population, we may see larger than usual turnout in core red states, impacting the national popular vote and creating a divergence in popular vote v. electoral).
3) The Republicans and their supporters are becoming increasingly brazen in their activities to surpress the vote and push pro-Bush views. While the good folks at Sinclair and Pappas have always been Republicans, I cannot believe they would take the steps they have taken, potentially puting their licenses at risk, if they did not believe it absolutely necessary. The vote supression efforts on the Republican side have reached a level of openness that I equate with desperation. They are willing to be quoted saying that they do not want every vote counted. Traditionally, while Republicans have counted on vote supression more than Democrats, no elected official has _ever_ been willing to contradict the great civics myth we all learn in school that at the end of the day, we all respect the process and that every American should vote because that is what makes America great. For Ed Gillipsie to suggest on natural television that it is better to challenge people and lose some real votes rather than allow people to vote and risk fraud is a break with a long-hollowed traditional that can only be attributed, IMO, to desperation.
Now, of course, we have the exciting question of how fair the election will be. I confess I have one data point that makes me very worried.
1) Every major conservative pundit quoted in yesterday’s Washington Post magazine pegged Bush as winning 52% of the popular vote and winning the election. As anyone who has seen John Stewart’s deleightful melange of media clips can tell you, the conservative pundits are an integrated part of what David Brock has dubbed the Republican Noise Machine. That all of them have picked the same number and say basically the same things means that the Republicans have picked a party line. Whether this is just puffery before the election, or the fact that the wizards behind the curtain are already arranging the outcome remains to be seen.
Stay tuned . . . .