07 September 2008 ~ 77 Comments

Tie-Breakers. Advantage Obama. Advice? Take Nothing for Granted

The recent CBS and Rasmussen polls show the race between Barack Obama and John McCain to be tied. Gallup has McCain taking a slight 3 point lead.
At the moment, all indications point to a very close contest between the GOP and Democratic nominees – but I want to point out that 57 days is a very long time in a Presidential campaign and anything can happen to blow the doors off the race in either direction.

However, if the race stays closely fought to the end, there are a number of possible tie-breakers that could decide the outcome:

1. Polls are likely underestimating the turnout of young voters because many of these voters use cell phones and pollsters are having a difficult time including their views with accuracy. Obama has a big advantage with these voters. As a potential tie-breaker – ADVANTAGE OBAMA.

2. Polls are likely underestimating African-American turnout in the election for the same reason. Many of these households have cell phones instead of landlines, have only recently been registered to vote, or do not get through the screening questions of pollsters including “did you vote in the last election?” As a potential tie-breaker – ADVANTAGE OBAMA

3. The Bradley Effect. So named because when Tom Bradley, the African-American Mayor of Los Angeles ran for Governor of California polls showed him up by 10points – he lost the election. Pollsters later determined that many white voters had failed to tell pollsters the truth about how they intended to vote. I was Tom Bradley’s Deputy Campaign Manager in 1982. I saw the “Bradley effect” up close at the age of 26 – it was real. It is 26 years later and I can tell you two things for sure it isn’t the minus 10 points that it was in 1982 but it isn’t zero either. There will be an overestimation of the number of white voters casting ballots for Obama. As a potential tie-breaker – ADVANTAGE McCAIN.

The problem with these three tie-breakers is that they may well cancel each other out nationally. Higher than expected votes among younger voters and African-American voters will shield Obama from any concurrent lower than expected support from white voters across the nation. But what concerns me is that I doubt this will be the case on a state-by-state basis.

In other words, if more young voters in California vote for Obama, they do not (through the wonders of the electoral college) offset a lower than expected vote among white voters for him in Virginia., or Ohio or other swing state. Florida is a logical state to worry about where the advantage could work to McCain’s favor as just one example.

Two other potential tie-breakers are money and organization. On the money front its clearly ADVANTAGE OBAMA. Barack Obama will have far greater resources than the McCain campaign and the GOP — and with those resources Obama will be able to run much stronger field and get-out-the-vote operations in state after state than McCain.. Traditionally a strong organization can make up 1 or 2 points on election day – occasionally even 3 points. But is this already baked into the cake? If young voters and African American voters are going to be underestimated – are they not the 2 to 3 points Obama’s organization will be turning out?

And then there is the new found energy among the Republican right. Has McCain’s pick of Sarah Palin lit up a volunteer army on the right to rally a successful get-out-the –vote effort for McCain and compete with the Obama effort?

In the end the advantages, of increased turnout of younger voters and African Americans combined with Obama’s stronger resources and organization should put Barack Obama over the top. But the race has to stay close.


Advice – take McCain seriously. There are 57 days left and he has kept the race a tie when the GOP nominee should be eating your dust.

Comments on this are Welcome. Will try to check in on the discussion and take part through the day Monday.

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