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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hurricane Sandy impacts the 2012 election - How bad is it?

Before we get into the path of Hurricane Sandy, let me bring you up to date on several Electoral Voting sites that I have been following and which I reported to you earlier in my posts of October 18 and October 23.  Of course the Electoral College takes its orders from the popular vote—although there has been at least one case when the candidate who won the popular vote lost—you might wonder just how these EC sites come up with their numbers.

Simply stated, and that is the only way I can approach this, they are projecting into some borderline/tossup states Electoral College votes based on mountains of political data present and past that the lay voter has no access to.  Nor do most of us care as long as we see accurate predictions of where the 2012 election is going at any given moment.  And that is the key because the figures are changing now on a daily basis and will continue that way until Nov. 6.

My favorites are Nate Silver’s 538 and Real Clear Politics, both of which measure a number of polls and then do their own thing with the numbers.  Silver employs a unique methodology using comparative demographic data to balance the polls, applying history, sample size and recency.  Here are the lineups from these two sites:

538

Elec. votes              Obama 296.6          Romney 241.4
Chance to win         Obama 74.6%         Romney 25.4%
Popular vote            Obama 50.4            Romney 48.7

Real Clear Politics

Elec. Votes              Obama 201             Romney 191

Vote Nov. 6
The 270 To Win site agrees with RCP, but the NYT has 243 votes for Obama, 206 for Romney.  As does 538, Time sees Obama already winning with 271 votes, Romney 206.  USA Today unwilling to commit as many total votes as some others shows Obama with 196 votes, Romney 191 and CNN has been static since I started following these polls, Obama 237, Romney 206.  The Huff Post has 277 Obama, 206 Romney, the Wash. Post Obama 255, Romney 206.

What can you do with this?  Well, you can’t take it to the bank but I’ll bet Vegas would give good odds on the numbers remaining the same, if not improving for Obama down the stretch.  When you have this many polls agreeing on the fact that Obama is ahead in the electoral vote, some significantly, the margin of error narrows considerably, particularly with such a small percent of undecided voters.  It isn’t a sure bet for the President but it is better than just comfortable.

Obama and the borderline/tossup states:

So what could happen?  HURRICANE SANDY!  Who could have possibly forecasted a weather disaster of catastrophic proportions hitting a part of the country with a population affected of 60 million?  So since we didn’t plan for this to happen, Nate Silver tries to do some prognosticating of his own.  He imagines 15 million individuals in this highly democratic area around New Jersey and New York not answering their phones for future polls.  In effect, they are shut down.

But if taken without this group, Obama is not likely to lose over one percentage point in those polls.  What is more important are those states in the path of Sandy where people may not be able to get out and vote.  As this is written on Mon. PM, there were 2.2 million people without power and getting worse.  So far, states have extended hours for absentee voting and on-site voting places like schools and fire stations will receive priorities in restoring their power.

Here are the states affected.  By election day, Florida will be completely out of the storm’s loop.  Other borderline/tossup states in Sandy’s way are North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire.  Most of the damage has been done in the first three and now it will depend on outages and follow-up crews to get things done in the few days remaining.  New Hampshire is at the tail end of the storm’s path and the status there more apparent by Tues. or Wed.

Those of us not affected by the storm should give thanks and offer our best to those in harm’s way.  You often wonder about things like this, at a time when this country is just beginning to dig out of a near economic collapse, and if someone is trying to tell us something.  Maybe it’s a shot at the downright despicable and hateful partisanship that has been going on in Congress, a kind of warning to clean up your act or else.  Will they listen?  We’ll see.

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