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July 28, 2008

Surprise (Outlier) Poll: McCain Actually Leads Obama by 4, Among Likely Voters

Precisely who is a "likely" voter this cycle is a mystery; given the wild-eyed zealotry of Obama's cultists, I know that previous voter-turnout models are wrong. I just don't know how wrong. Will all the disaffected leftists turn out for Obama in hopes of re-starting the Age of Aquarius, and how many of those old smelly hippies are there, anyway? Will all those stupid liberal college students finally put down their bongs and cast a vote this time? Maybe, but we hear that every four years.

On top of that, there's the Bradley Effect, where lots of dumb white people lie to perfect strangers on the phone about their eagerness to vote for the black candidate, because they want to appear tolerant to a college student making $7.00 on hour to interrupt them during dinner. It's not a racist thing; but determined to show they're not racist, people tend to claim support of minority candidates they don't necessarily feel.

In yet another complication, Dick Morris postulates that in this particular election, Obama is effectively "the incumbent" -- meaning that most undecided voters will break against him (as most undecideds/late-deciders break against the incumbent). I suppose this is because most elections are a referendum on the incumbent, and if you don't like him, you vote against him. In this case, the election turns on whether you want a flashy, shallow, glib incompetent with a nice smile and good pecs or a less risky choice.

Obamamaniac turnout is a huge X factor in this election. It could be the old rule of thumb -- that if a Republican is only behind by a smidge pre-election, he'll win -- is reversed, and this time we'd expect McCain to lose unless the last polls show him with a comfortable 5 point lead.

Or maybe not. There are many who bitterly cling to their lack of hope and indifference to change.

So what do polls mean? We say it every four years, but this time it's more true than ever: They don't mean anything. We simply have too many important variables we can't account for. We can't even assume people are expressing their honest preference in polls, or accurately prophesizing how likely they are to vote at all. (Obama's ranks are filled with a lot of people swearing they will vote for him even if doing so conflicts with attending a mandatory Phish tribute band practice; but we don't know if they really will or not.) We don't know what the electorate turning out this time will actually look like.

We're looking at numbers when the really crucial numbers are almost completely hidden from us and simply can't be polled or estimated.


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posted by Ace at 05:23 PM

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