I’m in a tough bind. I’m a political junkie who likes numbers. And these days there are no shortage of numbers. Polling companies I’ve never heard of before are coming up with statistic after statistic. Each day, I’m driven to the latest polls at RCP or Pollster.com to check on what’s new. The worst are the daily tracking polls…as someone who has studied statistics, I realize that reading anything into the day-to-day variations is pointless, but I can’t stop myself. It’s compounded by the fact that this is an electoral college election, not a popular vote election: the total vote doesn’t really matter. Obama could drive up his lead by gaining bigger margins in states he is going to win anyway, and it would change the outcome. The same for McCain – increasing his lead in somewhere like Texas from 10% to 30% could change the vote totals, but not the outcome.
Obama has clearly pulled ahead in both the state and national polls recently, but I’m expect to see the race tighten up as people make up their minds and as some of McCain’s attack ads have an effect. You see, I think a lot of the so-called undecided voters are actually moderate Republicans who would normally vote for McCain, but are a bit nervous about the economy and McCain’s spotty performance. Obama might win some of them over, but some will eventually return to their Republican roots. Today’s polls are mostly tightening, except for Gallup, which now shows Obama with a staggering 11-point lead.
The big unknown in this election will be turnout. The electorate will likely look quite different this time around, and that may make all the difference.