I am a math guy, so I spend time every day looking at the numbers in the presidential polls. This election is, among other things, fascinating by its mathematical complexity.
Most, not all, polls currently show President Bush with a small lead among likely voters. There’s some question how well the concept of ‘likely voters’ will hold up if this is an election with a very large turnout. Forget that for a moment.
Let’s just say the polls are right, and President Bush takes home a majority of the popular vote. I’m not sure he’ll win. In fact, it is conceivable that Senator Kerry could win the majority of electoral votes without a popular vote plurality.
That would be the Democrats accomplishing the unlikely feat that the Republicans pulled off four years ago. Probability has no memory. Rare events can happen back-to-back.
For the first time tonight, that fact (is fact the right word when all of this is really guesswork piled upon more guesswork?) is headlined on Slate.com¹. Slate’s home page says:
I’ve been seeing similar numbers when I view statewide polls. Florida is very close – probably too close. But, Pennsylvania looks to be ‘blue’ and now Ohio, Wisconsin and Michigan are also leaning that way.
As a kid, I remember the Kennedy – Nixon election of 1960. We went to sleep late at night not knowing who won. It is my earliest remembrance of an election. I figured they’d all be that way, but none were… until 2000.
All night? Hell, we waited weeks to find out what was going on.
Remember hanging chads in Florida? People claimed they meant to vote for Al Gore, but voted for Patrick Buchannon by mistake.
I’m not sure how that was read by the rest of the world, but it probably didn’t show our best side. It could happen again.
In the meantime, watching national polls is now worthless. Watch the individual battleground states because that’s where the election will be won or lost. This is the site I go to most often. It might not be the best, but it’s got lots of numbers. I like numbers.
¹ – I am saddened to see Slate use a photo of a smiling John Kerry next to a picture of a scowling George Bush. At this point, a news site should be even handed in every way. This is not.