Cory’s Big Bag of Election Predictions!

It’s finally here…

24 hours from now we will all be glued to our televisions, watching results pour in and dozens of news anchors (including some neat hologram people if you’re watching CNN) and analysts scour the data at their fingertips. We’ll be pleasantly surprised, terribly disappointed and tense as all hell as we watch the greatest political theater in the world evolve in front of our eyes. There are no highs and no lows quite like the emotional involvement that comes with loyally following these campaigns from their birth, through the triumph and the tragedy, and then finally to their inevitable conclusion. It is the highest form of non-fiction drama, an epic saga playing out in front of our eyes with an incomprehensible budget and a cast of millions.

For me, the night before an election is far more stressful and concerning than even the night of the election itself. The cases have been made, the early votes cast and there is no more room for error… no time for damage control. If at 9:00 AM tomorrow morning a story surfaces that convinces the electorate that either candidate has fathered an illegitimate child with a space alien, there is simply no way to dispute the claim or control the spin – those ideas are going into the booth. So, to take my mind off of potential extra-terrestrial affairs, I have decided to spend some time this evening running through some scenarios and exercising my mind (and exorcising my demons) as a means to maintain some level of sanity.

First of all, let’s look at what could go wrong for the Obama campaign, complete with a “Danger Factor” to illustrate exactly how scary I consider these scenarios (on a scale of 1-10).

The Bradley Effect. There’s just no real way to discern whether or not this is a situation to be feared or simply laughed off. As you likely know, the term “Bradley Effect” was born from the 1982 California Gubernatorial race where all polling and early indications suggested that former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley would not only win the race, but win handily. However, as the sun rose on the Golden State, Republican candidate George Deukmejian had done the unthinkable, pulling the rug out from under Bradley and winning an election that even he expected to lose. The common belief hinders around race relations in the state, suggesting that voters voiced their support for Bradley publicly (so as not to appear racist), but were inclined to opt for the white candidate when actually standing in the voting booth.

Is The Bradley Effect real, and more importantly, is it cause for concern? While I certainly fear the possibility of this type of situation, I don’t see it as being anything more than a slight annoyance in a handful of suburbs. Our nation is a very different place in 2008 than it was in 1982. Racial tensions have eased tremendously, and (at the risk of being rather harsh) a large percentage of the true, die-hard racists in our nation have… well… died. Keep in mind that the final nail in the coffin of the “separate but equal” doctrine came in 1965 with the Voting Rights Act. Thus, a scant 17 years prior to Tom Bradley’s historic run our nation was only then barring legalized segregation. On the other side of the time line, Bradley’s race for office was 26 years ago. While we aren’t perfect in the race relations department, it would be impossible to imagine that we haven’t come a long way in the last 26 years.

Danger Factor: 4

Paper Bag Republicans. I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but President Bush isn’t too popular these days. However, George Bush isn’t the name on the ballot… and even if he was, he’d still pull 40% of the vote (despite a 20% approval rating). Remember, there is a section of this electorate that will vote for their party no matter who or what they’re offered. Walter Mondale, possibly the most inept and ineffective candidate in modern political history, still managed to gain 40.6% of the vote on his way to winning a whopping 13 electoral votes. So, no matter how much you may have convinced yourself that we’re about to see a massive landslide victory, remember that 40% is the floor for this election, and it only builds from there. Enter the Paper Bag Republicans (thusly named for their desire to hide their identities under said bag).

In urban and many suburban areas of this country, the idea of “outing” yourself as a Republican is akin to social suicide. If the logic goes that George Bush is history’s greatest monster, and that John McCain is George Bush’s greatest ally, then surely John McCain must be history’s OTHER greatest monster… and voting for him is frankly unthinkable. Voters in these social settings may not have the audacity to stand up to such talk, instead choosing to publicly espouse their support for Barack Obama, while their intent was never to vote for him in the first place. Sure, they’ll act disappointed if McCain wins, but secretly they’re smiling and reassured. Once again, not a huge concern (as these people likely live in urban areas and will be canceled out by high African American turnout), but enough of one to consider.

Danger Factor: 5

Paris Hilton Democrats. Of all potential disasters in this election cycle, this is your group to legitimately fear. Surely you remember Paris Hilton parading around like a princess during the 2004 election and calling upon young people to mobilize for John Kerry… you guessed it, Paris Hilton didn’t vote. Right now Barack Obama is trendy, and trendy equals youth. Unfortunately, more and more each day it seems that youth equals lazy. While voting doesn’t exactly require a tremendous amount of effort, in many cities across the country it will require a tremendous amount of time. Lines that stretch around blocks, leading to hours of waiting time, will result in this scenario:

“Man, this line is taking forever. I want to vote, but I’ve got stuff I’d rather be doing today, and there’s no way that I’m going to stand here for two hours just to push a button. I mean, look at all of these people, I’m sure they’re voting for my guy… I mean, this is a college town/urban area/democratic state. Screw it man, my vote won’t make or break the election, I’m going to go grab a dime bag and a pizza and watch it on tv.”

No, your vote most likely won’t make or break the election, but the thousands of you combined that choose to make this selfish and idiotic decision can and will break the election. I realize the importance of getting stoned at eating pizza, I promise I do… but just put it off for a couple of hours. If you can’t, don’t complain when your side loses.

Danger Factor: 10

Now, Barack Obama isn’t the only candidate with potential voter pitfalls lying ahead. John McCain can count on his share of voter crises when the doors swing open tomorrow. For example:

Poll Addicts. Thanks largely in part to our 24-hour news cycle, many Republican voters have already given up any hope of actually winning this election. More damaging for McCain than anything is the wide gap in national polling, as many LIVs (low information voters) will fail to completely understand the electoral college system, under-appreciating their role in their state and assuming that with a double digit lead in many polls, there is simply no reason to bother this time around.

A legitimate fear for team McCain should be the psychological effect that such a wide margin of presumed victory for team Obama can have on the electorate as a whole. In order to get voters mobilized (on both sides), there has to be a sense of urgency, a feeling that you are part of something important and that your vote is the most important in the entirety of the nation. For many McCain supporters, that feeling of urgency is long gone, washed away with the Obama tide that, on the surface, is rolling through the nation. Convincing the soccer mom McCain supporter to leave work early, make other arrangements for the kids and otherwise juggle her already hectic schedule to a dozen different hands when she is convinced that your candidacy is a sinking ship isn’t just difficult, it borders on the impossible.

Danger Factor: 5

Cell Phone Voters. When you’re a 72 year-old member of the unpopular incumbent party, running against a young and vibrant orator-extraordinare with the support of Kanye West, you’re already running uphill when it comes to the youth vote. When even the friendliest polls still show you losing, you’re climbing out of a hole with grease on your gloves. When those two things coincide with what could be a dramatic under-sampling of the very demographic that conspires to seal your fate, you could be at the bottom of an exceptionally greasy hole at the bottom of a hill.

Here’s the problem, those folks conducting the polls that you see on your television every night are only calling your standard land-line telephones. The potential demographic nightmare for the McCain campaign is the Cell Phone Voter… a widely under-examined group of typically 18-30 year old voters that have chosen not to own a land-line phone. How big is this demographic? Well, I don’t know a soul under the age of 35 that actually has a land-line telephone, with only two exceptions: those who live in an area without acceptable wireless service and those that require it for a broadband connection. Of those individuals with standard telephone service, I only know one of their local numbers. Hell, I have a local telephone number right now, but couldn’t tell you what it is.

If the 18-30 crowd, a demographic that swings dramatically in favor of Barack Obama, actually decides to make it to the polls this year we could see dramatic sweeps of swing states. Since John McCain can ill afford to lose even one, this is a very legitimate concern, as a massive youth turn-out could potentially tack an extra 2-2.5 points onto Obama’s total, rendering certain areas where Republican candidates still see promise almost impossible to win.

Danger Factor: 8

Obamicans. This one is simple, they’re the new Reagan Democrats. Ronald Reagan didn’t win 49 states simply by playing to the “base” of the Republican Party, Reagan pulled that off by convincing nearly everyone in the country that he was the way forward. I can’t remember much about the 1984 election, other than being completely stunned, as I don’t remember ANYONE saying that they were voting for Reagan. However, based on the numbers it’s safe to say that some of those Democrats were lying. But why were they lying?

Say what you will about Reagan (and Lord knows I have), he was an incredibly gifted speaker, and had the amazing ability to convince the overwhelming majority of the electorate that he and only he had the ability to lead our nation back to the promised land… sound familiar? I have heard on several occasions stories of voters (most commonly rural voters) outwardly pledging their allegiance to the McCain campaign for fear of being ostracized by their peers, but planning on casting their actual vote for Obama. This isn’t to suggest that Barack Obama will sweep the Dixiecrat contingency in the same manner that Reagan did in 1984, but even a 1-2 point bump from these covert Obama supporters could be enough to cripple the McCain campaign in any or all swing states… I’m looking at you Ohio and Missouri.

Danger Factor: 8

For either campaign, this election is a potential minefield. There is no precedent for the oldest candidate in history vs. the blackest candidate in history. In fact, with the exception of Joe Biden, there isn’t a single name appearing on a major-party presidential ballot in this election that could be described as “conventional” in the least. So, what in the hell is going to happen?

I have no idea.

However, as you would certainly imagine, I’m not short of opinions. Before I get into the real meat of this election, I want to make a few predictions on the secondary, but damn near equally important aspect of this election… the United States Senate. Should Barack Obama win the presidency of this great nation (especially if that determination is made early in the evening), all eyes will turn to the senatorial races, many of which are hotly contested and entirely up for grabs. For example…

Minnesota. If there is one thing to know about the land of the Golden Gophers, it’s that they aren’t just wildly unpredictable, but that they love nothing more than causing the rest of the nation to collectively scratch their heads at their political decisions. In 1998 the citizens of Minnesota chose as their next governor a former professional wrestler and third party candidate in Jesse Ventura. While that seems borderline surreal to those of us in the south, the idea seemed to pan out, as by all accounts he was a rather successful governor. In 2008, Minnesota is poised to throw us another curveball as they head to the polls to potentially elect SNL alum Al Franken as their next Senator.

The most recent poll numbers show incumbent Norm Coleman leading Franken by only 1 point, a staggering development in an election that at one point offered Coleman a 14-16 point lead. Right now Barack Obama holds a rather consistent 10-12 point lead in the state, a fact that simply doesn’t bode well for an incumbent senator running against a record of “towing the line” with an astoundingly unpopular president. Win or lose for Franken, one thing cannot be overstated: Minnesotans are weird. They’re very nearly the closest thing that we have to a foreign country in the lower 48, and you would be nuts to think that they’d behave in any traditionally acceptable way. It’s based on that fact that with tremendous shock and a fair amount of self-doubt, I’m calling Minnesota for Al Franken. Did I really just say that?

Georgia. Astoundingly, not only is the state of Georgia in play, but the incumbent Republican senate seat is in very, very real jeopardy. It seems rather amazing that it was six full years ago that Saxby Chambliss propagated upon the peach state one of the most horrendous examples of pure gutter politics that we’ve seen in recent memory, comparing triple amputee/Vietnam Veteran Max Cleland (in a rather backhanded and of course “completely unintentional” way) to Osama Bin Laden. For Georgia democrats, and Democrats nation-wide, that particular ad has remained part of the collective consciousness and a bit of a rallying cry for this election. It represents everything that we should abhor about dirty politics, and outside of the ousting of Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, this would be the sweetest fruit in the orchard for still-angry, still-bitter Dems nationwide.

Well, I hate to burst your bubble, but Saxby is baxby. The only real hope for Jim Martin to win this election rides on the back of an unimaginable Obama voter turnout, one that would undoubtedly turn the entire state blue. It isn’t at all impossible, in fact many analysts (myself included at one point… though I’d hardly call myself a real “analyst”) have seen a genuine likelihood of Georgia swinging to the Obama campaign based on two important factors: extremely high African American turnout and larger than usual campus movements. While I can all but guarantee both of these factors will come to fruition, it’s questionable as to whether or not they will surpass the four point lead McCain has on the state and the five point lead Chambliss has on Martin. However, I will say this: if Georgia begins to trend blue in both races tomorrow, this election is over.

North Carolina. Speaking of absolutely unspeakable political ads, I’m sure that you’re now familiar with the borderline-slanderous attack launched at Democratic challenger Kay Hagan by incumbent Republican Elizabeth Dole. In case you aren’t, Dole (sweating a possible loss) didn’t just attack Hagan on policy or even questionable associations, she outright accused this poor woman (a Sunday School teacher) of being in league with “Godless Americans” and declaring that there was no God. Not only did Hagan take offense, but fired back with one of the most impressive response ads that I can say, without a doubt, I have ever seen.

Dole, once a very respectable political figure and head of the Salvation Army, managed to sink to a low even for North Carolina politics. Fortunately for the Democratic side of the aisle, Dole’s ad and Hagan’s subsequent response caused a major turnaround in the polls, where Dole once led by three (pre-ad) she now trails by five. In a race that close, an eight point swing in the polls can be attributed to only one thing, an attack ad that will undoubtedly go down in history as one of the most ill-advised and destructive in recent political history. Dole is done in this one, marking the official end of the the Bob and Libby show in Washington. While I would have once had kinder parting words for what has otherwise been a fine public servant, after that garbage I can only say “good riddance.”

Kentucky. The biggest of the big dogs, Mitch McConnell is fighting for his political life in our very own Bluegrass State. With essentially any other candidate as opposition, this race could be swinging wide enough to nearly guarantee a victory for the Democratic Party. However, the indestructible McConnell machine managed to scare off any legitimate opposition in the primary, leaving the door open to frequent candidate Bruce Lunsford. Seriously Bruce, at this point Gatewood Galbraith is calling to tell you that you’re beginning to embarrass yourself.

Lunsford may have the best of intentions, but his past associations with the state’s Republican party has given many local Democrats pause… enough to even break party lines based on the theory that “If I’m going to vote for a Republican I might as well vote for one with seniority.” However, all hope isn’t completely lost for Lunsford. Polls show the race at anywhere from 4-6% for McConnell, a stat that dips nearly within the margin of error and doesn’t take into consideration the possibility of a massive influx of new voters in Northern Kentucky, Louisville and Lexington. Should those regions go overwhelmingly Democrat, and should those new (and likely Obama) voters decide to pull a straight Democratic ticket or otherwise participate in down-ticket races, Bruce Lunsford could potentially eek out a victory. I repeat, potentially… not likely… not even particularly reasonable. It looks like the Commonwealth should start printing up “30 Years is Enough” signs right now.

Finally, we get to the cherry on the sundae. All pitfalls and Senate majorities aside, there is a small matter of electing the next President of the United States. As of right now, CNN is projecting the following states as swing states for tomorrow: MT, ND, MO, IN, OH, NC, FL. Frankly, this toss-up situation is a nightmare for the McCain campaign, as they find themselves defending territory that clearly shouldn’t have been in play at this point. States like Indiana, Montana, North Dakota and North Carolina shouldn’t be this close, and wouldn’t have been in any electoral projection this summer. But this isn’t this summer, and enough has gone wrong with McCain’s team to open window to a possible (albeit extremely unlikely) 381 electoral vote landslide for Barack Obama.

Of course, that won’t happen. In fact, this is how I see this whole election playing out:

electoral-map

To save you the math, that’s Obama 329 – McCain 209.

That’s not to say that I know what I’m talking about. Granted, I’ve studied this mess for most of my life and feel at least relatively comfortable in my prediction, but as the beginning of this post stated, there’s just no precedent for this. Will Georgia swing blue? Will Florida go red? The entire process is downright mesmerizing, and I can’t predict what we’ll see tomorrow night or even Wednesday morning… no one can. But just remember this, we’re terribly fortunate to live in a country where we have the option. We have the opportunity to take to the polls tomorrow and vote for the candidate of our choosing, and while our friends and family may agree or disagree passionately, it is our right and our privilege to do so.

I implore you to vote, no matter your candidate. Our nation is at its best when our citizens actively participate in our democracy, no matter which candidate they choose. So no matter who you are and no matter your politics, join me tomorrow in racing to the polls as soon as they open and casting your vote!

… for Barack Obama.

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One Response to “Cory’s Big Bag of Election Predictions!”

  1. Kevin Says:

    Well, even Rove has predicted a landslide (and I’m thinking the two of you are pretty much right on the money). The real guessing game now is predicting cabinet members.

    Oh, and this is a great line: Win or lose for Franken, one thing cannot be overstated: Minnesotans are weird.

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