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David Kuo Headshot

Obama, Polls, and Race

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It now seems pretty clear that virtually all of the late polling on the Democratic side was wrong... very wrong. The last Rasmussen Report had Obama +7 over Clinton. CBS had him +7. USA Today had Obama +13 and CNN +10.

With more than 60% of New Hampshire now reporting Obama is -3. 40% of precincts still need to report. Things may change. But this gap really is extraordinary. Chances are nil that Obama is going to win overwhelmingly. The polls were hugely wrong.

Why?

It is a return to the race-gap polling problems of the 1980s and 1990s:

This phenomenon was first noticed in the 1982 race for governor of California, where Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, a black Democrat, narrowly lost to Republican George Deukmejian, despite polls showing him with a lead ranging from 9 to 22 points. The next year, African-American Democrat Harold Washington barely won his race for mayor of Chicago against Republican Bernard Epton. Pre-election polls taken within the last two weeks of the campaign showed Washington with a 14-point lead.

The problem was prominent in the New York City mayoral race in 1989. David Dinkins, an African-American candidate beat Republican Rudy Giuliani by only 2 points, despite leading by as much as 18 points in polls a week before the election.

Tonight, despite all the talk of how little race matters in this campaign, it is clear that race is still a big deal in bi-racial campaigns. And it has showed up for the first time, in a measurable way, in the 2008 presidential race.

It means that every poll -- from exit polls to tracking polls -- are absolutely suspect from here on out.