I forced myself to watch Fox News last night just to get a sense of how the real 47 percenters view the world (47 percent being just about the number that Mitt Romney will poll nationally today), and was only wishing I could get some serious wagers down with the likes of resident Fox News bobbing heads Sean Hannity, Dick Morris & Newt Gingrich--all of whom who were predicting a Romney landslide today. Morris went so far to predict that Romney will win Pennsylvania! The man is taking some serious meds. (How about a side bet Dickie? How about I leave one "large" with O'Reilly and you can match it?)
Unless Republicans are able to suppress voting across the country, it is now mathematically impossible for Romney to win the election. While many polls are, indeed, close and within the statistical margin of error, the Obama dominance in the significant swing states--Nevada, New Hampshire, Colorado, Iowa, Wisconsin, Virginia and, most importantly Ohio and Pennsylvania--renders it all but statistically impossible for Romney to win the Electoral College vote. (It would be like the very best baseball team winning 150 games in a season; not gonna happen). 49 of the 50 states are virtual locks. Anyone can pick 'em. The only real toss-up is Florida, where I predict Obama wins, unless the GOP thugs in the Sunshine State suppress enough voters to pull off yet another coup there.
In other words, it's all over but the whining and finger-pointing for the Repugs. Obama wins either 303 or 332 electoral votes, depending on the outcome in Florida.
Earlier today, Howard Fineman, the editorial director of the Huffington Post Media Group, sagely called into question what he has dubbed the "Silverization" of American politics:
As for the press, this was the Nate Silver Election. He was the symbol and bane. His odds-making in The New York Times -- a kind of racing tip sheet that The Times doesn't even feature in the sports pages -- is the ultimate reductio ad absurdum of horse race coverage.
Reductio ad absurdum, indeed.
I've been highly critical of Silver's approach to the campaign before, though, let me be clear, I don't disagree much with his numbers. A little less than a year ago, Silver wrote a foolish piece entitled "Is Obama Toast?" in which he declared that Obama was an "underdog." He based his predictions on the state of the economy and certain "trends" more than a year off the election, including what he saw as Obama slides among "Hispanic" and African-American voters.
Let me say that "predicting" an underdog without knowing who the opponent is going to be is an absolutely absurd move in politics--an enterprise, like baseball, that is played on the real board--not in some computer program or in some geek's head.
In fact, six of the biggest variables in this year's campaign, Silver never saw coming and he never factored for them in any of his predictions:
1. Obama's poor performance in the first debate. That single factor caused the biggest shift in the campaign. It could have well cost Obama the election and had nothing to do with economic indicators. Silver never saw it coming.
2. Biden's thumping of Ryan two weeks later. That stopped Obama's two-week freefall in October. Biden was Biden; Ryan came off as a wimp and a geek who didn't have presidential timber in his voice. Who could have ever predicted the significance of the VP debate? Not Silver. But it played a major factor in turning the race around back toward Obama.
3. Clint Eastwood. Who could have foreseen the impact Eastwood's embarrassing performance at the Republican National Convention and the role it played in derailing Romney's predicted post-convention bounce?
4. Hurricane Sandy. I didn't see any weather predictions floating around in Silver's crystal ball either. Sandy helped Obama enormously in several ways: It reminded independent and undecided voters about the importance of the federal safety net; it highlighted Romney's opposition to FEMA; it further underscored Romney's wishy-washy positions on a host of other positions; it allowed Obama to look presidential and rendered Romney as a bystander; and it opened the door for Chris Christie's turn as Marcus Junius Brutus in the final week of the election.
5. The women's vote. Who could have ever predicted that the likes of Akin and Murdouck would turn rape into a national political issue? I predict the women's vote will be the single most significant variable in today's tally.
6. Bill Clinton. Clinton's tour de force performance at the Democratic Convention created a serious bump for Obama and his presence on the campaign trail in swing states like Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio helped enormously in keeping them on the Democrats' side of the ledger. A major factor.
There are plenty of other significant variables, too. Like I said, politics is played on the real field. It's why Silver's sabermetric brethren all picked the Tigers in the World Series. They didn't understand the fire in the Giants' bellies--just like they didn't factor in those intangibles that ultimately turned the election toward Obama's favor.
Anyone can pick 49 out of 50 states on the day before the election (I picked 50 out of 50 in 2008; I had Indiana, too). It's seeing the obvious a year out that takes real foresight.
The great French political theorist, Alexis de Tocqueville once wrote:
Providence has not created mankind entirely independent or perfectly slave. It traces, it is true, a fatal circle around each man that he cannot leave; but within its vast limits man is powerful and free; so too with communities.
Tocqueville had a profound understanding of the American body politic--of a type that Silver would never in a million years possess. Numbers crunchers can merely define the fatal circle. We need more Tocquevilles and fewer Silvers (and Dick Morrises) framing our political discussion and shaping our decisions as a free people. In the end, pollsters are nothing more than political frontrunners and not social visionaries.