Washington Babylon — October 20, 2008, 10:11 am

Is It Over?

Barack Obama is ahead in every national poll by a seemingly comfortable margin. He’s shattering all records for political fundraising, is attracting huge crowds to his rallies, and the pundits have pretty much declared that the race is over. It’s that last item that gives me pause, given that the media’s prognostications and story lines have so frequently been proven wrong during this year’s campaign.

Obama certainly appears to have a strong edge. And the astonishing $150 million he raised in September (thanks to his decision to opt out of the public-financing system, making him the first major party presidential candidate to do so since Watergate) will allow him to out-organize McCain and vastly outspend him in advertising. As regards to the latter, Obama is already ahead by about a 4 to 1 advantage in recent spending for TV ads.

So, yes, Obama will probably win the election two weeks down the road. But just to be contrarian (since it’s Monday) I asked Tom Edmonds, a prominent Republican media consultant, if he thought McCain had any chance of winning. He wasn’t exactly optimistic, but here’s why he thinks McCain isn’t dead yet.

The states that will make the difference – Virginia, North Carolina, West Virginia, Ohio and Florida – are all pretty close. (We’re going to know the winner early this time because the key states are mostly in the East). It’s not that the polls are wrong exactly, but there are two problems: they are undercounting Republicans as a percentage of voters and they are overestimating the youth vote.

You can ask 1,500 people how they are going to vote, but you have to weight the sample properly. A number of the pollsters use a sample that assumes about 35 percent of voters will be Republicans, and that’s probably not realistic. McCain has not run an inspiring campaign, but a lot of Republicans are going to go out and reluctantly vote for him. Obama has a lot more enthusiasm, but a reluctant vote for McCain counts the same as an enthusiastic vote for Obama.

The other big thing is the youth vote. There’s been a lot of hype about it, but it’s not going to materialize on Election Day. Roughly 33 million people voted in the 2004 primaries, and 58 million people voted in this year’s primaries. The youth vote was up, but not nearly as much as voting by middle-aged people and old fogies. The polls are capturing the enthusiasm for Obama, but college students are not going to turn out.

College students needed to re-register using their current address, or they will need to go home to vote on Election Day. That requires pre-planning and that’s not what they do. This is a category of voters that wants to register and vote online, but that’s not the way it works. They have no habit of registering to vote and going to the elementary school on the day of the election.

The largest youth turnout in the primaries was in Utah, where 16 percent of eligible young voters turned out – and they weren’t voting for Obama, they were voting for Mitt Romney. Sixty-five and older voters turn out four times as frequently.

If I was a consultant for Obama, I would feel good but not confident. The odds are with him, but it’s not wrapped up. It’s all going to depend on turnout.

Share
Single Page

More from Ken Silverstein:

From the November 2013 issue

Dirty South

The foul legacy of Louisiana oil

Perspective October 23, 2013, 8:00 am

On Brining and Dining

How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy

Postcard October 16, 2013, 8:00 am

The Most Cajun Place on Earth

A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits 

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $39.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

August 2014

The End of Retirement

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Octopus and Its Grandchildren

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Francis and the Nuns

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Return of the Strongman

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
“Evidence of a chill was plain. People in Hailey spoke to me about Bergdahl in low voices, as if about a death.”
Fox & Friends, July 6, 2014
Article
The Seductive Catastrophe·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The world’s leaders were moved by a populace fused into a forward phalanx, were shaken by a tidal wave of militancy jubilantly united.”
Photograph courtesy Mary Evans Picture Library
Post
The Glitch in the Video-Game Graveyard·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“From the nerd squabbles of Internet discussion threads rose an urban legend that culminated in a film that hinges on digging through my town’s trash.”
Illustration (detail) by Timothy Taranto
Article
What the Camera Saw·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“They shot him behind the left ear, and he fell.”
Article
Bounty·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“If I’d been one of the unprepared, I’d be desperate, too.”
Illustration (detail) by Simon Pemberton

Rolls of toilet paper Chicago’s city government has produced this year from recycled City Hall wastepaper:

19,000

Two thirds of U.S. teenagers experience uncontrollable rage.

Russia lost, then regained, contact with a satellite carrying five geckos sent to copulate in zero gravity.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

In Praise of Idleness

By

I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.

Subscribe Today