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Monday, 27 October 2008

Could Obama lose?

Robert Kennedy Jr. on Rachel Maddow talking about the systematic and nationally organised blocking of the right-to-vote almost always from Democrats and poor people.

This expands on the article he wrote with Greg Palast in the current Rolling Stone, which Palast did a film for for the BBC's Newsnight.

Gary Younge did a very good roundup of all the bad stuff which has been reported in The Guardian today:
In short, come next Tuesday, the issue may not so much be who votes for whom, but who gets to vote and whose votes get counted. A recent CNN poll showed that 42% of voters are not confident their vote will be accurately cast and counted - almost three times the figure four years ago. With the record numbers of newly registered voters will be a record number of lawyers on both sides. If it's close, the courts may once again pick the winner.
This is a joke from the Simpsons, but it's actually happened.

Says Younge:
In Jackson County, West Virginia, people have been hitting the touch-screen for Barack Obama and finding they have voted for John McCain.
I've yet to see anywhere which is tallying up the likely electoral effect but going on the voter purge numbers suggested it's not actually enormous in a likely 130 million vote election. Significant, dirty and illegitimate - but not enormous.

[Though there are plenty of sites watching voter suppression such as
the Voter Suppression Wiki, SourceWatch’s Election Protection Wiki, the Election Fraud Blog and the Video the Vote project.]

The other demon to raise its head - all the time in BBC coverage, a meme so strong Ian Hislop smugly repeated it on Have I Got News For You on Friday as received wisdom - is the 'Bradley effect'.

The actual Bradley campaign reality bears no relationship to the meme. The reason Bradley lost was because a supposedly 'anti-gun' proposition turned out massive numbers of rural and small town voters not expected through polls.

This sort of 'wedge' tactic has been perfected since by numerous politicians, from John Howard, who used immigration, to George Bush, who used gay marriage. It drives the faithful to the polls, sometimes literally.

Mori's Bob Worcester demolished the idea that in 2008 it's a real effect when yet another BBC journalist raised it on 'Today' this morning, pointing out that there's no evidence from the last US elections in 2006 (and quoting Nate Silver that Obama has a '95.7% chance of winning'). Crankily responding to another question about it he said:
rather than instinct I'd actually prefer to go on what's actually happened.
If I was American I would be somewhat offended by the BBC's ignorance on race in the USA. Maybe they should do this story?

Prodded once again, Silver statistically dismantles 'Bradley' again today saying: Bradley Effect? Or Elephant Effect? — responding to an article by Republican consultant Bill Greener at Like Worcester, Nate also focuses on those 2006 elections.

Very, very little reported but even scarier is Naomi Wolf's belief that America is in the beginnings of a coup.

Yes, a coup.

Here she explains it more but basically she's looked at how all coup d’├ętat start and America ticks all the boxes: secret prisons, mass surveillance. Plus following a typically rushed and secretive 'War On Terror' move, Bush has acquired legal rights to deploy US troops in mainland USA. There have been troop deployments in black ghettos like Oakland.

So some people think it's all going to end in tears and torture in 'black sites'....

However the real argument is will any of this dirty stuff work?

I think not, simply because Obama's lead is too great.

The traditional polls count things like likely voters and often, like Gallup's, base this on whether people have voted before. They are usually not taking account of either new voters or even people who use a mobile phone and not a land line.

But despite all these problems, which Nate Silver's excellent squeezes out, Obama still leads and leads by big numbers in the popular and electoral vote. It's obvious.

It is hard to imagine anything, even a terrorist attack or a Bin Laden video, eroding those numbers.

The sort of voter purge tactics being pursued only really work in much closer elections like the 2000 one - where 57000 people were removed from Florida's rolls - and in 2004 in Ohio.

Again, as Nate Silver has pointed out, the electoral map is such that Obama starts 2 electoral votes short of the number needed with enough solid, double-digit lead, 'blue' states.

Also, Republicans have en masse been fleeing the sinking ship. Particularly fiscally conservative and socially liberal ones - today he got the Financial Times endorsement. Even Palin has been breaking with the campaign tacticians, perhaps because she fears being blamed for a huge loss.

Against all the doom and gloom, which is not based on nothing, are a whole lot of other factors which have to be weighed.

Nothing leads me to think that the US will not have a black president in a week's time. It may well be a bit closer than some think now and the evidence suggests but it will still be a victory.

P.S. An interview with Nate on 'Today' is due ...

Postscript: been reminded by readers that 'in 2004 Kerry was polling strongly, right?'

Actually no. Here's Daniel Sinker:
Looking at polling results from the final days of the 2004 campaign paints a very different picture: With only three exceptions, Bush held the lead in 22 out of 25 polls going into election day. Those leads, which averaged 2.23% for Bush, very closely mirrored the final election outcome: a 2.45% margin of victory.
Sinker also discovered a - perhaps surprising - mirroring between Google Trends numbers for Obama/McCain and the actual poll numbers.

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