Monday, November 5, 2012

Election Follies

Republicans tended to pout
When statistical guys pointed out:
Though the margin is tight
'Tween the Left and the Right,
Re-election is hardly in doubt.
* * *
The Economist recommends "O"
As, on balance, the best way to go:
"After careful review
Of the devil who's new,
We'll stick with the one who we know."
* * *
The GOP House is in harm'ny
That, until the election of Romney,
They're refusing outright
Any measures that might
Aid recovery of our econ'my.

As the US election day looms tomorrow, a group of wonky "poll aggregators" such as Nate Silver of 538 have attracted attention with predictions that President Obama's re-election is an eighty or so percent likelihood. This has generated a lot of misunderstanding, especially among the President's opponents, as to how someone can estimate such an overwhelming probability of his victory when all the polls show something like a statistical dead heat. The answer is that Mr. Silver and others like him take all of the data from various polls and use them to run possible scenarios for electoral college outcomes. The models show that, in 4/5 of the possible scenarios, Mr. Obama wins the electoral college, regardless of how close the popular vote may be. Supporters of Mr. Romney may console themselves that their man still has a 1/5 chance of beating the odds.

The Economist, in its judgment that "the Devil you know is better than the Devil you don't know," seems to encapsulate the general feeling that this election is all about President Obama, whether you love him, hate him or fall in between. Mr. Romney seems almost beside the point, except to provide an alternative for those who don't like the President. That group would include Republican members of Congress, who for the last four years have stalled any sort of economically forward-looking initiatives for the country, lest the President get the credit. Would they be any less obstructionist in a second Obama term? Would Mr. Romney's election suddenly unleash their capacity for positive action? We shall soon see.

Please do your civic duty and vote on Election Day!

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