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Or is it 1980?
Posted by: McQ on Monday, July 21, 2008

Except in this case the "Ronald Reagan" of the election would be Barack Obama.

Wandering around the net and reading various articles, I stumbled across Clive Crook's examination of exactly the phenomenon Michael Barone addresses in the post below.

Crook, however, has a completely different analysis based on the work of Emory University professor Alan Abramowitz and his electoral barometer.

The point to be made about the good professor's electoral barometer is it that has a good track record, much better than the polls. And, as Crook succinctly sums up Abramowitz's findings about this election, "McCain is toast".

Essentially the message Crook and Abramowitz give is that the polls that show the candidates in a very tight race don't really matter because they're polling the wrong things.

Abramowitz's electoral barometer weighs together the approval rating of the incumbent president, the economy’s economic growth rate and whether the president’s party has controlled the White House for two terms (the “time for a change” factor). That's it. That's all. And he weights them as his research indicates these factors should be weighted.


It has predicted the popular vote winner 14 out of 15 times in post-war elections (it missed on Humphrey in '68 which isn't particularly surprising given the convention and the era).

And this election in particular?
The Electoral Barometer, a measure of national political conditions that combines these three factors, currently yields a reading of -62, which is similar to that received by Jimmy Carter prior to his decisive loss to Ronald Reagan.
Yes folks, unlike the Barone analysis which finds conditions analogous to the 1976 Carter/Ford race, Abramowitz finds it much closer to the 1980 Carter/Reagan race - except in this particular case, it is Obama who is the "Reagan" of the race, not the Republican.

Crook comes up with perhaps the most interesting point about this method of prediction:
The unsettling thing about this way of predicting the outcome, of course, is that it does not matter whether the Democratic candidate is Mr Obama or Hillary Clinton – or Joe Biden or Dennis Kucinich, for that matter. The Republicans’ choice of Mr McCain was equally beside the point. On the merits, one candidate may be much better than another – a separate and endlessly interesting question. When it comes to predicting the result, the barometer says that as long as the incumbent is not running, it makes no difference.
Tuck that in the back of your mind and compare it with the results in November. What Crook is arguing is that it really doesn't matter who is running for which party - if the three conditions are in a certain alignment, a blue dog could run and win. Or a red one.

However, all that being said, there is an "X" factor in this particular race that has never been present before:
Are there special factors that could throw the calculation off? No doubt, and this year one above all cries out. Mr Obama would be the first black president, a possibility the barometer has not yet had to contemplate. Who knows what difference his colour will make, whether it will help him on balance or hurt him.
And, of course, we'll certainly see how that effects the outcome if at all.

But think about this theory that says that the choice of candidates, their strengths and weaknesses and the way they fight their campaigns (unless they really step on it) has less to do with the outcome than the weighted alignment of three political factors and the seeming inevitability of the outcome they bring to the election. That's a bit terrifying in reality. But it does offer a reasonable, if not particularly desirable explanation for Carter and Clinton and, perhaps, Obama.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

it does not matter whether the Democratic candidate is Mr Obama or Hillary Clinton - or Joe Biden or Dennis Kucinich, for that matter
I’m going to respectfully disagree with him on this. If Dennis Kucinich was the D in the race, it would be McCain in a landslide. I think the reality is, if a candidate is not a complete buffoon and avoids an epic bout of mistakes, the barometer works.

There’s still much to see between now and November, but I do find it curious how quiet the straight talk express has been.
Written By: meagain
URL: http://
There are a couple of these models floating around. The last one I saw used three major variables: length of party incumbency, state of the economy, and are we in a war. It was quite accurate too.
Written By: Jeff the Baptist
It has predicted the popular vote winner 14 out of 15 times in post-war elections (it missed on Humphrey in ’68 which isn’t particularly surprising given the convention and the era).
Given the parallels between this year and 68, this seems a point that shouldn’t be glossed over. How close those parallels are we’ll see as of the convention... but the signs are all there for the 68 riots on teroids, and a party split that would make Humphrey eat his shoe.

Written By: Bithead
It could be 1914, or 1832 or possibly 1932...or just plain old 2008.
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
What Crook is arguing is that it really doesn’t matter who is running for which party - if the three conditions are in a certain alignment, a blue dog could run and win. Or a red one.

Well, I think he is making the implicit assumption that the nominating process is not irrational and self-destructive - sort of an political science corollary to the efficients market theories. Presumably if the Dems had chosen to nominate a blue dog it would not be polling well (although Blue Dog apologists would no doubt cite simple name factor recognition.)
Written By: Tom Maguire
URL: http://
It’s 1972 and Obama is both McGovern and Eagleton. He is the most vulnerable candidate nominated for president in my recollection.

The Democrats have nominated a folding chair that can’t handle the weight.

So far, I think, that McCain has marshalled his resources well and deployed a quiet strategy.

The only question I have about McCain as a candidate is can he get inside on Obama and throw real punches at him. If he can, he wins going away.

If I were making the negative ads about Obama I would show him as a man who is constantly tangled in his own legs. The ads would ask and answer all the questions that reporters are not asking, often because Obama gives them no access to ask them. I would go short on voiceover narration and long on Obama narrating his own confusion. Brief captions would guide the viewer.

More can be done to devastate this clown in 30-second spots precisely because that’s what he is himself — a 30-second spot.

McCain must wage a negative campaign because this is a plebiscite on Obama.


Written By: Martin McPhillips

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