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Monday, May 10, 2004

WaPo Op-Ed Questions CW About Battleground States

Posted by DavidNYC

Richard Morin & Gary Langer, polling directors for the WaPo and ABC News, respectively, make the argument on the WaPo op-ed page that the list of swing states people are looking at won't necessarily be the close, deciding states on election day. Well, of course not: Some will and some won't. In asserting this claim, they mostly cite a bunch of historical evidence about close states in one year not always being close the following presidential election.

That's great - but so what? What matters are whether the states which were close last time still look close this time, and whether any states that weren't close last time look surprisingly close this time. And on that front, they produce some pretty thin evidence. One Wisconsin poll had Bush ahead by 12 points. So it's no longer a battleground, then? Wrong - the very next poll showed Kerry up by 8. New Jersey is "neck-and-neck," they say? Yeah - in precisely one poll. Two more recent polls showed Kerry up by 12 and 6 points.

I don't mean to disparage the idea of looking at past voting trends - obviously, these matter a great deal. But unless you can show me that an actual state we're calling "swing" really isn't, or a state we're calling "safe" really isn't - in the here-and-now - then it makes sense to stick with this list. And the 17 or so main swing states have polled consistently closely for some time.

The second half of the op-ed reads like a memo to the media: "Please don't regard this as just a horserace to 270 electoral votes and cover the issues, too." The problem is that the electoral college just isn't complicit here. Even if we got rid of it, the media would still treat this as a horserace - just as they do every election. The only real difference would be that national polls would be all-important, and campaign activity (and political coverage) would focus on major population centers. So the media ought to blame itself for shoddy coverage, not the electoral college.

Posted at 12:03 AM in General | Technorati


I thought this was just ridiculous: "News organizations and the campaigns have different aims. Theirs is to win the election. Ours is to cover it, fully and well, in the real battleground: the United States of America."

As the authors point out, the "battleground" can shift over time. But because of the Electoral College, we DON'T have a national election, and it doesn't make sense to cover it like one.

Posted by: Luke Francl at May 10, 2004 12:44 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Is it really any surprise that the battleground states change over the years? People move, attitudes change, issues change, the job market changes, etc. I mean, geeze look at 1976, Jimmy Carter won the entire South, every state. It was a Democratic sweep of the South. A generation later, the Dems are relegated to minority status in the South, lucky to win a state or two in Presidential elections. Perhaps the pundits are too quick to call Ohio the new battleground. If anything it might wind up being PA or FL (again). PA seems very much a toss up right now, as does FL. OH might very well go strongly one way or another in a few months (probably towards its roots as a Republican state).

Posted by: Rock_nj at May 10, 2004 08:13 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Anyone's guess is as good as the polls! Be sure to attend the poll on election day.

I would say "it's the economy" with bright, flashing lights. How many of your friends or family are unemployed? Underemployed? Working for less? Worried about downsizing or outsourcing?

A more interesting question is this: How many GOP voters would say one thing and do something else? Don't we depend on those social networks for business and employment? A clever person can march in lock-step, and do whatever they please with a secret ballot. There will be some.

A very big question is how the undecided will break--usually for the challenger.

When people ask themselves what's good for the country, they think about their own experiences and those of people they know. Mostly. Friends, family, groups. That is the real world.

We're having a really nasty recession, combined with understated inflation, and 20,000+ severely wounded soldiers who've come home. Over a thousand of our soldiers have died, and Iraq is simply a swamp. Those of us who remember Vietnam are not enormously fond of the war in Iraq.

I'm biased. So, are the characters with the polls! People think I'm nuts for guessing 60/40
Kerry. What about the real world! (polls). It's really about whether people welcome change--if they think we need it, and my guess is about 55+ who don't like how things are going, most undecided, and some moderate GOP who dislike surrendering the party to the right wing.

Polls are merely recreation. Though it might seem outrageous in this day and age, I place my faith in human nature. That means you! Don't expect politicians to the make the world a better place. It's something we do for ourselves.

Posted by: Richard Reddy at October 22, 2004 11:43 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment