15 October 2008

Elmer Fudd in the last chance saloon

Just been over to fivethirtyeight - a regular virtual stopping post of mine - and the polling data goes from bad to worse for John McCain.

The site has a model based on state and national level poll data which runs 10,000 simulations - I think on some kind of Monte-Carlo basis using random draws from the statistical distribution of outcomes for each poll (with polls weighted according to the quality of the pollsters' methodology). Anyway, currently they predict that Obama is 95.8% likely to win the electoral college. That's pretty good odds.

If the prospect of a Republican victory wasn't so terrifying right now (OK, they'd be massively hemmed in by a Democratic Congress, but McCain could still declare as many wars as he likes) I'd be feeling a bit sorry for McCain. Based on polling from the Republican primaries he was probably his party's best bet for a win this year. Huckabee, for example, would probably be 30 points down in the polls by now if he'd won the nomination. But he has to contend with fascist extremists at every rally. Many commentators (apart from the BBC's Justin Webb, who is desperate to pretend it's still a close race out there - for reasons I don't pretend to understand) have given up on him - even on his own side. And Sarah Palin, who initially appeared to be an inspired choice of running mate, has turned out to be a liability, with a sequence of interview gaffes that makes George W Bush look like a master of the English language. She's also massively energised the Democratic hardcore, who hate her guts in a way it's tough to feel about McCain.

Also, McCain looks - and SOUNDS - more and more like Elmer Fudd from the Bugs Bunny cartoons with each passing day. Maybe when he referred to Obama as "that one" he meant to say "dat dirty wabbit".

McFudd's last chance of getting back into this race could be tonight's final presidential debate. On paper, he hasn't got a lot going for him. The 'town hall' format of the second debate was meant to favour McCain, but in the end he didn't do any better than in the first debate. Of course, anything could happen, but I think barring a Gerald Ford-like clanger from Obama, he's home and dry...

...except if there is some major threat to national security over the last 3 weeks of this campaign. Another bombing? A bin Laden videotape (as occurred just before the 2004 election?) It's easy to be dismissed as a conspiracy theorist for bringing this kind of stuff up, but the possibility is always there. Of course, if Obama is far enough ahead, a slight swing back to McCain on the back of "terror" fears won't be enough (barring truly massive levels of electoral fraud.) Still, it pays to be cautious. Playing dirty doesn't really seem to have worked for McCain, so, like Windom Earle in Twin Peaks (an interesting comparison) he may have to start "playing off the board".

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