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30 days to go: Obama’s election to lose

Thomas Ash
5 October 2008

Today, there are 30 days remaining before the US votes on November 4th. Right now, this is Obama’s election to lose.  He is an average of seven percentage points ahead in the national polls, and on top of this his votes are more evenly spread across the key battleground states that will actually determine the outcome of this election, whereas much of McCain’s support is concentrated in deep-red states like Nebraska that are going to vote for him anyway. This gives Obama an advantage: he can swing more states than McCain, who will receive countless wasted votes that only increase his margins of victory in solidly Republican states. Taking this into account, Nate Silver at fivethirtyeight.com calculates that Obama has an 84% chance of winning. Silver is a Democrat, and his mathematical model is contentious, but this does go to show that the media’s depiction of this race as nail-bitingly close may be driven more by a desire to sell stories than by reality.

That all depends on Obama’s numbers holding up over the next 30 days. Will they? There is not long to go, but there is always the possibility of an "October surprise" – an unexpected event which hurts or helps one candidate, like Osama Bin Laden’s release of a video on October the 29th, 2004. Absent that, the dire state of the economy is likely to be at the forefront of people’s minds as they head into the voting booths – and that helps Obama.

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