I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. -- Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election-Day Prediction: Romney With A Substantial Win (I Think)

A Romney win: 53 to 47 in the popular vote; 295 to 243 in the Electoral College.

I give Romney the obvious states plus Colorado, Ohio, New Hampshire, Iowa, and Wisconsin.

I’m a reluctant Romney supporter: I favored Ron Paul in the primaries, and I am doubtful that Romney and Ryan understand the magnitude of the task they face – an unsound monetary system, a “dependency society” that cannot possibly survive long-term, an over-extended system of global military and geopolitical commitments, a culture vehemently opposed to serious learning, a chattering class committed to fads ranging from “Waiting for Superman” to catastrophic climate change (yes, as a physicist, I know that the globe has warmed, but it is an open scientific question as to how large future warming will be), etc.

I’m not sure the Governor and the Congressman have the courage and insight to turn this around, much less the political skill to bring the country with them.

I do wish Romney the best, if he wins, just as I sincerely wished Obama the best when he won.

So, if I am not a fierce Romney partisan, why do I think he will dramatically outperform the polls?

Four reasons:

Turnout and the polls: the most important reason.  I’ve followed the debates from Fox to MSNBC, and, as a guy who loves the number-crunching game (I had a great time in 2000 running the numerical extrapolations in my head and seeing that the networks were clearly wrong both when they called the election for Gore and when they called it for Bush – this really is my idea of fun!), I think that the skeptics have the better case:  I.e., the polls seem to be substantially over-weighting Democrats.

Enthusiasm.  Both the polls and the anecdotal reportage from journalists, along with my own personal observations, show a lot more enthusiasm for the GOP.  It’s hugely different from ’08: I only talked to one acquaintance in ’08 who was enthusiastic for McCain.

Late deciders.  When an incumbent has trouble getting to fifty percent in the polls, common sense and historical experience suggest that late deciders (who are these people?) are not likely to discover that they really do like the incumbent after being unable to decide for four years.

The Bradley effect.  For some reason, a small number of voters seem to like to tell pollsters that they are going to vote for a black guy and then do the opposite (the “effect” is named for what happened to the black Democratic candidate for governor out here in California, Tom Bradley, back in the ’80s).  This seems bizarre to me, but it does seem to happen.

The last two effects are no doubt pretty small this year – there are, after all, few late deciders.  And, enthusiasm can be grossly misleading: after all, McGovern had lots of enthusiasm and “Tricky Dick” Nixon had very little – I remember it well.

So, in the end, it is the issue of turn-out models, as assumed in the polls, versus who really turns out tomorrow.

And, while those who are skeptical of the polls seem, to me, to have the stronger statistical arguments, no one really knows.

A lot of people will turn out to be really wrong, including, perhaps, me.

(However, if I am right, I wonder if the New York Times will fire Nate Silver and hire me!)

I predict the GOP will pick up three seats in the Senate, which will tie the upper house, with the new Vice-President holding the tie-breaking vote.  I.e., I think Romney will have short coattails.

And, I think the GOP will lose five seats in the House – the blowout election in 2010 blew in some weak winners, a few of whom are likely to lose tomorrow.

After we find out whose predictions are right and whose are wrong, we will face the real problems:  Bernanke has printed a huge amount of money that should ignite a firestorm of inflation when the recovery really starts moving.  A robust recovery will help the deficit situation a bit, but there are structural problems that are pushing the federal government towards bankruptcy – and, unfortunately, the entire world monetary, financial, and economic systems are closely tied to the securities (i.e., debt) issued by the United States government.

And, underlying it all, the culture: a century of frivolity, irresponsibility, and unbelievable mendacity not just in the popular culture but especially among the intellectuals – the “serious” media, the universities, the “social scientists,” etc.

If Romney wins, he has not only my best wishes but also my condolences.  He may have taken on an impossible task.

I hope he will prove me wrong.