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The Expectations Game


So while my rational mind expects an easy Obama win, as of this morning my irrational mind is suddenly convinced that come nine PM tonight, some furrow-browed announcer will be remarking on his this is much, much closer than anyone expected …

With the exception of 2000, which was freakishly, abnormally close in the one state that mattered, the results have broadly matched up with the latest pre-election polls.  2004 was very close in the decisive state, but the candidate leading in the national polls won.  2006 matched up more or less with what people told pollsters about their Congressional preferences.  The last two presidential elections have chastened us to refrain from making bold pronouncements on Election Night before the ballots are counted, but there is not really much reason to expect that voting patterns from ’06 dramatically changed again in a pro-Republican direction.  If anything, the Democratic margin of victory ought to be larger this year than last time.  I predicted an eight-point Obama win a few days ago, and I am beginning to think that I may have been too conservative in my estimate of how badly McCain will lose.  

The anchors and reporters tonight are going to make the outcome seem as uncertain as they can to keep people tuned to their stations for as long as possible.  Nothing could be worse for them and their sponsors, as a matter of doing business, than a lopsided, enormous victory by one side, which is what we have every reason to expect tonight.  Exit polls are being kept under wraps, as they should be while millions are still voting, but if they weren’t I think there would not be much suspense tonight about any of the results, except perhaps whether Obama does or does not take Georgia and North Dakota.  I don’t think he will, but throughout the campaign I and a lot of other people have underestimated what he could do, which suggests that the results are going to be even more favorable to him than anyone expects.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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