Opinion Top of the Ticket

Tilted predictions point to an Obama victory -- or not

Here’s a big announcement to kick off election day: President Obama is winning by a landslide in the David Horsey Totally Skewed Facebook Poll.

Monday night, I posted the following question on my Facebook page: “So, just for the heck of it, who wants to make a prediction on the presidential race?” The response was about 10 to 1 for Obama, which is no surprise since my extended circle of “friends” leans predominantly to the left. If my predecessors – Andy Malcom, the previous writer of the Top of the Ticket blog, and Michael Ramirez, The Times’ last editorial cartoonist – put out a similar question to their friends, there is no doubt Mitt Romney would be seen as inevitable. That is because I know who their friends are. Malcolm and Ramirez are two very talented guys, but they make Attila the Hun look like a community organizer.

Whatever the political stripes of the questioner or questionees, though, such a query posed to any group of voters can reveal the fears, anxieties and hopes that many Americans feel on election day. A woman named Ruth, for instance, posted this comment: “Oh God, I run in horror. Not sure I can even watch election night.” I can imagine both Obama lovers and Obama haters feeling the same way.

Ellen was worried about making any prediction at all – “What if we jinx it?” – while Heidi was more upbeat about prognosticating: “If I predict it, will it come true? Obama of course!”

John also is feeling a bit superstitious. “Much like a child waiting to see if that gift is under the tree on Christmas Day I am almost afraid to even think it, thinking somehow it may change if I want it so bad,” John wrote. “My desire is that all the polling is accurate and Obama gets his second term.” 

Other folks were much more certain about how it would turn out. Ana Mari is calling it this way: “Obama, with tailwinds with Sandy.” Stacy agrees: “On Wednesday, we'll be saying Romney who?” But Bruce sees it completely differently: “Romney by a landslide.”

Then there is James, who wrote, “Obama should win, but I think FOX News already announced Romney won.”

Other predictions were prescriptive. “Obama will win electoral and popular vote with a modest margin,” Candace said. “Then, like George W, he should declare a mandate, as if he'd won by a landslide.” And some betrayed suspicions that the game is rigged. Fred is calling it for the challenger because Romney “and his son have invested in the company that supplies the voting machines to several key states.”

Like many pundits, several people fear a muddled outcome. My friend Sheila wrote from New York City to say, “I see another Florida-like debacle, with the alleged loser contesting the results. The in-person polls out here are a mess under the best of circumstances and circumstances after Sandy now are far from the best.”

John Stephen also predicts trouble: “I think Obama will likely either win both popular vote/electoral vote, or Romney will take popular vote while Obama takes electoral vote -- and we'll have another Al Gore situation on our hands.” 

A few respondents made specific predictions about how the electoral vote would split. Jerry took it even farther: “Incumbent wins, carries OH, get around 287 electoral votes. D's pick up one Senate seat, R's keep the House but with fewer solid votes. Insurgent doesn't concede for a couple of days while the stock markets dither …”

And then, there were the creative ones, like my cartooning colleague JP: “Obama will reveal he IS the alien lizard king when he unhinges his jaw and swallows Romney whole. While horrified, most people will admit Mitt had it coming.”

Kathleen expects the unexpected: “Michelle will wear faux fox; Romney's wife will bare her tattoo.”

The one person with the most irrefutable prediction was Joann. As she said, “Someone will lose, people will complain, other people will dance.” 

I keep getting asked for my own prediction, as if I have some insider knowledge, when all I have to work with is the same conventional wisdom that everyone else draws from. Like my friend Mark, who calls himself “a data fan” and who believes the aggregate of the polls points to an Obama victory. I, too, think the numbers and the electoral map favor Obama – slightly. But I also think it is close enough that the ground game – the ability of each campaign to get their voters to the polls in the key states – may be decisive.

It is just possible that a small, unanticipated surge of voters for either Obama or Romney in the swing states could bring election night to a swift conclusion and give one or the other candidate something close to an electoral landslide. More likely, though, is a long, drawn-out squeaker of an election that is not decided for days or even weeks. If so, squadrons of lawyers will take over, recounts will ensue and Americans will become even more polarized, frustrated and angry.

Here is my only real prediction: Whatever happens on election day, we will muddle through, the republic will survive and the first aspirants for the 2016 presidential campaign will start wandering the back roads of Iowa and New Hampshire right after Groundhog Day.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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