Thoughts on the 2004 Election

I’m going to deviate from baseball for a moment to blog about the election. I enjoy elections like sporting contests. I have my favorites I root for. As early polls and commentary trickle in, its like watching a team get men on base. Incorrect predictions being reversed are big plays like having a runner thrown out. When a state is called, another run is in. Last night, Kerry had a triple-play turned on him with the bases loaded. As early exit polls buzzed across the net, newscasters could hardly help but tip their hands that they thought it would be a big night for Kerry. Even pro-Bush pundit Pat Buchanan (on MSNBC) tried to piece together several strange back-door ways Bush could still win. Bush could still win at 7pm, Pat? If you had not been following the internet buzz you might have been thoroughly confused.

But things began to shift when Bush started taking the states he was supposed to — like VA, SC, and NC — despite the fact that exit polls were making things murky in these die-hard Bush-states much earlier. When Missouri, Colorado, and Arkansas went Bush, and then Florida, I knew things were back to normal and you could see the confidence fading among the newscasters. This would be a long night. The exit polls were flawed, and the election was going to be as tight as the pre-election polls predicted. Brit Hume on Fox couldn’t hide his disgust with the pollsters, bashing them before every break. Even a PA call for Kerry couldn’t stop the “momentum” shift of the pundits attitudes. I mean, was this really momentum? The game had already been played by this point, with all of the swing-state votes being cast. The outcome was not known — some stubborn pundits say it is still unknown — but it sure felt like Jeff Suppan being picked off third base. Carville on CNN was visibly shaken. I would describe Reagan Jr.’s and Dee-Dee Myers’s attitudes on MSNBC as conciliatory. Bill Kristol beamed on Fox, acting like he actually knows something when it is obvious to everyone that he is just a Republican cheerleader.

One interesting thing was the response of the online betting markets. Entering the election on Tuesday morning , the Iowa Electronic Market (which trades on the popular vote) had the voter virtually even, though it had leaned slightly Bush the day prior. Tradesports had Bush winning the Electoral College at a small but solid margin (about $0.55 for a $1 share) with the popular vote share market a little lower ($0.53). For some more on Tradesports read The Sports Economist’s take. But on the day of the election both markets began to tank for Bush. At one point Kerry shares were selling at about $0.70 in both markets (and may have risen higher after I stopped following). Tradesports’s individual state markets were giving all of the battleground states for Kerry. It looked over for Bush. But, I was perplexed. How could the markets, which had been leaning Bush along with most of the national polls, have been so wrong? Well, it turns out this was just noise or some very bad responses by traders who blindly followed the exit poll data. When the dust cleared, on Tradesports every state that was selling for over 50-cents for Bush went Bush and every state under 50-cents went to Kerry as of 8:20 EST went the way of the prediction. EVERY ONE.

One thing I find odd is the networks’ reluctance to call the race for Bush. He clearly took OH before I went to bed at 12:30 am CST. Only NBC and Fox (which had been more conservative in calling states than the other networks) had given Bush OH. Nevada was going his way, and was soon called by some networks, but inexplicably not NBC and Fox. I guess everyone was being overly cautious to avoid 2000 retractions. But it was clear to me from the raw data in all of these states, especially OH, that Bush was going to win even if Kerry took away a close state or two. With a Republican majority in the House, Bush would win even with the 269 votes (a tie) he finally picked up with OH.

Well, it was a fun night. I enjoyed the suspense of it all. I see that several outlets are reporting Kerry has called Bush to concede. That’s certainly the gracious thing to do. I mean, even Yogi knows it’s over. It’s another four years for Bush.

One final note. Tradesports may miss on one of it’s projections. Bush +280 Electoral votes was selling for $0.42 on Tuesday morning. If Bush takes Nevada, Iowa, and New Mexico he will have 286 Electoral votes.

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