2008 - %3, November

Do Not Pay Attention to Exit Polls

| Tue Nov. 4, 2008 12:05 PM EST

Consider this a public service announcement. Do not pay attention to exit polls on the night of a presidential election. For the full explanation, check out Nate Silver, but here's a crib sheet.

(1) The margin of error is 50-90% higher for exit polls than for regular polls. That means a margin of error as large as 7 or 8 points, a huge number. (2) Exit polling was badly wrong during the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, as well as many of the 2008 primaries. (3) The folks who willingly participate in exit polls are never truly random; this time around, they are more likely to be Democrats than Republicans because of Democrats' well-established greater enthusiasm for their candidate. (4) A whole host of other reasons.

The solution? Breathe deep and know that you'll have some serious results from all over the country by 8 pm.

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Cap and Fade

| Tue Nov. 4, 2008 11:10 AM EST

CAP AND FADE....Matt Yglesias on media misconduct:

I don't, for example, think I ever saw a television network or mass-media publication provide a cogent explanation of the differences between Barack Obama's climate change proposal and John McCain's climate change proposal even though the proposals contained some important differences. I have no idea whether this was attributable to "bias" or even how I would know. Nor am I sure which candidate would benefit from exploring this question. I am, however, sure that I've several times seen their plans described as being the same on the grounds that they're both "cap and trade" plans. That's false. Does the habit of saying it reflect bias? And bias toward whom?

The biggest difference between the two cap-and-trade plans, of course, is that Obama seems to actually believe in his proposal whereas McCain pretty plainly doesn't. For him, it's just window dressing that would almost certainly have been forgotten as soon as he got in office.

But how do you get that across? I'm pretty sure I'm right about this, but I certainly can't prove it. And any straight news reporters who took my line would (rightfully) be accused of massive bias. They could work around this by quoting other people on McCain's priorities and making clear that the GOP base hates cap-and-trade and would fight it, and then hoping that readers got the point. But maybe readers would and maybe they wouldn't. And if they didn't, the story would be fundamentally flawed.

But there's also another problem: on policy issues, the media tends to follow the campaigns. And neither campaign talked about cap-and-trade much. In McCain's case, I assume it's because Republicans hate cap-and-trade and he really didn't want to remind them that he supports it. In Obama's case, I assume it's because cap-and-trade would raise the price of energy and that's not exactly a winning campaign plank during a summer in which gasoline prices broke four bucks. So for different reasons they both kept quiet about it, and since they weren't attacking each other over cap-and-trade, the media ignored it too.

Which is kinda too bad because it had all the elements of an epic battle. It really is true that Obama's version of cap-and-trade amounts to a tax increase, and that would have been an issue right in McCain's share-the-wealth-tax-raising-socialist wheelhouse. Conversely, McCain's version of cap-and-trade really would have provided enormous windfall profits to coal plants and other carbon emitters (explanation here), and that would been right in Obama's fat-cat-more-of-the-same wheelhouse. It could have been a great fight.

Instead we got Joe the Plumber and Obama the terrorist lover. Oh well. We'll do better next time, right?

Handy Map: Poll Closing Times Nationwide

| Tue Nov. 4, 2008 10:42 AM EST

From the pros over at Swing State Project. Click the map to head over to their site, where they have key Senate and House races broken down by poll closing time.

poll_closing_map.jpg

Also, for a photo diary of voting lines across the country, check out Open Left.

Der Tag

| Tue Nov. 4, 2008 10:36 AM EST

DER TAG....Are the early exit polls out? Have the nets called a winner yet?

No? Well, then, go vote!

MOJO VIDEO: Inside a National Election Hotline Call Center

| Tue Nov. 4, 2008 9:01 AM EST

Election Protection is a coalition of voting rights groups that, as I mentioned in this space yesterday, is hosting the nation's premier voter hotline — 1-866-OUR-VOTE. Yesterday, I visited the org's national command center in downtown Washington DC, where trained volunteers were handling phone calls by the thousands from voters seeking information or reporting problems. As you can see on Election Protection's online database of voter reports, the volunteers received more than 10,000 calls by 9:20 am today. A new report is added every few seconds, in real time.

Officials from Election Protection were kind enough to give me an explanation of how they do what they do, and what challenges remain in their way. Have a look.

Election Protection is blasting reporters with some of the worst voting problems it is seeing around the country today. After the jump, a collection:

Check MotherJones.com for Full Election Day and Election Night Coverage

| Tue Nov. 4, 2008 8:28 AM EST

Just an FYI, folks — MoJoBlog and Kevin Drum will have coverage of the election all day and all night. We know we're not replacing CNN, but visit us for analysis, under-the-radar stories, and our typical panache.

For now, we've got four stories that went up late yesterday: Kevin Drum's "The Great Persuader," about the challenges Obama will face should he win; my "Election Day Arrives: Should Obama Supporters Worry?" about whether the supposed tightening in the polls should give anyone pause; Laura Rozen's "Getting Ready for President McBama," about a Congressional honcho who is ready to work intelligence in a McCain or Obama administration; and Adele M. Stan's "Howard Phillips' World," about the Constitution Party candidate who could provide inspiration for the GOP.

Hope to see a lot of you over the next, oh, 17 hours.

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Obama's Grandmother Got to Cast a Vote for the Man She Raised

| Tue Nov. 4, 2008 8:11 AM EST

As you probably know by now, Barack Obama's grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, died yesterday, one day before the nation decides if the man she raised gets to be the next president of the United States. To many — Obama himself probably first among them — it felt like a punch to the stomach. As a middle-aged white woman raising a half-black boy in the 1970s, Dunham led an unconventional family. As Obama tells it, she was undaunted by the challenge. In fact, she embraced it. In a statement about Dunham's death, Obama and his sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, said, "She was the person who encouraged and allowed us to take chances."

But take heart, Obama supporters. According to Eli Sanders of the Seattle Stranger, Dunham was able to cast her ballot before her death. Here's Kevin Cronin, chief election officer for Hawaii, speaking to Sanders:

Ms. Dunham's absentee mail ballot was received and reviewed under the Hawaii standards for processing absentee mail ballots… She was alive at that time. Her ballot will be opened tomorrow, and it will be counted in the same way that all absentee voters would be treated under our law.

No word, of course, on who she voted for. I suspect we can guess. What a proud moment that must have been.

Kindergarten Landslide

| Tue Nov. 4, 2008 2:46 AM EST

My five-year-old came home with an "I Voted" sticker on Monday and informed me that he'd cast his ballot for the guy he's insisted for weeks on calling "OhRock Obama." Turns out that he was part of the "Every Kid Votes" program, in which some 800,000 kids in all 50 states (what company president Ed Rickers calls a "significant sampling") made their choice, with OhRock prevailing 59 percent to 41 percent.

Just sayin'.

Early Returns

| Tue Nov. 4, 2008 2:04 AM EST

EARLY RETURNS....The fine folks in Dixville Notch, NH, have recorded their usual midnight vote:

Democrat Obama defeated Republican John McCain by a count of 15 to 6 in Dixville Notch, where a loud whoop accompanied the announcement in Tuesday's first minutes. The town of Hart's Location reported 17 votes for Obama, 10 for McCain and two for write-in Ron Paul. Independent Ralph Nader was on both towns' ballots but got no votes.

Looks like a big win for Ron Paul to me. He's probably planning his 2012 campaign already.

Then and Now

| Mon Nov. 3, 2008 8:18 PM EST

THEN AND NOW....In 2004, everyone complained that John Kerry was an old-media plodder who didn't react quickly enough to conservative attacks. What a dunce! In 2008, everyone is praising Barack Obama for keeping his composure and not letting conservative attacks knock him off his message. What a cool customer!

Just curious: Am I the only person amused by this?