Poll watchers

For you political junkies out there who can’t get enough election news and want to keep tabs of how the presidential race is going down the home stretch, I have a couple of Web sites to recommend. The first is realclearppolitics.com, a site that, among many other things, posts a daily roundup of all the leading polls and then averages them, providing what is probably the most accurate snapshot of where the electorate stands on these last days before the election. I’ve seen John McCain claiming during the past couple of days that he’s closing in on Barack Obama. And, from the data I’ve seen, that appears to be true. But there are a few factors to consider. The most crucial is that, with four days to go, RCP’s average show’s Obama to be up by about 6 percentage points, meaning that McCain has an immense amount of ground to make up in a very short time if he has any chance of winning. Here’s something that’s even more crucial: Where the candidates stand in national polls doesn’t really matter. Remember, Al Gore actually won a majority of the popular vote back in 2000. What it all comes down to is capturing at least 270 Electoral College votes. There are a couple of ways to get a sense of how that aspect of the race is going. One is to check out the Electoral College map posted on the home page of Salon.com. Even richer with information, though, is a similar map posted at http://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2008/Pres/Maps/Oct31.html. As of Friday, according to info posted on that site, Obama is thumping McCain, 364-171, with only North Dakota’s three electoral votes listed as a virtual tie. The bottom line, though, is that winning polls and winning elections are two very different things. Remember 2004 and all those exit polls of people who had already voted indicating that John Kerry had won a number of crucial states only to have George Bush emerge victorious (eliciting cries from many that it was rigged voting machines and not bad polling that was the real problem). And, finally, there’s this item picked up by Rachel Maddow, a certified lefty who hosts a nightly show on MSNBC: “The latest L.A. Times/Bloomberg Poll of early voters in Florida and Ohio contains this really, really interesting tidbit: 6 percent of Florida voters and 3 percent of Ohio voters, those are early voters told pollsters they don’t know who they voted for, who they already voted for,” reported Maddow. “The post-election undecided voter? That is a very new idea.” —Curt Guyette