19 September 2008

As Goes Colorado . . . or Mighigan . . . or New Hampshire?

Yesterday, Nate Silver awarded Colorado "Most Important State" status in the presidential election. Meaning that, without CO, Obama would have a hard time putting together the votes needed to reach an electoral win.

Today, E.J. Dionne says "If he carries Michigan, many routes to victory are open for Barack Obama. Without Michigan, he's got a big problem."

I think both of these guys are pretty adroit analysts. Silver's assessment is the result of current polling information gathered across the country. That assessment is, no doubt, subject to change based on the sensitivities of the various polling models and Silver's system for interpreting 20-30 poll results and basing projections on the aggregate. Dionne's assessment is, I believe, the result of watching, listening, and guessing as to the possible challenges faced in MI and in the nation. In either case, the outcome is incredibly important.

According to a Campaign for Change spokesperson I heard speak at the opening of a new office in our neighborhood Wednesday night, Coloradans have knocked on more doors on behalf of the candidate, registering voters and asking questions about the issues, than any other state in the nation. Probably, that bodes well. More doors knocked on translates to more new voter registrations, more voter registration updates, and more mail-in ballot applications to relieve confusion and congestion at the polls.

As one of those canvassers, however, I've discovered that the walk lists aren't necessarily up to date from week to week. I've unwittingly knocked on a handful of doors that have already been knocked on. Unless a canvasser can provide new information, or can follow up on a specific question or concern that previous canvassers could not address, this is a pretty off-putting experience for the resident on the other side of the door. A simple visit can sway an undecided voter in favor of a candidate. Repeated simple visits, especially at the dinner hour, and especially by equally eager door knockers who aren't equipped with new information, can push that undecided voter the other way out of sheer annoyance and exasperation. The impression is of a disorganized campaign. And that does not reflect well on the candidate.

It remains to be seen how accurate the metric is regarding number of doors knocked on. If the campaign is unwittingly double counting, that's bad. On the other hand, if enough new voters and mail-in voters cast their ballots successfully for the Democrat, then Colorado could be the break-out state Obama can capture for a national win. Silver currently has Obama ahead slightly in both CO and MI, but both projections are well within the margin of error. It remains to be seen if he can improve upon those slim leads. Also, in a post from late last night, Silver points out the possibility of an electoral tie if McCain wins New Hampshire, which is still entirely possible.

At the end of the day, of course, the only poll that matters won't happen until November 4.