29 October 2008

McCain Could Win Undecided Voters, Lose Election

Nate Silver took a look last night at the inside numbers regarding undecided voters. The takeaway? Even an optimistic break for McCain doesn't add up. In fact, Silver says, if "McCain wins 2/3 of white undecideds" and "100 percent of third-party support collapses" (which I take to mean that all votes cast go for the two, major-party candidates), that would translate to a net gain of 1 point for McCain in the final tally.

Even if John McCain did better than that, taking 77% of undecided whites, 10% of undecided blacks (as opposed to the 5% Silver cites as likely) and 40% of undecided Latinos (as opposed to the 35% likely), it comes out to a net gain of 1.1 points for McCain. Based on yesterday's numbers, that's about as good as it could possibly get, according to Silver.

To put that another way, even if support breaks about as well as it possibly could for McCain, the math doesn't equal a comeback. And Silver thinks that, while remaining undecideds may in fact favor McCain at this point, the actual numbers will come out to about a half-point shift overall for McCain.

It bears noting, at this point, that the undecided voters we're talking about today is not the same group of people it was five weeks ago. Then, we were talking about 18% of the electorate. Today we're talking about 6.72% of the electorate. Looking at that figure, and the position of the race today, it's probably fair to say that Obama has won a majority of the 18%.