• Many see potential for Wednesday's presidential debate to be a deciding moment in the 2012 election. From the Signal's perch here on Forecasting Mountain, we don't see a whole lot left to be decided.

    Since we posted our first forecast of the state-by-state presidential election on Feb. 16, 2012, six months before the Republican Party even had an official nominee, only three states have flipped camps at any point in time. Virginia pointed toward the Republican nominee for several months during the summer, while both Florida and North Carolina have recently shifted to President Barack Obama's column. Almost all of the other 47 states have moved further in whichever direction they were leaning in February as the game clock has ticked down from more than 250 days to fewer than 40 until the election.

    In February, we predicted that Obama would win re-election with 303 electoral votes. That estimate fell to 290 when Virginia flipped to the Republican column, and now stands at 347 with the restoration of Virginia and the addition of Florida and North Carolina.

    Sources: Betfair, Intrade, HuffPost's Pollster, RealClearPolitics

    The forecasts were flat until mid-May, as we had little new information to update the forecast, which was then totally reliant on economic and historical data that doesn't update daily. We then added in polls and prediction market data, which gradually takes over the forecast as Election Day approaches. The forecasts from February are the best estimation we can make about a generic Democratic incumbent running against a generic Republican challenger. By Election Day, the forecast is full of information about how the public views the actual Democratic incumbent against the actual Republican challenger.

    Read More »from Even before debates, electoral map appears largely written in stone
  • Mitt Romney's campaign understands that almost every reasonable scenario for victory includes winning Ohio, Virginia and Florida—a troika that, along with all the states safely in the Republican column, would award the challenger 266 electoral votes, four shy of the magic number. Campaign spending figures published by National Journal verify this in no uncertain terms. Since May 1, the Romney campaign and its allies have spent more on advertising in these three states than in all other competitive states combined. The same is true of the Obama campaign, whose clearest path to victory involves denying Romney any one of these battlegrounds.

    Where the campaigns blow their overflowing fountains of cash is only half the story, of course, due to the torrents of outside spending flooding this campaign. Overall, the Republicans and their supporters have outspent the Democrats $257 million to $218 million since May. This is a little misleading, however, because of a simple economic fact: The marginal value of a campaign dollar is significantly higher if raised by the campaign than if raised by a super PAC.

    Outside spending groups are not allowed to coordinate with campaigns, though they can coordinate with one another and operate in the same political reality. In an era of incredibly precise political targeting, however, outside spending that is not privy to a campaign's precise strategies and messaging is not as effective. Consider the difference between spending $100 on yourself and having a friend buy you something for $100, especially if this well-meaning friend is not legally permitted to ask you what you want. Economists call this the "deadweight loss of Christmas."

    Read More »from The downside of outside spending: Candidates are hard to shop for
  • In Week 3, NFL predicts a lopsided win for Romney

    The NFL is in sore need of a few recounts after another weekend of on-field farce put on by the replacement referees. But as long as the season goes on, the Signal will tally the games that, according to a rigorous historical study—my own—have been determined to predict the presidential election.

    Last week, I posted a rule for every franchise that predicts the winner of the election every four years, or at least nearly so. For example:

    If Tampa Bay scores more than 14 points in its fourth game, the out-of-power party wins the White House. Otherwise, the incumbent party wins.

    Check for yourself if you don't believe me. This was true in 2008, 2004, 2000, 1996, 1992, 1988, 1984, 1980 and 1976—every election since the Buccaneers joined the NFL.

    This may all seem like an elaborate exercise in the perils of confounding correlation with causation, and perhaps one that raises concerns about the author's aptitude for time management. But if Mitt Romney wins the election, you will have read it here first. Going in to last weekend's games, Romney led President Barack Obama four games in two. In other words, of the six rules that involve a game in the first two weeks of the season, four point to a Republican victory while two point to a Democratic victory.

    Read More »from In Week 3, NFL predicts a lopsided win for Romney


(177 Stories)

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The Signal is the Yahoo! News predictions blog featuring real-time forecasts and sentiment on politics, economics, and more. MEET THE TEAM: David Pennock, David Rothschild



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