[P]olitics is a field perfectly designed to foil precise projections. … You can’t tell what’s about to happen.

David Brooks on the 2012 presidential election, New York Times, October 23

As of this writing, my state-by-state projection of the presidential election outcome is 49 for 49. If Florida, the only state I said was a close call, ends up in Obama’s column, that record will improve to 50 for 50.

This result says little about my own predictive abilities, however, and a great deal about the ability of political science to make meaningful predictions and to understand the fundamental factors driving presidential election outcomes.

My electoral college projection, 2012

My 2012 electoral college prediction, as posted here on the morning of the election

What quick lessons can we draw here?

Click here to read the rest of this entry

In recent presidential elections, I’ve publicly posted my analysis and predictions ahead of the voting. While I’m no longer blogging here, in order to concentrate on my work at the Tracing Center, I thought it would only be fair to put myself on record again.

(Last year, for reference, I correctly predicted 49 of 50 states. The state I missed was Indiana, which I saw narrowly going to McCain.)

Here is now I see the electoral map and the state of the presidential election, before we begin seeing returns today:

Electoral college map (analysis)

How controversial is this analysis? Not very, if you look at the work of respectable political analysts and political scientists. On the other hand, if you’ve been listening to the “mainstream media,” you might have the mistaken impression that Romney had been experiencing momentum since the first presidential debate, and that the race was currently too close to call.

In fact, President Obama has a commanding lead in the electoral college, and probably a slim lead in the popular vote, as well. As the map indicates, he seems to have enough states sewn up to win a majority of electoral college votes, and is on track for a bigger victory than required. There seem to be few battleground states left in play, and only Florida appears to be a true toss-up.

What are Romney’s chances at this point? Not very good, but he still has a chance. To win, however, would require either surprising events on the ground in key battleground states, blocking relatively large numbers of voters from casting their ballots, or for most the state polls to have been systematically biased (“skewed”) against him.

Political scientists and survey experts worry quite a bit, in fact, that the national and state polls could be biased against one candidate or the other, especially in an age of very low response rates and high cell phone usage among younger voters.

However, it’s worth noting two facts here. First, we have rich polling data in all the battleground and marginal states. While individual state polls can and do vary quite a bit (statistical “noise”), averages of late state polls in presidential elections are historically very, very successful at predicting winners. And there has been no noticeable trend away from this success in recent years.

Second, the risk that the state polls are biased cuts both ways. Pollsters and analysts have to make assumptions in analyzing voter responses, and they could be making the wrong assumptions, but they have been very conscious that they could be making assumptions that overstate the president’s support among voters. (This has been especially true in recent months, as until the last week or so, the national poll numbers have consistently shown Romney performing better than the state polls would suggest.) As a results, reputable pollsters have been trying to adjust their assumptions to balance the risk of over- and under-stating either candidate’s performance, and it would seem just as likely that they have erred in one direction as another.

Finally, here is my projection of tonight’s election results:

Electoral college projection

This is the electoral map where I force myself to call every single state. As the first map indicated, I see very few closely contested states this year, and all but one of those states exhibits a distinct “lean,” making this projection straightforward (if inherently risky).

The sole exception is Florida. As of today, Florida seems as if it’s headed for an automatic recount. If either candidate performs better than that in Florida, I think it could be either one. It will all depend on the ground game there, and on whether Obama’s apparent momentum in the national polls, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, has crested or is still peaking.

“Quick Takes” offers a mix of news, opinion, and research related to race, privilege, and inequality.

Today’s “Quick Takes” includes the costs of immigration measures, the evolving nature of marriage, black farmers poised to receive long-overdue justice, and Sarah Palin on racism and racial justice.

Readers are encouraged to share these stories and to offer their thoughts at the end of the post.

Sarah Palin on racism and President Obama. In her new book, America by Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith and Flag, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin comes out strongly against charges that the Tea Party movement and other conservative groups are racist. She argues that the Tea Party only appears racist to those who mistakenly believe that the United States is still “a fundamentally unjust and unequal country.” As holders of this view, she singles out President Obama, Michelle Obama, and Attorney General Eric Holder (because he called us “a nation of cowards” for failing to discuss race honestly). Palin does not acknowledge the fact that the U.S. does remain in some ways “unjust and unequal” in terms of race, if arguably not “fundamentally” so, or explain what that fact says about how to evaluate the attitudes of the Tea Party and the First Family.

Click here to read the rest of this entry

The White House announced late yesterday that President Obama has re-nominated Berkeley law professor Goodwin Liu to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Professor Liu’s nomination became controversial when it was discovered that he had addressed the subject of reparations for slavery on a panel following a special screening of our documentary, Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North, in Washington, D.C. in 2008. Liu’s scholarship has also drawn considerable attention for its intellectual heft and for what conservative senators have declared to be a left-leaning philosophical approach to the law.

Professor Liu was originally nominated to the appellate judgeship in February, and passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 12-7 vote. His nomination expired, however, when the Senate recessed in August without having held a full vote.

Professor Liu’s nomination, along with several others who were re-nominated yesterday, must now pass the Senate Judiciary Committee again. A committee meeting has been scheduled for Thursday at which these nominations will be discussed.

President Obama’s nomination of controversial law professor Goodwin Liu to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit has been blocked by Senate Republicans and returned to the White House.

Professor Liu became the subject of controversy in late March, in part due to remarks he made on a panel convened to discuss our documentary, Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North. That evening, in response to the topic of reparations for slavery, Liu observed that any effort to compensate for our nation’s history of slavery and racial discrimination would inevitably require trade-offs which would diminish the privileges enjoyed by people who benefit from that history today.

Click here to read the rest of this entry

Professor Henry Louis (“Skip”) Gates, Jr. has an op-ed in this morning’s New York Times in which he takes on the issue of reparations for slavery.

Gates will, no doubt, attract enough controversy for his general approach to the issue. He is convinced that our society must address the issue of reparations, and that we must reach a “just and lasting agreement,” which he believes will have to be “a judicious (if symbolic) gesture to match such a sustained, heinous crime.”

Remarks like these will land any public intellectual in the U.S. in hot water these days. Just consider the case of Goodwin Liu, whose mild remarks related to reparations at one of our events in 2008 became a central issue in his nomination by President Obama for a seat on the Ninth Circuit.

However, this essay is most notable for telling difficult truths about the central role of Africans in the transatlantic slave trade, and thus about the shared culpability of people of different races in the resulting history of slavery.

Click here to read the rest of this entry

I had hoped that the imbroglio over Harry Reid’s remarks on race would have died down by now, but unfortunately that is not the case.

Those who have read my previous post about Reid’s remarks know that I don’t see any reason why Reid should resign as Senate majority leader, or even why his remarks should be considered scandalous.

I do believe, however, that this situation, unlike the dispute between Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Sergeant James Crowley, genuinely constitutes a “teachable moment.” This is why I’m not surprised that the public back-and-forth about what Reid said has continued so vehemently, and why I want to take the time to elaborate on several issues I raised on Monday.

Specifically, I want to say more about the truth of what Reid said about how people respond to skin tone and dialect, elaborate on the history and meaning of the word “Negro,” and say one or two things about how even plain truths can be sensitive to discuss in the context of race.

Click here to read the rest of this entry

Yesterday, the blogosphere erupted in a firestorm of controversy over remarks by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) in 2008 that then-presidential candidate Barack Obama was “light-skinned” and spoke “with no Negro dialect.”

This is the second time in recent weeks that Senator Reid has found himself in hot water over issues relating to slavery and race. Last month, Reid drew controversy for comparing Republican opponents of health care reform to those who resisted abolishing slavery.

This time, he is facing calls from Republicans to step down as majority leader because of ill-considered remarks about the leader of his own party.

Reid’s comments were revealed in a new book about the 2008 presidential campaign, entitled Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Pain, and the Race of a Lifetime, by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann. In the book, the authors say that while Reid was officially neutral in the primary fight between Obama and then-Senator Hillary Clinton, in private he was “unequivocal” in his encouragement of Obama:

He was wowed by Obama’s oratorical gifts and believed that the country was ready to embrace a black presidential candidate, especially one such as Obama — a “light-skinned” African American “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one,” as he said privately. Reid was convinced, in fact, that Obama’s race would help him more than hurt him in a bid for the Democratic nomination.

This passage from the book appears to have been reported first by The Atlantic on Friday, and Senator Reid apologized for his choice of words on Saturday.

What, exactly, is this controversy about?

Click here to read the rest of this entry

Here’s a disturbing statistic:

In the U.S., 58% of Republicans either believe that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States, or say that they aren’t sure.

This, despite the fact that President Obama has a U.S. birth certificate which has been verified by the Republican governor of the state in which he was born.

This, despite the fact that if the president’s U.S. birth certificate is a forgery, it must represent a massive, and utterly pointless, conspiracy going back to 1961, when newspapers in the city of his birth printed announcements of his (local) birth.

Click here to read the rest of this entry

Barack Obama appears on campaign billboards with John Atta MillsPresident Barack Obama is arriving today in Accra, the capital of the West African nation of Ghana.

Obama will meet with Ghana’s new president, John Atta Mills, and will deliver a policy address to parliament before leaving after just one day. He has said that he chose Ghana for his African stopover in order to highlight Ghana’s success as a democracy, and his policy speech is expected to focus on the importance of good governance and spending western aid, such as the $20 billion commitment to new food aid which arose of the G-8 summit in Italy, wisely and appropriately.

However, President Obama and his wife, Michelle, are also scheduled to take time during their 24-hour stay to leave Accra on Saturday and visit Cape Coast Castle, the historic slave fort featured in Traces of the Trade.

Click here to read the rest of this entry

Next Page »