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If you care a lot about who wins the presidential election, you’re probably behaving like people have for thousands of years – checking signs and omens, engaging in superstitious rituals, praying to the God or gods you think might have influence. This also works for football games, college admissions, and barley harvests.

There is a correlation, of course, between how much we care about something and how much attention we pay to it. How many times you check your e-mail for a message from your date last night will be directly related to...

October 31, 2012

Spending on TV ads in the presidential campaign has exceeded $100 million in three states* -- $177 million in Ohio, $174 million in Florida, and $136 million in Virginia, where I live. My son and I watched most of the Redskins’ game last weekend and some of the commercial blocks were almost all political ads. A message from the President about his accomplishments, one from a Super PAC about the economy’s problems, a few thoughts from Mitt Romney, as well as spots from Senate candidates Tim Kaine and George Allen disagreeing about the relative...

October 30, 2012

Anyone who reads the comments on political websites knows they can quickly veer into hostile, even dark, territory. Angry denunciations, accusations of Nazism, and bitter sarcasm are common. Even with passions elevated so close to an election, it can be disturbing to think there is so much rhetorical poison in our political system. But a statistical perspective suggests it’s not as bad as it seems.

Some of the problem stems from the fact that many online readers frequent partisan news sources, particularly people who are involved enough...

October 29, 2012

One thing that bumper sticker makers on both sides seem to agree on is that HOPE indelibly belongs to Barack Obama. From inspiration to parody, that word is a political synonym for the President. But the odd thing is that he’s far from the first person to be famously tied to that word. It seems to be the Democrats’ favorite brand, passed down through recent decades.

Before Obama, there was the boy from Hope, Arkansas. Starting at least from his convention biography film called “The Man from Hope,” that word was as deeply associated...

October 26, 2012

In this presidential race, both sides apparently think they are winning -- and I'm sure both are nervous they might be wrong. The truth is, neither can be sure how the election will come out. But that's not always the case. In The Bigger Hammer, McCain-Palin advisor Tucker Eskew quotes the South Carolina state motto “While I Breathe, I Hope.” He was talking about the sense in the closing days of a campaign that things may not turn out as planned, and of his effort to stay optimistic.

I've been at the end game of two presidential runs,...

October 25, 2012

Yesterday, the NBC news political blog “First Read” reported on the dueling shows of buoyancy by the two presidential campaigns. On a conference call with reporters, senior Obama strategists expressed a quiet confidence about the President’s position in the states they need to win the election. The same blog, writing about the third debate, noted that the Romney campaign believes their candidate could afford to be cautious because they believe he is well-positioned for victory. So which campaign truly knows they are going to win on Election Day...

October 24, 2012

ESPN promoted last night’s Lions-Bears game as “Michigan’s Own versus the Pride of Chicago”, playing off the presidential debate that aired at the same time. And the outcome of the two contests appeared to follow a similar script, with the men from Illinois coming out on top. The press coverage described the President as more forceful, and his “horses and bayonets” line was the consensus sound bite of the night.

It is the press coverage which will mostly count in this debate, because it was likely the least watched of the three debates....

October 23, 2012

If you’re anxious about the presidential election – you’re right, whichever candidate you support. The race is very close and anyone who is confident about victory for their side is either much smarter than the rest of us, or not paying attention.

Reading through the polls, we’re all looking for signs that the race is breaking one way or the other, or that the fundamentals lean toward one of the candidates. It is easy to paint a picture either way. A hopeful Romney supporter can say that a re-election is always, in the end, a referendum...

October 22, 2012

Reports indicate that President Obama is ahead in early voting in some important states. (No votes have been counted, his advantage is inferred from the number of absentee and early ballots cast by registered Democrats and Republicans.) But the slice of the electorate that has voted so far is extremely small, so why does this matter?

It could be an indication of voter enthusiasm, showing that the President’s supporters are so eager to re-elect him that they’re rushing to the polls at the first possible chance. But polling on voter...

October 19, 2012

There’s a new video making the rounds among Democrats. It’s not Mitt Romney at a fundraiser, but it contributes to the same discussion. The clip* is of FDR in 1936 warning the public not to believe Republican claims of support for Social Security, or that their approach “won’t cost anybody anything.” Now, I’m sure DailyKos and RedState could debate the various interpretations of these words until the 2036 election, but what’s most striking is that nearly the same speech could be given by a Democrat today. With all that has changed, many...

October 18, 2012

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