The events of the last month have superseded any factors that election forecasters could have taken into account.
Election 2008: A Dialogue with James Campbell and James Lindsay was held at 7:30 in the Sun Room of the Iowa State UniversityMemorial Union on Thursday. James E. Campbell, professor of political science at the University of Buffalo, created a forecasting model before the 1992 election, which was quite successful. He said he doesnt believe this years political forecast will be accurate.
However, Campbell said the American public has become more polarized since the 1990s there are fewer moderates. This is important because of the ideology that is strongly correlated with partisanship, meaning people are less likely to vote outside their party.
What we know from the 2004 election is that the parties are pretty evenly divided when it comes to actual voters, Campbell said. Its going to be set up to be a very close election.
Campbell said his election model is not complicated.
I looked at the Gallup Poll at different points in the campaign going back to 1948, and looked at how the polls were related to the outcome of the time, and then took into account the economy of the time, he said.
He also took into consideration which months the polls had the lowest margin of error between the actual elections result.
The values for this year suggest McCain should get 52.2 percent of the vote, which I admit is out of sync with all the other political forecasting models. All of the other models predict Obama will get the majority vote, Campbell said.
Campbell compared the Wall Street meltdown to a meteor hitting the models, which he said leaves Obama at an advantage, although McCain was originally positioned for the victory.
A key issue that has been overshadowed by the economic crisis is the role of foreign policy in the campaigns, said James Lindsay, the Tom Slick chair for International Affairs and director of the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law, University of Texas at Austin.
Foreign policy was critical in the primaries both Obama and McCain, I think, owe their nominations to foreign policy and the war in Iraq, Lindsay said.
One year ago, the Gallup Poll reported that one in three Americans said Iraq was the most important problem, with immigration trailing it. However, the latest poll shows that six out of 10 Americans now believe the most important problem is the economy, and foreign policy has disappeared of the radar screen.
The economic crisis truly changed the tenor of the campaign, and although it is understandable, it is disappointing in many ways, Lindsay said.
There are tough choices to be made [concerning foreign policy], Lindsay said. I dont think the public is really prepared for the kind of choices the president is going to have to make.
Lindsay said the next president has a very full inbox to deal with Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, trade, climate change, the rise of China mentioning that although the candidates will say they have policies for these issues, those policies are not solutions.
The United States is also facing a very different global context, in which America isnt trusted because of what other countries believe has been very bad leadership, and that leaders havent fully come to that realization yet, he said.
In addition to that the next president will also be dealing with a depleted public treasury.
We were on schedule for a deficit of 550 billion dollars thats half a trillion dollars and thats before any of the bailouts to the financial sector. We are going to be very, vry strained at a time when the baby boomer generation is starting to retire, Lindsay said.
Although it may be argued that Obama and McCain really arent that different concerning foreign policy, both believing in an activist, interventionist approach. The differences between them are very real and have very real consequences, that are not being discussed, he said.