I have been having a little debate with conventional wisdom regarding the Nevada senate race of late. I’m still predicting a win despite several pundits and famous statisticians having written Harry Reid off based on topline poll results. Despite serious misgivings regarding the utility of opinion polling that premises itself on “If the election were held today” in the midst of votes actually being collected, that seems to be the game we’re playing. So, all right, let’s play.
Playing the game of armchair analyst, one must accept certain limitations. For example, I sure as hell won’t be subscribing to Rasmussan for the honor of being able to see how their results break down. So, for the purposes of this post, I will be using the results from the CNN/Time poll released yesterday showing a 49/45 swing to Angle … and then pretty much ignoring that topline number all together. In my opinion, this race comes down to the GOP crossover vote which I believe is being significantly underestimated. The independent swing against Reid is important, but I don’t believe it will be definitive; with 22% of the electorate, the range from best-case to worst appears to be worth about 2% when viewed in the context of all voters.
The question everyone is looking at top-line results for is:
“If the election for U.S. Senate were held today and the candidates were Harry Reid, the Democrat, Sharron Angle, the Republican, Scott Ashjian, the TPN/Tea Party candidate, or none of the above, who would you be more likely to vote for?“.
The aggregate result (+/- 3.5%), as I already observed, is 49/45 in Angle’s favor. But Time/CNN was kind enough to break it down by party affiliation. This shows that about 3% of Democrats would vote for Angle … while 10% of Republicans say they would vote for Reid (although the margin of error on this number increases to a noisy +/- 6%). This is probably as good a snapshot of the “crossover” as we’re likely to get until the votes are actually counted.
Just assuming these numbers are in the ball park, what does that mean for Reid today? Based on the statewide numbers reported yesterday Democrats have cast 1500 more votes than Republicans. Conventional wisdom has counted every Democrat as voting for Reid and every Republican voting for Angle. I think there is more than enough anecdotal evidence to challenge this assumption. So, what does the election look like as of yesterday if one ignores conventional wisdom and does the math based on the projected crossover from the most recent polling?
Based on my calculations this is what it looks like (I tried to show my work … feel free to challenge in the comments):
Total Votes Statewide: 264,420
Total GOP:131,460 (264,420 / 2 – 750)
Total Dem:132,960 (264,420 / 2 + 750)
3% Dem Crossover: 3,989
10% GOP Crossover: 13,146
Estimated GOP: 122,303 (131,460 + 3,989 – 13,146)
Estimated Dem:142,117 (132,960 + 13,146 – 3,989)
Current Reid Lead: 19,814
Obviously, the needed caveats here are numerous. But when it’s all said and done don’t be surprised if this race turns out not to be nearly as close as the pundocracy is predicting. Of course, don’t be surprised if some random blog guy taking a first whack at political prognostication is embarrassingly off base either.