Putting Faces on Ohio's Decimal Places
Nate Silver was my go-to guy until he went to the fifth decimal place. Silver, the security blanket for supporters of the president everywhere, wrote that Barack Obama had a 82.66543 percent chance of winning the Electoral College. I had a feeling it really might be 82.66542 percent, so I went to Ohio to find out for myself.
Considering that I was traveling with the Obama campaign, my sample was a little skewed. At events in Hilliard, Springfield, Lima and Mentor, I wandered over to the crowd of Obama partisans to chat before and after the president spoke. I told them I knew how they were voting (in most cases, they had already voted) and was interested in what they heard from friends, family and people around town.
Some of what they said made me think Mitt Romney might pull off an upset, thereby exposing the artificial precision of Silver and all the other prognosticators who see the odds favoring Obama.
One man had me convinced that Obama was going to win until he let slip that "all you ever hear is that he's an abject failure." He quickly noted that he lived in an all-Republican area.
A woman told me that she was afraid to say at the beauty parlor that she favored Obama because all the other women there -- including some who had backed Obama in 2008 -- were for Romney.
Almost everyone I talked to reluctantly admitted knowing at least some "switchers" -- people who had voted for Obama but wouldn't this time. Several also identified women who had voted for the 2008 Republican ticket of John McCain and Sarah Palin, but were now going for Obama because they were genuinely worried about Romney's stance on women's issues.
I felt like those aging scouts at the beginning of "Moneyball," operating on their (ample) guts instead of relying on Billy Beane's metrics.
But then I met Julie Stipich and Jenny Romeo, identical twins of a certain age from Perry, Ohio, population 1,662. Julie said she was the founder of Lake County for Obama back in 2007--the first person in her area to volunteer for the campaign. She and Jenny are now in charge of turning out the Democrats in their mostly conservative town.
Finally, some real data -- albeit of a micro variety -- about strength on the ground.
The twins said that the Obama campaign is much better organized this time and that enthusiasm is undiminished. "People keep saying that his early supporters have fallen out of love with Obama," Julie said. "It's not true."
And the Republicans in town are solid but don't seem particularly angry this year, which they say would be necessary for the hidden Romney wave to be real.
Julie and Jenny have no shortage of volunteers to help them turn out the 750 local voters defined by the Chicago campaign as "Strong Obama" or "Persuadable." In fact, they have already canvassed every such household. Nonetheless, Jenny says, "If the husband answers, we'll say, 'Is Mary home?'," reflecting the partisanship that cleaves many homes.
Their early voting harvest in Perry is so complete that the highly competent paid Obama staffer in his early 20s who is in charge of a few Lake County towns is shifting the twins to a community down the road.
If the president wins, it will be because thousands of people like Julie and Jenny executed across Ohio and other battleground states.
Obama is the Bain Capital LLC candidate of performance metrics and statistical analysis. Romney is relying on a vague hope that change is in the air. My own view is that there's a 99.348584 percent chance that we'll know who was right at some point in the future.
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