How Not to Predict Election Results

Fact: The final Reuters/Zogby poll in California, published the day before the Super Tuesday primary in that state, had Mitt Romney up by seven points on the Republican side, and Barack Obama ahead by 13 points in the Democratic primary. In fact John McCain won by eight points, and Hillary Clinton by 10 points.  According to an attempted explanation by John Zogby, “Some of you may have noticed our pre-election polling differed from the actual results.” 

Analysis: From my old political-involvement days, I have lots of friends who have been working on various presidential campaigns this year; several are still active – some on McCain’s staff, and one is with Hillary Clinton (having led her to an upset victory in California, and now her honcho in Texas).  Bipartisanship in practice!  But I can’t trust what they tell me, and each side tells me a lot about what’s purportedly “going to happen.”

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The Three-Way Race, in Politics and Search

On the eve of the Super Tuesday primaries I’ve noticed a small but curious synchronicity, a sideways rhyming, between the Microsoft – Google – Yahoo elephant dance, and the back-and-forth among the top remaining candidates on the Republican and Democratic sides in the presidential primaries.

In graduate school I once wrote an 85-page study of “The Strategic Triangle: U.S., Soviet, and PRC Realignment during the 1970s.” Ah, the good old days of Henry Kissinger and grand-game geopolitics. But let’s stick to the more prosaic cage match dominating our politics right now.  Last week, John Edwards finally dropped out (or “suspended” his campaign, preserving some shred of pre-convention viability I suppose), and in doing so he refused to endorse either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. Both campaigns said great things about Edwards *after* he left the race, of course, the better to woo his supporters.  But before he dropped out, while he was still showing up in debates, both Clinton and Obama (and their surrogates) showed quite a bit of peevish annoyance that the third-place fellow wasn’t giving up and tossing them his endorsement.

Similarly, Mike Huckabee is hanging on by a thread on the Republican side, to the great solace of John McCain and the fuming of Mitt Romney, the latter believing that Huckabee’s conservative supporters would line up with him in a binary choice between Romney and McCain. (Would that count as a Baptist-to-Mormon conversion?) Romney spent the weekend bashing Huckabee even more than his putative rival, McCain.  Triangulation and frustration boil over into a combustible mix, obviously.

The same combination appears to be brewing in the Googleplex, while investors and analysts dump on the once shiny GOOG, which tanked yet again today, dropping below $500. 

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