“The Signal” blog at Yahoo! is grabbing attention for a very, very early prediction: “With fewer than nine months to go before Election Day, The Signal predicts that Barack Obama will win the presidential contest with 303 electoral votes to the Republican nominee's 235. How do we know? We don't, of course.” What an eye-grabbing gimmick this is. That doesn’t stop some people from posting headlines like “Yahoo economists: Obama reelection's in the bag.”
Remember that Yahoo! is not only a major news site, it's now allied with ABC News. Why the Obama happy talk? A quick look at the curriculum vitae posted at Yahoo! by one of the prognosticators in the byline, David Rothschild, has a list of Democratic credentials, including an internship in the Clinton White House:
President – DemStore – Washington, DC (January 2003-June 2006)
Largest political materials consulting firm in USA; design, production, inventory, distribution and direct sales of materials – merchandizing [sic] for all major Democratic presidential campaigns in 2004
Materials director – Tony Sanchez for Governor – Austin, TX (June 2002-December 2002)
Opposition research intern – New York State Democratic Committee - New York City (Summer 2000)
White House Intern – White House - Washington D.C. (Summer 1999)
Rothschild boasted to CNET that "One of the interesting findings of the research is, quite frankly, that you can predict outcomes of elections with pretty amazing accuracy pretty far away."
Can anyone imagine the sense of guessing who was going to win in mid-February of 2008? Get a load of just how much these two experts, both of whom were in college during the last presidency, assume:
The Yahoo! model assumes that the president's approval rating will stay the same between now and mid-June, that each of the 50 states will report personal income growth that is average for an election year, and that certain key indicators of state ideology will remain unchanged this year. Although the model currently predicts that Obama will win 303 electoral votes in November, please note that it predicts only probabilities of victory, and that many states are nearly toss-ups.
But our Obama happy-talkers suggest they're being too cautious: "This may be a conservative estimate for Obama, because January's economic indicators suggest that the states are likely to experience greater-than-average income growth in the first quarter. We will update our predictions accordingly when the actual data from the current year is available."
USA Today has also picked it up online.