Monday, October 18, 2010

Nate Silver Gives Joe Miller the Boot. When's Joe Gonna Arrest Nate?

New York Times blogger and pollster, Nate Silver, has taken a fresh look at the Alaska U.S. Senate race:

Both the Rasmussen and Public Policy Polling surveys, however — in an effort to simulate the voter’s experience at the polling place — required their respondents to go through some extra amount of effort in order to select Ms. Murkowski. In the Public Policy Polling survey, for instance, voters were asked to choose between Mr. Miller, Mr. McAdams, and “someone else” — and if they selected “someone else,” they were given Ms. Murkowski’s name along with several others. Nevertheless, Ms. Murkowski was nearly tied with Mr. Miller in the poll, with 33 percent of the vote to his 35 percent.

Mr. McAdams’ chances of winning are also improved the closer that Mr. Miller and Ms. Murkowski finish to each other. Democrats make up only about 20 percent of the electorate in Alaska. But it is not inconceivable that Mr. McAdams could finish with perhaps 34 or 35 percent of the vote, which is about where he’d end up if he won the support of almost all Democrats and about one-third of independents, some of whom are left-leaning.

That could be a winning figure for Mr. McAdams if, for instance, Ms. Murkowski and Mr. Miller each finished with 32 or 33 percent of the vote. It seems less likely now than it did a few weeks ago that Mr. Miller is a safe bet to secure 40 percent of the vote or more. The tricky thing for Mr. McAdams is that, if Mr. Miller is indeed yielding some of his support to Ms. Murkowski, that only benefits him up to a point. If Mr. Miller’s support were to collapse further, for instance, and he received only 25 percent of the vote on Election Day, most of the voters fleeing Mr. Miller would probably choose the other Republican, Ms. Murkowski, instead, which might boost her standing to 40 percent or above. In that outcome, while Mr. McAdams would finish ahead of Mr. Miller, he would nevertheless finish in second place.

Still, this has become an election in which any ordering of the top three candidates is possible. Three-way races are ordinarily quite volatile — and with the contingencies of Ms. Murkowski’s write-in candidacy, and Mr. Miller’s stumbles in the campaign, this one could be especially so. Although our methodology would count a win by Ms. Murkowski as a Republican win, since she has said she would continue to caucus with them if re-elected, Mr. McAdams has some chances, too.

A prescient commenter at Silver's article writes:

What happens if Murkowski wins by ballots cast but some significant portion of votes mispell her name? Besides a lot of lawsuits, that is. A failed write-in for Murkowski takes a republican vote off the table.

Take: Murkowski 38%, McAdams 32%, Miller 31%. If 25% get her name wrong, does McAdams get the seat?

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