I have been surprised by the betting consensus at www.Tradesports.com (inconsistent link) and elsewhere that Bush is more likely to win the election. Kaus notes that this belief in a Bush victory, which shows up in opinion polls, might cause people to "go with the winner." I don't understand why both the bettors and the general public believe that Bush will win.
Whether this belief in a Bush victory helps Bush or not, I think it unwarranted. I am aware that there will probably be an unpredictable swing one way or the other that will erase the current situation, such that predictions today are little more than speculations.
Nonetheless, as things stand right now, I would guess that Kerry is more likely to win Ohio than Bush (Kerry slightly leads in 3 of the last 4 polls, though within the margin of error). Further, Kerry leads slightly (within the margin of error) in polls in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, New Hampshire, Maine, and Oregon--and leads probably outside the margin of error in most polls in New Jersey and Michigan. I understand that there may be a very slight move in Bush's favor right now, but I expect that to stop or reverse.
First, as in 2000, I expect a last minute swing toward the Democrats. I think that Bush might lose a couple percent in the last two weeks, whether it is from any late surprise (like Bush's DUI in 2000), or the incredible automated phone calling that occurred last time (which because of the messages tended to help the Democrats), or the latest theme of the week (this week, I think that will be tying Bush to the third rail of politics: social security reform). Further, the conventional wisdom is that undecideds tend to break against the incumbent.
Second, I expect a massive voter turnout from people who want to stop Bush at all costs. There were hints of this in the primary turnouts.
Third, my impression is that the Democrats signed up many more new voters than the Republicans.
On the other side (favoring a Bush win) is any Republican last minute surprise. Second is a phenomenon that KerrySpot noted a few days ago--that particularly in 2002 election, the opinion polls underestimated Republican vote shares, probably because of a slight realignment since 9/11.
The wild card is the action of Al Qaeda. If they step up their attacks in Iraq or pull off a major attack in the US a few days before the election, it is hard to predict what the American public would do. They might turn to Bush because there have been no major attacks in the US in the 3 years since 9/11 (an outcome that I wouldn't have given more than a 5% chance to 3 years ago) and because (rightly or wrongly) Americans trust Bush more than Kerry on the War on Terror. On the other hand, if the attack is in the US and comes from one of the sources that Kerry quite rightly hammered Bush on in the first debate (ship containers or the cargo holds of US planes), then the electorate might turn to Kerry. Further, who knows how emotions can turn people's minds? Perhaps a new horror will make people long for a time when terrorism was just a nuisance and see Kerry as the man who shares their view of the world.
I don't disagree that the election is too close to call. What I do think is that, if the election were held today, it is slightly more likely that Kerry would win than Bush. But then the election will not be held today.
Some bloggers have made their predictions on the outcome, some confident, some highly qualified. Most bloggers that I read have not made predictions.
I'm curious about what other bloggers think about the likely winner (and why). At least by the evening before the election, I hope that people will weigh in with their opinions.