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Mind the Gap

Is it all over for John McCain, bar the shouting? Since Lehman Brothers and its ilk went bellyup, his two point lead has turned into an average seven point deficit. He only has 19 days left to close the gap.

world Updated: Oct 21, 2008 19:32 IST
Pramit Pal Chaudhuri

Is it all over for John McCain, bar the shouting? Since Lehman Brothers and its ilk went bellyup, his two point lead has turned into an average seven point deficit. He only has 19 days left to close the gap.

But let’s play devil’s advocate and ask if there’s anything in the numbers that would lead a Republican supporter reason for hope? Surprisingly, there is, even if it’s the longest of long shots.

All the polls say Obama is ahead. But they differ wildly as to how much his lead is. Gallup, using its traditional sample of voters in a October 12-14, gave Obama a lead of three points. CBS-New York Times came up with a lead of 14 points when it took the temperature between October 10-13.

Looking at the last 30 or so polls taken in the US and choosing those that gave Obama the smallest leads, what is noticeable is that they generally have the largest sample sizes (thus more accurate) and very few undecided voters, generally five per cent or less.

Then take a look at those which gave Obama the biggest lead. They all have about double the undecided votes and half the sample size of the Obama-unfriendly polls.

If you’re Republican you can take hope from this unscientific sampling. The trend: As the number of undecideds shrink, so does the gap between the two candidates.

I’d still put money on Obama. But the race, in which it sometimes seems McCain is being crowded out by Sarah Palin as much as Obama, might yet be a squeaker.

(Pramit Pal Chaudhuri, Senior Editor, Hindustan Times)