Will Barack Obama cruise to victory in November—or will the contest be Bush-Gore tight? Both scenarios were sketched during the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association when eight scholars offered stylized forecasting models for this fall's election.
Seven of the scholars predicted popular-vote victories for Mr. Obama, but two of them forecast margins so thin that they said he might easily lose the Electoral College. The eighth panelist was not ready to make an official call because his model is based partly on Labor Day opinion polls. But he said it was very possible that his model would predict a victory for John McCain.
The panel featured its share of partisan banter and baseball analogies-but the scholars said their forecasting models were not just amusements. As they are refined over time, they said, the models should help shed light on how democracies operate. (The object here, by the way, is to correctly predict each candidate's share of the votes cast for the two major parties. Minor-party votes are excluded from the analyses, so the predicted shares for Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama always add up to 100 percent.)
For those keeping score at home: In 2004, seven scholars—essentially the same cast of characters—offered forecasts at the political-science meeting. Six of the seven correctly predicted that Mr. Bush would win, and four of their models were within 2.5 percentage points of Mr. Bush's actual vote share. But in 2000 they whiffed, predicting that Al Gore would win between 52.8 percent and 60.3 percent of the two-party vote. His actual share was 50.2 percent.