Thursday, November 02, 2006

Is Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball Biased?

University of Virginia Poli Sci Prof. Larry Sabato is famous for his Crystal Ball predictions. But clearly, he has not been paying attention in Maryland. Today, Sabato's "Crystal Ball" says that both O'Malley and Cardin will win Tuesday (emphatically, in bold text).

But how much has he been paying attention On his prediction of the Governor's race, this is the "big news":
The big news in the race for the governor's mansion in Maryland has been the resignation of Gene Raynor from his post on the Baltimore Board of Elections.
But that story is over seven weeks old. Nothing about the debates, or the recent ads, or O'Malley's DUI, or the trendline favoring Governor Ehrlich.

How about the Senate race?
Race has played a large part in the senate race in Maryland recently. After a staff member for Democratic nominee Ben Cardin was found to have an online diary containing insensitive racial comments, the National Black Republican Association aired a radio ad that has caused quite a bit of controversy. The ad identifies Martin Luther King Jr. as a Republican and pins the KKK, Jim Crow and other issues on Democrats. After an initial luke-warm response by Republican nominee Michael Steele, his campaign has officially condemned the advertisement. Speculation among political scientists indicates that the ad may not help Steele and may end up hurting his chances because it was so offensive to many in the African-American community. The effects of the online diary and the advertisement have yet to be seen, and in this toss-up contest it could end up going either way
That's the big news? Not Cardin's abysmal debate performances, or the shameless Michael J. Fox ads, or the Lt. Governor's effective ad campaign, or the recent endorsements in Prince George's County?

One of two things are at play here: Sabato is just spouting off, making predictions based on national trendlines and historical voting trends, or his national inclination is against Republican candidates.

Then again, maybe we know the answer:

He's a professor. He's a pundit. Now some critics are accusing him of being a provocateur.

Larry Sabato, the Norfolk-bred political scientist who is among the most widely quoted academics in America, dropped a very large pebble into the already roiled pond of Virginia politics this week when he joined the debate over U.S. Sen. George Allen's racial attitudes.

The resulting ripples have been spreading far and wide all week.

Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, made national news Monday when he alleged on the MSNBC television show "Hardball" that Allen, a Republican, used a racial slur to refer to blacks when he was a U.Va. student. Sabato and Allen were both members of the class of 1974.

Regardless, it really makes me question his methodology in making these decisions. Because any unbiased observer (and I'm not saying that I am) can definiatively say these two races are going one way or the other. The trendlines favor the Governor's re-election and the Lt. Governor's ascension to the Senate, but to say it will or will not happen at this point is purely speculative.


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