Sunday, May 23, 2010

That's Why They Play The Game

I'm a sports fan as well as a political junkie. It not only amazes me but also amuses me how those who write about such polarized universes share the same tools to exploit their positions.

I mean is a voter going to place a bet with those bookies in Ireland that candidate Joe Schmuck will win the 33rd Congressional seat in California because some political columnist of the New York Times predicts Schmuck will beat his opponent?

Will the zealot Phillie Phanatic place his week's paycheck on the Philadelphia Phillies winning the World Series because a panel of sportscasters on ESPN says they will?

Or as the old sage Chris Berman of ESPN would say, "That's why they play the game."

It is not enough the game of sports is decided on the field and not in the press box. And should it be said the fate of a political candidate rests on the voter on election day and not what those gurus at forecast.

Being in the business of analyzing political races, I, too, sometimes get confused and guess wrong about the mood of the public. Take last Tuesday's primary results in several states and Saturday's Republican victory in Hawaii's 1st Congressional District. Please.

Listen carefully. The consensus among the pundits is the voters represented a rebellion against entrenched incumbents and the ruling establishment. Not so fast, my friends, as the old coach on ESPN often says.

I say all politics is local as espoused by the wise old House Speaker Tip O'Neill. Case in point: The Democratic victory for the late John Murtha's House seat in Pennsylvania's 12th district.

I say primary races are held hostage by rabid political advocates. Example: Three-term Republican incumbent Bob Bennett of Utah didn't make the cut, as they say in golf.

Sometimes these highly partisan primaries produce great drama. At the moment, the best dramatic movie on election day Nov. 2 will be the Democrat left-to-center but party loyalist Joe Sestak vs.Republican far right and Tea Party-adored Pat Toomey. In best supporting role should be the winner of California's Republican primary between conservatives Meg Whitman or Steve Poisner vs. Democrat Jerry Brown who remains keeping his powder dry and is anyone's guess what political stance he may or may not take for November.

I say voters, and in this case the polls are probably accurate, have made up their minds months before they cast ballots in November. How many? The polls indicate between 40 and 75% of them. Depends on how many show up on election day which means in off-presidential years, about 30% at best.

Statistics and history are the tools in which sports and political forecasters earn their money. I will go out on a limb here. I predict the Democrats will lose seats in the House and Senate. By how many, you need to ask Charles Cook, Chuck Todd or, what the hell, the 2.7 million others you can find on a Google search.

One of the veteran political observers is

What went wrong was the right-wing agenda influenced by Fox News where the Republican candidate made the central issue in the race President Obama and Nancy Pelosi. What the Democrat promised was a continued flow of pork funneled into the district unashamedly tossed by the late Murtha, the Dem candidate's former boss.

Chalk one up for the politics-is-local argument. That's a home run in my ballpark. Yet again, as McManus points out, it is only one race.

Here's what confuses me. If the voters are as angry as we are led to believe, how come only 30% show up on a non-presidential election year?

Perhaps it is mostly hype as it is the three hours leading up to the Super Bowl game where the results fall short too often than the build-up.

No comments: