It’s not a popularity contest

Okay everybody, take a deep breath and say it together:

THE PRESIDENT IS NOT ELECTED BY POPULAR VOTE.

We can disagree on whether that’s a good or bad thing, but we cannot disagree about whether or not it’s true.

So all of these reporters breathlessly updating us on the latest polls showing Obama or Romney up or down by half a percentage point are certainly missing the point.

Nate Silver gets it, which is why he’s giving Obama the best odds to win the election.

But this really ticks off the people who make a living from horse-race reporting, so they have to go after Silver. For example, Dylan Byers of Politico says that Silver’s putting his “celebrity” at risk with his prediction because the polls are so close! But polls don’t matter; electoral votes do. Byers doesn’t seem to get it. Perhaps he’s too blinded by his contempt for “coffee-drinking NPR types of Seattle, San Francisco and Madison.” Wink-wink, nudge-nudge! We all know who he’s really talking about, don’t we?!

Dylan Byers also reported that the media are stumped by the 2012 race – no one can know anything for sure! But that’s because they can’t do math. It’s simple: a candidate needs 270 electoral votes to win. Romney is unlikely to reach that number and Obama is likely to surpass it. Therefore, Obama is most likely to win. This isn’t partisan wishful thinking; it’s simple math supported by weighted polls. If you don’t like it, that’s fine, but don’t act like the outcome of the election is unpredictable, or that anyone who makes a prediction must be trying to “spin” the election.

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