Things for Obama Supporters to Worry About

Let me be clear: I'm not saying Obama supporters should be worried about Tuesday's election. After all, most polling analysts and all the betting markets have President Obama as the favorite. But if you're like me -- an Obama supporter who for whatever perverse reason scans the horizon for glimmers of gloom -- you'll want to be in touch with the most plausible grounds for pessimism. I summarize them below. These worries may or may not be valid, but they're the best I've got.

1. Hurricane Sandy reverses course. Karl Rove says Sandy helped Obama by making him the "comforter-in-chief." And for the first 48 hours that did seem to be the story: Governor Chris Christie embraced him, Mayor Bloomberg endorsed him, and meanwhile Mitt Romney was found to have once dissed the idea of federal disaster relief. But here's something that occurred to me right around my 70th hour without electricity (which was restored around hour 75, I'm happy to say): The more time you spend without power, the more Drudge.JPGfrustrated and even angry you get, so by Tuesday we could have some very unhappy campers on our hands. Of course, the states hit hardest -- New Jersey, New York -- aren't swing states, but there was also damage in Pennsylvania, Virginia, even Ohio. And, anyway, national news coverage of the Sandy zone can convey a sense of chaos and incompetence that, justifiably or not, works against the incumbent. The Drudge Report (see the shot from its Friday night homepage on the right) is doing its best to further that cause. But even less ideological news outlets will tend to focus on the parts of the storm recovery that aren't working. That's what journalism naturally does. (h/t: @blakehounshell)

2. The national polls are right and the state polls are wrong. There's a tension between polls being done at the state level -- mainly in swing states -- and the national polls. The former show Obama winning the electoral college, the latter show the popular vote being a tossup or maybe even going to Romney. Now, in principle it's possible that this discrepancy isn't a contradiction. Maybe Romney is "wasting" more votes with huge majorities in red states than Obama is "wasting" in less lopsided blue states -- so Obama has more votes "left over" for swing states. That's the way Obama could clearly win in the electoral college while roughly tying in, or even losing in, the popular vote. But Nate Silver of the New York Times recently provided reason to think this isn't what's happening. He says it looks more like either the state polls or the national polls are just plain wrong. [Update, 11/4, 8:50 p.m.: Obama supporters will be happy to hear that new data is making Silver reconsider. This evening he tweeted: "Everything gelling a bit: 1) US polls catching up to state polls 2) bad polls for BHO in noncompetitive states help explain remaining spread."]

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Robert Wright is the author of The Evolution of God and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

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