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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion >  Syndicated columns

Smart Bombs: Survey says, trust the math

Confession: I’m addicted to daily hits from Dr. Sam Wang (rhymes with bong) who runs the online Princeton Election Consortium. Wang, a neuroscientist, aggregates state polls, sifts them through his whiz-bang computer model and produces something called the Meta-Margin. My fellow junkies watch this data point as if it were the needle on a gas gauge in the middle of Montana. If it reaches zero, it means an Electoral College tie, 269-269.

As of this writing (hang on … be right back), it’s at 1.96 percent. Apparently, this is a significant number, because Mathletes for Obama are turning virtual cartwheels. What’s the Meta-Margin now? Better check. It’s updated several times a day.

I like Wang’s work, because he ruthlessly refrains from analyzing individual polls. He absorbs them all with the belief that a focus on the median will filter the biases. It’s like judging Olympic diving, where the highs and lows are tossed out. His model was off by one electoral vote in 2008.

Warning to Republicans: Wang believes Obama has about a 9 to 1 chance to win, and that Democrats will retain control of the Senate. But you can always retreat to the bosom of your favorite polls if the calculus is too scary.

Middlemen. A list of The Spokesman-Review’s editorial board endorsements is published on this page today. It’s the culmination of scores of interviews and hours of research that will merely confirm in some readers’ minds that we are, indeed, a Republican rag or The Socialist-Review.

As it turns out, we endorsed nine Democrats and nine Republicans. As for the initiatives, we said yes to all of them. Two of them appeal more to liberals (marijuana and gay marriage), and two appeal more to conservatives (charter schools and supermajorites for tax hikes). This sort of balance wasn’t the goal; it just worked out that way.

It’s in there: To the inevitable questions of why we really picked particular candidates, I can only offer this: Read the endorsements. We include the actual reasons.

Home of the brave? Is there a bigger bunch of scaredy-cats than the people who want anonymous free speech? Don’t be shy! Tell us all about your “social welfare work” as a financier of a nonprofit group that is “for the children”! I’m looking at you, Education Voters of Idaho.

If the Founding Fathers were this cowardly, we’d all be speaking better English.

The Commitments. i had the strangest dream the other day. Strolling up to River Park Square, I observed this fellow hesitating at the double doors. He opened the left one and let it close. He opened the right one, but didn’t budge. Ah, I surmised, an uncommitted voter. So in the interest of learning more about this unfathomable breed, I chatted him up:

Me: “So after months of campaigning, two conventions, three debates and torrential information, you haven’t made up your mind?”

Him: “No. I am leaning toward Obama, because I heard he might be Kenyan. That lack of commitment is appealing.”

Me: “But he’s an American.”

Him: “Oh, then that has me tilting to Romney, because he’s demonstrated an unwavering commitment to wavering.”

Me: “So you’re actually looking for someone who can’t make up his mind?”

Him: “Well, we all want someone we can relate to, right?”

Me: “Sure. I can see that. Where you headed?”

Him: “A bunch of us uncommitted voters decided to meet up at the mall and discuss the election.”

Me: “Where are the others?”

Him: “Well, we couldn’t decide which mall, so I must’ve guessed wrong.”

Me: “Well, there’s always the movies.”

Him: [ long exhale] “Too many choices.”

Associate Editor Gary Crooks can be reached at or (509) 459-5026. Follow him on Twitter @GaryCrooks.
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