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Election Oddsmakers Suffering From Fuzzy Math

I don’t get it. The oddsmakers and the public seem to think strongly that President Barack Obama is going to get re-elected. I’d say, this is a 50-50 down-to-the-wire nail-biter.

Nate Silver, the New York Times’ election modeler, gives Obama a 65.7 percent chance of winning. Granted, this is down from 85 percent before Obama’s disastrous first presidential debate, but it still strikes me as out there.

Intrade, the share-buying website, had Obama as a 64.2 percent favorite as of today. He was at 66 percent before the first debate and 62 percent just after, and he seems to be climbing back since the second, which he won on performance, if not substance. Also, out there.

The London bookmakers have Obama as a 1:3 favorite (if you bet 10 pounds, you’d get just three back), whereas GOP nominee Mitt Romney is a 2:1 underdog (if he wins, you get 20 pounds back.)

Closer to home, 57 percent of voters in the Washington Post/ABC poll between debates thought Obama would win, down from 63 percent in September.

My read is that, in the first debate, Romney came off as a plausible president, knowledgeable on the issues and a decent guy — while Obama didn’t engage — and that the election’s been moving in Romney’s direction ever since.

Whether that process was arrested by the second debate is still an open question. The insta-polls and pundit opinion all gave the win to Obama, and there’s no question that he was aggressive and agile, while Romney was defensive and got tangled up in minutiae such as oil lease numbers.

Obama, in fact, was more than aggressive — he was downright nasty, accusing Romney off the bat of having “a one-point plan ... to make sure that folks at the top play by a different set of rules. ... You can make a lot of money and pay lower taxes than somebody who makes a lot less. You can ship jobs overseas and get tax breaks for it. You can invest in a company, bankrupt it, lay off the workers, strip away their pensions and you still make money.” In other words, your plan is vulture capitalism.

Weirdly, by 49 percent to 35 percent, respondents to CNN’s insta-poll afterward said Obama went on the attack more than Romney, but by 47 percent to 41 percent, they found Obama more likeable.

But I think it’s more significant that by wide margins, Romney came off better in both CNN’s and CBS’ polls on who had the better economic plan.

Obama, in fact, had next to none. He ticked off a long list of what he’d done in his first term but utterly failed to make clear what he’ll do in his second.

Romney was strongly effective in reciting the litany of economic woes facing voters after four years of Obama management and saying, “We can do better than this. ... We don’t have to settle for this. .. We don’t have to live like this.”

On the other hand, Romney is still not clear on how his tax reforms will pay for a 20 percent across-the-board tax cut and a significant increase in defense spending.

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