Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The back of Nate Silver's head -- Day 0 in Maine

OhMyGodOhMyGodOhMyGodOhMyGod. The day has arrived and I have to say I feel a bit queasy. It might be my first time in Maine and I may not call the state my home but it certainly feels personal. As it should.

For those pondering whether voters will vote 'No on 1' to protect marriage equality or vote 'Yes on 1' to strip those rights away, there has been some fodder in the last 48 hours that has given hope to those on both side of the issue.

There was that alarming poll released yesterday by Public Policy Polling showing "No on 1" not only losing 51-47 percent but trending down from a previous poll taken two weeks earlier which showed a 48-48 tie. But that came with the caveat that the margin of error still covered the spread and that the actual result might go either way.

And then there was polling analyst wünderkind Nate Silver (right) walking to the plate after the PPP poll had been released their and confidently re-stating his belief that the 'Yes on 1' side is a 5-to-2 underdog *.

Then, there was Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap telling reporters yesterday that he expected turnout to be extremely low - in the 35 percent range - and then, hours later - telling Politico that his predictions might have been wrong and that turnout might actually be over 50% and might even break state turnout records (conventional wisdom says that a higher turnout number means a better chance for the anti-gay referendum to fail).

When it comes down to it, though, little has changed in the last few days: We have polls that show an extremely tight race with few undecideds. The pessimist that I am, I am assuming that those who still say they are undecided will probably end up voting 'Yes on 1', and that means a single thing.

PPP poll or no poll, Nate Silver or no Nate Silver, the answer is turnout, turnout, turnout.

I am a bit hesitant to go by Dunlap's high turnout 'guestimate', particularly because it varied so widely overnight. There have been unofficial reports that turnout in Bangor, Maine - the third largest city in the state - have been high. Some Twitterers have posted information about low turnout in other parts of the state.

But I have been involved in several elections and I have seen it all before. Remember Bush-Gore? Prop. 8 in California? We all thought the win was ours (well those of us who wanted Gore to win and Prop. 8 to fail). And it turned out not the way we wanted.

The big difference with Prop. 8 is that it definitely served as a warning. I haven't seen signals that anyone is resting on their laurels and expecting a 'No on 1' win. The 'No on 1 / Protect Marriage Equality' campaign has a lot to be proud of and deserve to win. They have run a tight ship, engaged more than 8,000 field volunteers, worked day and night to make winning the vote a reality.

And yet, my stomach is still in knots. I don't want to raise my hopes up. I would rather not assume anything. I would rather celebrate if and only it's time to celebrate.

Tonight, I'll be sorta live-blogging and Tweeting from the Holiday Inn in Portland. You are welcome to catch my tweets at twitter.com/Blabbeando. The official 'No on 1' campaign Tweeter address is at twitter.com/NoOn1Maine.

For a vote this tight, it could be a very long night. Results might actually not be in tonight.

And what if it's a 'No on 1' loss? Rex Wockner put it best when he wrote this on his blog two days ago:
If we lose in Maine on Tuesday, the Legislature will just pass the law again and the governor will sign it again. We're not talking about a constitutional amendment here, as was the case with Prop 8 in California. In reality, gays are going to be able to get married in all 50 states, perhaps even very soon if the Olson/Boies Prop 8 case succeeds at the U.S. Supreme Court. And if it doesn't, next up -- very, very soon -- are New Jersey and New York, which will be added to Iowa, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont and, starting in January, New Hampshire. Where all this is headed could not be clearer. But until then, there will be days like this Tuesday when bigots might force a backward step in the inevitable, unstoppable march to equal treatment under the law for GLBT Americans. The next generation will remember "Yes on 1" voters the way we remember people who believed black folks should drink from separate water fountains. I absolutely guarantee you that.
Rex will also be sorta live-blogging at the Wockner blog. He won't be Tweeting but he will be also filing live and taped reports for POTUS on XM radio and OutQ on Sirius radio. So tune in!

Less than four hours until polls close. Cross your fingers.

* Photo credit: The back of Nate Silver's head, taken by yours truly earlier this year on the way to the Pittsburgh International Airport from Netroots Nation. We both got on the same airport shuttle. Let's hope that what's inside that head is right about tonight's chances.

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