There are two big recount stories we know of in the coming week — the Canvass Board’s decision on allowing improperly rejected absentee ballots, and details of the ballots already challenged.
I want to focus on that second group. I’ve talked this around with some Democrats who are knowledgeable but not paid to be shills. Even though the Coleman and Franken campaigns have made about the same number of challenges, they believe more Franken challenges will stick.
One reason — and I haven’t had a chance to run this by the Coleman camp — is that Franken has more boots on the ground in recount rooms. You can’t underestimate the tediousness of the process, I was told, and fresh eyes are hugely important to catching what nearly are needles in haystacks, despite some excess challenging zeal on both sides.
Remember, these Dems aren’t shills. I asked for predictions, excluding the absentee ballots question. They provided a big qualifier — it’s so close no one really knows — but said they’d guess Al would lose by less that 50.
We’re starting to get some interesting numercial analyses that get at the quality question. As usual, one of the first comes from FiveThirtyEight.com’s Nate Silver.
Nate has tacked around the question of who’ll win — again, it’s friggin’ close, and we’re only now narrowing the universe of uncertainties — but he says, with many qualifiers, that Franken will wind up the 27-ballot winner.
That’s the headline, but again, even Silver acknowledges margins are so skinny that tiny uncertainties can upend a victory call. What’s more important is his paradigm.
Silver noticed that Franken has picked up the most votes from the precincts with the fewest challenges. If I understand this right, places with fewer challenges provide a more honest look at how votes will fall after Canvass Board vetting. (Low-challenge places aren’t subject to the game-playing of high-challenge places.)
Applying the low-challenge margins to the high-challenge precincts pushes Franken across the finish line by 27.
Or not. But Silver regards Franken as a very slight favorite.
Now, again, this is only a first whack at using a mathmatical formula to divine quality. Like a poll, it’s a prediction of actual results, not the actual result itself.
(Michael Brodkorb, at Minnesota Democrats Exposed, already has Silver in his gunsights, noting that the stat guru is tainted as a big Daily Kos contributing liberal. That guilt-by-association ignores a rather compelling objective fact: Silver predicted 49 of 50 states right in the presidential race and got the popular vote right to within tenths of a percentage point. Sometimes facts have a liberal bias; again, Silver notes the uncertainty in his new analysis.)
This week should bring a much more systematic look at the actual ballots, and the cumulative pattern of challenges, not just the press-conference anecdotes that entertained us in the past week.