The Plank

Gaming Out That Crazy House Race in Upstate NY

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When I read just now that Dede Scozzafava, the Republican nominee for that special election in New York's 23rd congressional district, was dropping out, I had the same reaction Nate Silver did: This does not necessarily seal if for the Conservative Party candidate, Doug Hoffman, who basically forced Scozzafava from the race. Here's Silver:

Although a majority of Scozzafava's supporters are Republican (about 62 percent, by my reckoning), it is safe to assume that they are mostly rather moderate Republicans, because almost all the conservative Republicans had already gone over to Hoffman. To wit, two-thirds of Scozzafava's supporters say they like Barack Obama. While moderate Republicans are an endangered species elsewhere in the country, that is not true in upstate New York, where a lot of voters are registered as Republicans and vote that way in statewide races but often vote Democratic in federal races. (NY-23 supported Barack Obama 52-47 last November.)

Exactly right. If you look at this chart on Pollster.com, you see that Scozzafava's nosedive precisely corresponds with Hoffman's surge. If you could just extrapolate forward from those trendlines, then Hoffman would win going away. But you can't do that--there's a reason some Scozzafava supports abandoned her and some have stuck with her. I'm guessing the latter are predominantly pro-choice and open to gay marriage, like Scozzafava herself. Which makes them unlikely supporters of the conservative candidate. Silver games it out as follows:

If I had to guess, I'd think that of Scozzafava's support, one-quarter of people don't vote, one-quarter vote for Scozzafava anyway, 30 percent defect to Hoffman and 20 percent defect to [Democrat Bill] Owens. Extrapolating from the morning's Siena poll, that would produce a result of Hoffman 43, Owens 42, Scozzafava 5, with 10 percent of the voters still up for grabs.

Gun to my head? Sure, I'd take Hoffman at this point. But I'd also take the short side of the 67 percent odds that he's been given at Intrade.

Me, too.

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