Further Explanation of the Tote Board Odds: Why Hillary Is the Favorite but Obama or Edwards Could Still Win

    We’ve received some mail questioning our odds given the apparent surge by Barack Obama. So, here’s a brief explanation.
    First, odds are not predictions; they’re probabilities.
    Second, it’s our view that Hillary is still the probable nominee. That’s because for Obama to truly get his campaign launched, it’s generally agreed that he has to win two of the first three contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. (For purposes of argument, we’ll treat Iowa as a victory if he finishes second but Hillary finishes a distant third.)
    In contrast, Hillary can withstand a lesser showing in January – even losing all three. That isn’t to say she’d be in great shape heading into February but she’d still be viable.
    So where do we stand now? Take Iowa. According to the venerable Mark Blumenthal at, “[I]f we take into account both the closeness of the Democratic race and all sources of potential poll error, we really have no idea who is truly "ahead" at this point in the race.”
    In New Hampshire, that’s pretty much the case too. The polling may be more accurate but given the closeness of the race and the effect the Iowa results are likely to have on New Hampshire only five days later, we really have no idea how the candidates will fare there either.
    So, that’s where things stand. Obama has a much tougher road than Clinton in January because he still trails significantly in the national numbers and needs to do better accordingly as the race begins. But any of the three major contenders could still win.

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