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Release: Nov. 8, 2000

UI political experts offer post-election analysis

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- With the outcome of the 2000 Presidential election still hanging in the balance, University of Iowa political experts have begun their analysis of this year's contest and its historic qualities.

Miller cites Nader factor, supports electoral college

For only the third time in the history of the nation, the outcome of the popular vote and the electoral college vote could differ. While some pundits are using this possible discrepancy as a reason to do away with the electoral college, Arthur Miller, a UI political scientist, said this view is wrongheaded.

"You don't do away with something that's wrong three times in 200 years," he said. "We have many checks and balances in our system and they are there for a reason."

Miller, whose Heartland Poll showed the race in a dead heat less than a week before the election, said he was surprised that the final count was the closest in decades. "It's surprising that it ended up being as tight as it was," Miller said.

He cited the third-party candidacy of Ralph Nader as a major factor. "That Nader had such an impact is an indictment of the two major party candidates not being able to deal with a third party in the race," he said.

Lewis-Beck: Gore strategy backfired

Michael Lewis-Beck, a UI political scientist and election forecaster, said Gore "shot himself in the foot" by distancing himself from President Clinton. As early as May, Lewis-Beck was forecasting an easy Gore victory based on a model that takes into account the state of the economy, the popularity of the current president, and a public opinion index of peace and prosperity.

"We don't know yet what the outcome will be," Lewis-Beck said. "But it's clear Gore hurt himself by distancing from Clinton. The usual effect of the popularity of the current president was weakened."

This caused his model to be off by up to four points, Lewis-Beck said, although he believes he still was correct in forecasting a Gore victory in the popular vote. He called the four-point error margin "the outer limit of acceptability" and said it gives him "food for thought" as he works to perfect his forecast model.

"This is how we learn," he said.

Lewis-Beck said the popular vote and the electoral college vote are so closely tied that any candidate who wins more than 50 percent of the popular vote "is virtually assured of winning the electoral vote by a hair." The complicating factor in this race is that Nader pulled away just enough
of the popular vote to leave both Bush and Gore with less than 50 percent.

Iowa Electronic Markets

The Iowa Electronic Markets predicted the outcome of the New York Senate race and the congressional race. The IEM gave Hillary Clinton more than 50 percent chance of victory since mid-May when New York mayor Rudy Giuliani announced that he had prostate cancer, according to Robert Forsythe, senior associate dean in the Tippie College of Business and IEM co-director. He added that Clinton increased her lead over Rick Lazio after their September debate, with her shares trading in the 60- to 70-cent range for several weeks leading up to the election.

In the IEM congressional control market, the IEM indicated a good chance of a Republican win over the last few days of trading. On Saturday, the IEM traders gave the Republicans a 65 percent chance of a sweep of Congress and by Monday, the chances increased to 69 percent.

In the markets for the presidential race, the IEM directors will be monitoring the final outcome of the popular vote to determine contract payoffs scheduled to take place on Friday. The IEM presidential vote share market has been predicting a close race since it opened in January, with only a few cents separating the candidates over several months.

"This market, unlike the polls, has been saying this has been close race since May," said Joyce Berg, UI accounting professor and IEM co-director. She added that the IEM vote share market showed a slight lead for Gore on Sunday but shifted to give a slight edge to Bush by Monday.