By Brendan Loy
Jonathan Sickinger of South Hadley, MA, a Democrat and Obama supporter who started following me due to my Pajamas Media Weather Nerd blog coverage of Hurricanes Isaac and Sandy, appears to have won the 3rd quadrennial Living Room Times Electoral College Contest with 538 points and a perfect prediction map.
This “call” of the contest winner — “RIGHT NOW!” as Wolf Blitzer would say — assumes that Barack Obama wins Florida, which has not officially been announced yet, but appears inevitable. Obama leads by 47,000 votes (0.56%) — a percentage margin more than sixty times bigger than Bush’s 2000 edge in Florida — and from what I’ve read, I do not see any likelihood that enough Romney ballots are outstanding to alter the outcome. The margin might narrow enough to allow for a recount (under 0.5%), but I would think Romney will waive that, since it won’t affect the national outcome. And even if they do have a recount, it’s likely to be a formality that won’t change the result.
I will revisit this post if Romney somehow mounts a huge comeback and wins the Sunshine State, but I don’t see that happening.
Sickinger is the contest’s apparent winner thanks to a late change of heart. On November 2, he entered the contest with a map that predicted Obama would win all the states he ultimately won — plus North Carolina. Then, on Monday morning, November 5, less than 12 hours before the entry deadline, he revised his map to show Romney winning North Carolina. That, of course, is the one battleground state that Romney did indeed win.
The result: like Nate Silver, Sickinger went 50-for-50 (or 56-for-56, counting D.C. and the Maine and Nebraska congressional districts).
He wasn’t alone. Again assuming the apparent Obama win in Florida, there is a six-way tie among contestants with perfect maps, and thus the maximum possible 538 points: Sickinger; Kevin Curran (a.k.a. “kcatnd”) of Austin, Texas, who won the 2008 contest and was aiming for a repeat; Lockhart Steele of New York City; John Markos O’Neill of San Francisco; Scott Woods of Jonesboro, Arkansas; and Steven Liedel of Lansing, Michigan.
Consistent with the trend whereby Democrats predicted a big Obama win and Republicans predicted a big Romney win, all six perfect maps were created by self-identified Obama supporters.
In light of the tie in points, we turn to tiebreakers. The first three are no help, since the tied contestants’ maps (not just the point totals) are identical. The fourth tiebreaker rewards “whoever comes closer, in absolute value terms, to predicting how many Senate seats the Republicans will win.” Curran predicted 48; Steele predicted 47; and Sickinger, O’Neill, Woods and Liedel all predicted 46. The actual number is 45, which eliminates Curran and Steele, leaving a four-way tie among the remaining quartet.
The fifth tiebreaker rewards “whoever comes closer, in absolute value terms, to predicting how many House seats the Republicans will win.” O’Neill predicted 225. Woods and Liedel both predicted 232. Sickenger predicted 233. The actual number is 233 and counting, according to the New York Times, with 10 races still undecided. So the GOP’s final total will be somewhere between 233 and 243. Regardless of where it ends up within that range, Sickenger will have come the closest to predicting it correctly, and thus will win the contest on that fifth tiebreaker.