Jeremy is the master

I lost a bet with Jeremy Rosner and promised to admit it publicly.

Published December 19, 2008 5:40PM (EST)

You know that scene at the end of the movie Knocked Up where Martin Starr’s bearded character finally relents from his bet with Jason Segel’s character that he could go a year without shaving anywhere? To get out of the bet, all Martin has to do is tell Jason, “You’re the master.”

Well, I lost a bet this election year with Jeremy Rosner, former Clinton-Gore adviser and current mega-consultant. He bet that Obama would get more than 340 electoral votes and the Democrats would pick up more than 16 House seats; I took the under on both.

I was particularly confident about the electoral vote total because only three states had changed between 2000 and 2004, the most stable back-to-back maps in American history since Washington’s time. I even checked in with 538's Nate Silver and he told me his multiple-iteration simulations were showing an average of only five or six states switching. Presuming all six would go to Obama, it would still be tough to get from 252 to at least 341. I figured that, at worst, even if House Dems had a big night, the bet would be a push.

In my defense, those calculations and Nate's analyses were current as of late summer and early fall, and I made the bet in August at the Democratic National Convention. I figured that Obama would carry FL, VA, OH, IA and the three southwestern states, plus John Kerry's states, to put him at 338 -- or 339 with that Omaha house district elector.

Then came September’s economic meltdown. Absent that, I still believe Obama would not have carried Indiana and North Carolina.  (He may have lost Florida, too.) But that's a counterfactual I can't prove. And a bet is a bet. Bookies don't return your money if your starting quarterback gets knocked out of the game on the first play from scrimmage.

So I am here today to tell Jeremy, publicly, “You’re the master.”

By Thomas Schaller

Thomas F. Schaller is professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the author of "Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South." Follow him @schaller67.

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