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The Winners of Our Pick the President Contest

Helene Gayle, shown in action as president and chief executive of CARE, could be the next administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Helene Gayle, shown in action as president and chief executive of CARE, could be the next administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development. (By Brendan Bannon -- Care)

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By Al Kamen
Monday, December 8, 2008

And now, the winners of the In the Loop PickThePrez contest! This was launched right after the conventions, on Sept. 10, closing one week later. For those who've forgotten, that was a time, post-Sarah Palin bump, when the race was tight. John McCain and Barack Obama were virtually tied. McCain was five points ahead in one poll; Obama was up five in another. The rest were within that margin, and several were dead even.

It was also before hard-charging CBS News reporter Katie Couric, asking tough, grossly unfair questions such as "What newspapers do you read?," made some people think Palin might be just a tad underqualified. Tina Fey's devastating skewering of McCain's running mate premiered on "Saturday Night Live" in the middle of the contest week, but it didn't seem to immediately affect the polls.

So it took some acute analysis -- or maybe just some Democratic optimism or Republican pessimism -- for our winners to get even close to Obama's actual 52.7 percent popular-vote margin. Even harder to come close to his 365-vote blowout in the electoral college.

Still, many were very close, and three got the popular vote right on the money. Some were just a couple of tenths of a point off.

No one guessed the exact electoral vote -- indeed, a relative handful of entrants guessed that Obama would even top 300 -- but some came fairly close.

Our 17 winners (three folks made the top 10 in both categories):

· Unemployed political analyst and prior Loop contest winner Howard Cohen of North Hills, Calif., got the popular vote exactly, tying with two other contestants for first place. And although he was 10 votes too high on the electoral vote, that was good enough for sole possession of first.

· Retired print shop worker Fred Dawson of Beltsville and retired State Department human resources officer Joe Furgal of Arlington also got the popular vote right at 52.7 percent.

· Freelance writer Ed Nanas of Gainesville, Va., was a tenth of a point low at 52.6 percent. Newspaper columnist Quin Hillyer of Alexandria was also close but high at 52.9 percent. And Hillyer tied for eighth in the electoral-vote category, predicting 314.


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