Outlook 2004 Crystal Ball

Hot Button Choices
Sunday, October 31, 2004; Page B01

Halloween seems an appropriate time to ask 13 political wizards to dust off their Crystal Balls, apply a bit of Windex to their orbs and offer prognostications for the denouement of campaign 2004. Will George W. Bush win a return trip to Pennsylvania Avenue, or will he earn a one-way ticket to his Crawford ranch and be haunted forevermore by the specter of John Kerry sitting in the Oval Office? Will the Democrats give the Republicans a fright in the battle for the Senate and House, or will voters say boo to the Democrats' efforts to regain control?

We asked our seers for six predictions: the popular vote percentages, the electoral college outcome, the composition of the Senate and the House, the gubernatorial breakdown and the margin of victory for Bush or Kerry in Florida. Just in case that didn't produce a winner, we tossed in two tie-breakers: projecting the results in the North Carolina and Colorado Senate races.

The contestants' electoral vote forecast dictated whether we used a red (Republican) or blue (Democratic) button to display their predictions.

We're not superstitious here on the 13th floor of Crystal Ball headquarters, but we certainly hope that our choice of 13 contestants doesn't put a hex on us-or the election. The last thing we need is a rerun of 2000, when we (and the rest of the nation) had to wait five long weeks to learn who would win our coveted prize: A genuine crystal ball, suitable for home or office display. (Bragging rights come at no extra charge.)

Our final issue before the Big Day also includes Washington Post columnist and occasional Outlook contributor E.J. Dionne Jr.'s hard look at the state of the U.S. election system. He argues that we're in danger of losing the legitimacy that a democracy requires to sustain itself.

Good luck on Tuesday, wherever you may vote.

-- The Outlook Editors

Join several of this year's prognosticators online, starting Sunday at 1 p.m. ET with Wonkette Ana Marie Cox. www.washingtonpost.com/outlookdiscussions

© 2004 The Washington Post Company