How Ann Coulter is Affecting the Missouri Senate Race
Two nights ago on the Sean Hannity show, Ann Coulter suggested that, if Todd Akin won't withdraw from the Missouri Senate race, then Missouri voters should get behind a write-in candidate. She suggested an excellent choice for such a candidate in former Republican Senator Kit Bond. She also explained how Alaska voters successfully adopted such a write-in strategy to elect Lisa Murkowski to the Senate in 2010. Coulter repeated many of these same points in the column she published two days ago.
Her comments, I believe, have actually changed the Missouri race. According to Intrade.com, bettors now believe that an independent or third-party candidate has a 4% chance of winning the Missouri race. Three days ago those odds were hovering near 1 or 2%.
Further, the 4% chance, I believe, significantly understates the chance that someone besides Todd Akin or Democrat Claire McCaskill will win. Here's why: Suppose a grassroots movement builds for, say, Kit Bond as a write-in candidate. And suppose that Bond pulls ahead of Akin in the polls. Suppose, for instance, that a poll reports that 50% of Missouri voters prefer McCaskill, 30% prefer Bond, and 20% prefer Akin.
Now suppose you're one of the 20% who prefers Akin. Your first thought might be: "Akin, it appears, has no chance of winning. Consequently, maybe I should vote for my second choice, Kit Bond." As a consequence, if Bond surpasses Akin in the polls--even by a tiny margin--then that could be a tipping point that causes many Akin supporters to switch to Bond.
Political scientists call this phenomenon an instance of "sophisticated voting." A related notion is Duverger's Law, which says that in any first-past-the-post election, such as the one in Missouri, we should expect only two candidates to receive more than a trivial share of the votes. In this circumstance, the law predicts that either Bond's supporters or Akin's supporter's would erode to near zero.
Indeed, if a write-in candidate surpassed Akin in the polls--and his supporters started to switch their support to that candidate--then, I believe, Akin would withdraw. He might even endorse the write-in candidate and ask the Missouri Republican Party to declare that candidate the new Republican nominee.
This may sound a bit fantastical, but I don't believe it is. Yesterday, Intrade.com opened a new market. In this market bettors must predict the chance that Akin will withdraw from the race. At around 3:00pm Pacific Time today, the "bid" was at 30% and the "ask" at 40%, suggesting the odds that Akin will withdraw are about 35%.
Related to this, I believe, the odds that a Republican will win the race are now about 42%. When Coulter made her comments on Hannity, they were about 37%. I believe the 5% increase is due to the increased possibility that Akin will withdraw.
If a write-in movement in Missouri builds, and Akin subsequently withdraws, conservatives will owe a thank you to Ann Coulter.