Spring 2009 Newsletter Articles

Another Banner Year for the Crystal Ball
Predictions, analysis, and internships all great successes

In 2006, FOX News, MSNBC, CNBC and Pew's Project for Excellence in Journalism named the Crystal Ball the most accurate predictor of the mid-term elections. Led by Center for Politics Director Larry J. Sabato, this year’s Crystal Ball team again confirmed its reputation for astonishing accuracy. In the presidential race, the Crystal Ball predicted a margin of 364-174 electoral votes in favor of the Democratic candidate Barack Obama. The final result was 365-173, as Obama made history by picking off one of Nebraska’s five electoral votes. Once more, the Crystal Ball led the pack. Not one of the 14 experts polled the week before the election by the Washington Post, nor any other professional prognosticator, came closer.

Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball Website

The results were equally impressive in the other races. The Crystal Ball correctly called all eleven governor’s races and forecasted a seven or eight seat pick-up for Democrats in the Senate. As of February, all thirty-four resolved senate races have gone exactly as the Crystal Ball predicted, including correctly calling a runoff in Georgia. The undecided outcome of the thirty-fifth race in Minnesota leaves Democrats with a seven or eight seat gain, precisely as the Crystal Ball anticipated. In the 435 House races, the Crystal Ball again displayed unparalleled prescience, picking Democratic gains with 99% accuracy.

In addition to the reliable precision of its political predictions, the Crystal Ball’s weekly e-mail offered readers an array of comprehensive analysis and historical background. This year, guest contributors to the Crystal Ball included author and respected political analyst Rhodes Cook, Emory University Professor and author Alan Abramowitz, and University of Buffalo Political Science Department Chair Jim Campbell. Topics ranged from voter registration and prediction models to the presidential debates and grassroots campaigning efforts.

Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball Website

Adding to its comprehensive coverage of the 2008 races for its 12,000 daily subscribers, the Crystal Ball sent teams to report from both the Democratic and Republican conventions. Readers were treated to a front-row seat of each exciting moment of the Democratic Convention in Denver, from Hillary Clinton’s speech to Barack Obama’s historic address at Invesco Field. The following week, the Crystal Ball traveled to St. Paul, chronicling each major event of the Republican National Convention. Daily articles described and analyzed the speeches of vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin and the Republican nominee for president, John McCain. The Crystal Ball also provided its readers with behind-the-scenes insight from Republican insiders and reports on events that took place outside the walls of the Xcel Energy Center.

These predictions and analyses were made possible by a dedicated team of writers and researchers. A key component to the success of that team was the University of Virginia students who served as interns during the spring, summer, and fall of 2008. These 11 interns handled tasks ranging from compiling candidate finance reports to writing summaries of recent news events in some of the 435 congressional districts across the country. Intern Prashanth Parameswaran, a fourth-year student majoring in Foreign Affairs and Economics, even authored a Crystal Ball article on one of the presidential debates. The internship, he said, “gave me the autonomy to marry my interests with the tasks required, whether it be picking certain House races or writing pieces for publication.” Fellow intern Tom Gaunt, an exchange student from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, also appreciated his opportunity at the Center during such an exciting period in political history. “What was really great about the internship was the opportunity to research ongoing political developments in their historical context,” he said.

All in all, 2008 was another successful year for the Crystal Ball, which reached new heights with its predictions and analysis. In affording interning students the opportunity to gain a more practical perspective on politics, the Crystal Ball enriched their experience at the University of Virginia. “It was by far one of the most wholesome experiences I've had at the University,” Parameswaran reflected. As such, the Center for Politics proudly continues to uphold and promulgate its slogan, “Politics is a good thing!”

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