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Will pocketbooks pick the president?

Big edge for Obama if the economy – statistically sour – motivates voters, say modelers.

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The economy is in poor shape. So Democratic Sen. Barack Obama will win the November election with 51.5 percent of the two-party vote.

At least that is what Yale University economist Ray Fair predicts, based on a model that uses mathematics and economic data going back to the 1916 presidential election. It assumes voters make their presidential choices in large measure on the status of their pocketbooks.

"The economy seems to matter" in elections, says Professor Fair, in an understatement. So he suggests Senator Obama should push economic issues as he campaigns in the months ahead. And he figures that the Democratic candidate would win with a higher margin if the economy were more clearly in recession this year.

Another model put together more recently figures Mr. Obama, rather than squeaking to victory, will win with a sweeping majority of 54.8 percent of the two-party vote.

Both Fair and Chris Varvares, president of Macroeconomic Advisers, the St. Louis-based consulting firm that put together the other model, concede that other factors beside the economy do matter in this year's election.

Tax policies, Iraq, race, globalization, conservative radio, and consumer perceptions may influence the vote, notes Mr. Varvares.

These otherfactors, says Fair, may account for his model's margin of error of 2.5 percentage points, plus or minus.

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