In Space

More Bill Bennett than Zogby

With election polls on the outs (they're so 2000), online wags this election year are placing less stock in what people say they are going to do and more in where people might place their money. Since 1996, www.politicaloddsmaker.com, "America's most popular elections handicapping service," has put odds on all federal elections, correctly predicting the outcome 98% of the time. In handicapping the Democratic primaries, odds-maker Ron Faucheux doesn't see much value in John Edwards' dark horse bid: "John Kerry is 4-to-1 favorite to win this steeplechase." (For a dramatic interpretation of this, see the "Demo Derby" at www.msnbc.com.) John Edwards' 1-to-4 chance to nose ahead is the same odds he'll get the VP nod. The rest of the field? Al Sharpton and Dennis Kucinich fare as well as "Unknown," at 1,000-to-1 against.

Want to get in on these odds? You could always place an old-fashioned, offshore, tax-free Internet bet through www.ladbrokes.com. This bastion of legalized gambling in the UK makes odds on everything from J.Lo's next boyfriend to the chances of NASA discovering life on Mars. The Brits give Dubya 4-to-7 odds (but before you get stirred up, know that Brits reverse their odds ... he's favored to win). Right now, Tony Blair is favored to maintain control of Parliament, at 1-to-20. The way things are looking for the PM, this could be a money winner.

Just like traditional polling data, these numbers can be daunting to the average citizen who hopes not only that his or her vote counts, but also that everything hasn't already been wrapped up by Election Day. But take heart, these guys do get it wrong, sort of. PoliticalOddsmaker.com called 2000 for Gore. And even the granddaddy of the field, Yale statistician Ray C. Fair's fairly infallible statistical oddsmaker www.fairmodel.econ.yale.edu, which has correctly calculated every presidential win going back to 1920, missed one big one in all these years: Bill Clinton's 1992 defeat of George I.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

election odds online, www.politicaloddsmaker.com, www.fairmodel.econ.yale.edu, www.ladbrokes.com

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