Oh No, the Dreaded Needle Is Back

Photo: New York Times

Did you just hear a sudden piercing scream? A horrifying gleeful cackle somewhere in the distance as the sun began to set (the sun sets at like 4 p.m. now)? Did your blood run suddenly cold?

Yes, the New York Times election-forecast needle has returned.

Polling guru Nate Cohn tweeted out the news on Monday evening with a caveat: The needle, which so traumatically tracked overwhelming odds in Hillary Clinton’s favor at the beginning of November 8, 2016, before switching sharply to Donald Trump, is back with a slight tweak. “There will be no national needle,” he wrote. “The huge changes in voting by method + the limits of available data just make [it] too risky to do responsibly.”

Cohn seems to be responding to feedback that the dreaded needle made the incredibly stressful experience of watching the 2016 election even worse. It follows that this cruel mistress should not be used to chart the results of an already heated election, during a pandemic, in which the labyrinthine election laws of multiple states means that some counts will likely not be completed for days.

Though there’s no national needle, we will have three smaller-scale ones tracking results from Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina. That’s because those states break down their votes by voter method, enabling them to report quickly and efficiently. These states are also possible bellwethers for the national result, sort of — if they are won by Joe Biden, he has likely won the entire election; if Trump wins them, both candidates have a “realistic path,” according to the Times.

Regardless of the success of the needle’s behavioral reforms, I can think of numerous less stressful things a voter could do to pass the time while waiting for results (which, again, will likely take a while). Find out if your pet has seen a ghost. Read some gossip. Knit a baby blanket for Scheana Shay. Don’t look at the needle — just ignore her! She loves attention.

Oh No, the Dreaded Needle Is Back