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Trail Mix 

by TED S. McGREGOR JR. & r & & r & Pushing Polls Out & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & I & lt;/span & f you're like most people, you're probably sick of all the political polls, but naturally you still want to see into the future. Who wants to wait to find out what happens? This is America, land of instant gratification, so we've got you covered: The University of Iowa seems to have all the answers in its Iowa Electronic Markets. Political junkies pony up anywhere between $5 and $500 to open a kind of E-Trade account, and they start betting/investing on things like which candidate will win their party's nomination and which party will take control of Washington, D.C. You can dump a stock that is tanking and buy one that's on the rise. (I knew I should have sold my Gravel back in January!)

The Iowa Electronic Markets (IEM -- have been running (and eluding federal oversight; it's a research project, the University says) for 20 years now, and according to new research by IEM, they have been more accurate than opinion polls 74 percent of the time between 1988 and 2008. They've even spawned imitators, like, and

As of Tuesday, Barack Obama was trading at 79 & cent; on the IEM, down from the 86 & cent; he was trading at on March 1. (The cents translate to the percentage certainty the market is predicting that Obama will win the Democratic nomination; buying him at 79 & cent; means there is a 79 percent chance your investment will pay off.) Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton was trading at 16 & cent;, up from 13 & cent; on March 1, but way down from the 64 & cent; she was at just five days before Super Tuesday.

Get on the Bus

Polls (yes, back to those again) say Barack Obama won't win Pennsylvania, but if he pulls out a surprise victory there, Hillary Clinton might feel like she got run over by a bus. That's how a lot of people who came face to face with Jerome Bettis used to feel, before he retired as the star running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers. And last week, Obama toured parts of the state with Bettis and Franco Harris, another Steeler legend. In a final play for votes, Obama even told local reporters that as a kid growing up in Hawaii, his favorite team was... the Pittsburgh Steelers! (How convenient.)
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