A meteor could hit the earth this week. Russia could go for broke and invade all of its neighbors. But what we're most likely to see in the final eight days of the presidential campaign is continued Barack Obama dominance measured by a few good polls for John McCain. Obama will tell his supporters not to get cocky. McCain will claim he's roaring back.
Why do we know this? Because that's what always happens. From the Associated Press on Nov. 2, 1988:
"Today, the polls are closing, the momentum is our way," [Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Lloyd Bentsen] told a rally attended by about 2,000 students Tuesday night at Washington University in St. Louis.
The Republicans think the campaign is over and are "popping those campaign corks, but I'll tell you on November ninth they're going to have the worst hangover they've ever had," he said.
As he has been doing at other stops, Bentsen held over his head a reprint of the 1948 Chicago Tribune which declared, wrongly, "Dewey Defeats Truman."…
[Bentsen press secretary Mike] McCurry, asked about new national polls sponsored by news organizations showing double-digit leads for Bush, said, "we don't necessarily think those are accurate. They are not consistent with the campaign's own polls," he said.
Eight days out it's not a good sign that the McCain campaign is still running on Drudge and deciding that a 2001 interview Obama gave about the Civil Rights movement and the Supreme Court is finally gonna take him out. It'll be a full week of stuff like that, along with claims (from pundits more than McCain) that the GOP is faring just as well, or better, than Gore and Kerry did in their final weeks. Don't buy that. RealClearPolitics collated the final polls from 2004, which, if you averaged them, were within two points of the actual result. The site has added final results to its battleground state chart, too.
You can glean two important things from RCP's averages. The first is that Obama is overperforming, and McCain is underpeforming, their party's candidates in 2000 and 2004. The second is important if you buy Bill Greener's highly dubious theory that all "undecided" voters in the polls will break for the white candidate. Obama is over 50 percent in every state that Kerry won, and over 50 percent in Iowa, Virginia, New Mexico, and Colorado. Give McCain every undecided voter in the country this week, and Obama wins the election anyway with 306 electoral votes.
It's going to be a silly week, full of stories like this (in which a Georgia voter is informed, to her surprise, that she's not a U.S. citizen) and negative news cycles. But it would take a miracle (or, if you're a Democrat, a catastrophe) to change anything.