A “Fairy tale” or a fairy tale ending?

In early May, hoping to atone for having been wrong so often during the primary season, I predicted that, “more likely than not,” John McCain would be unable to overcome the “fundamentals” that I thought pointed to a Barack Obama victory. Then, in mid-June, I attempted to predict with greater specficity how the race would play out.

At the time, Obama had about a five percentage point lead. I predicted that he would take essentially that lead into the Democratic Convention (his actual lead by then turned out probably to be a bit smaller) and that after his Convention Obama would have a double digit lead (the actual lead turned out to be eight or nine points).

I wisely declined to predict the bounce, if any, McCain would receive as a result of the Republican Convention, but I suggested that Obama would hold a “decent” lead in mid-October. After that, I said, “a significant number of voters will recoil from the prospect of electing someone this new and this liberal, and the race will tighten considerably.” However, I predicted that, “if the economy looks like it does now, or worse, as election day approaches, the electorate more likely than not will take the plunge” and elect Obama.

Obama did hold a decent lead (probably around eight points) well into October. And the race has seemed to tighten in the final days, though whether it has done so “considerably” is not clear.

The economy is in worse shape as election day approaches than it was in June when I took my look ahead. And it does seem “more likely than not” — far more likely, I now would say — that voters will “take the plunge” and elect Obama. It’s not difficult to imagine undecided voters breaking for McCain. But as weighed down as he has become by dissatisfaction with the administration and anger over the economy, I find it difficult to see them breaking for McCain decisively enough to derail Obama.

Things will be a bit more clear tomorrow when we see the weekend poll numbers. If there are even a few polls that have McCain down by less than 5 points, then we can dare to hope. Either way, however, on Tuesday we must heed the words of Senator McCain: “Stand Up, Stand Up, Stand Up and Fight.”

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