22 November 2008

More on the president-elect

Now it's time to govern.

My greatest concern with President-Elect Obama is this: While he has proven to be a magnetic political presence, he has never shown himself to be a leader in the Senate on anything of substance. 

When pressed by critics to name a single significant bipartisan accomplishment of his, Obama clumsily stammered responses about his work with Sen. Richard Lugar on rounding up loose nukes in the former Soviet Union (legislation that was, by the way, passed unanimously) or his supposed support of tort reform. Despite all this talk of post-partisanship and "change we can believe in," Barack Obama the senator was a markedly different man than Barack Obama the candidate. I worry about the power of Sens. Reid, Schumer and Durbin, and Reps. Pelosi and Frank. These are extremist liberals whose voting records largely mirror President-Elect Obama's, and will undoubtedly move even harder to push through their leftist agendas now that the Bush administration is gone from power.

Obama likely will be faced with the same quandary that President Clinton saw in 1992: Congressional Democrats who will have his back only if he follows their leftist agenda. As our buddy Dick Morris recalls, Clinton came to the White House intending to govern as a centrist, but was rattled by a meeting with his congressional "allies" shortly after his inauguration, where they insinuated that the new president would have their support as long as he didn't reach across the aisle. 

As a result, Clinton lurched left, the move blew up in his face, and the GOP stormed back to power in 1994. When Clinton returned to the center, he was much more effective, cutting the federal bureaucracy in a way that Reagan would have been proud of, reforming welfare, executing free-trade agreements and, in perhaps his most notable accomplishment, approving a balanced budget. 

While he is still reviled by many on the right because of his marital infidelities (the same people, as I've noted, who would give admitted philanderer Sen. David Vitter a standing ovation if he walked in the room), President Clinton can be proud of a number of considerable accomplishments during his two terms in the White House -- accomplishments that any Republican president would be proud of. And these things came to pass because of Clinton's willingness to reach across the aisle.

On January 21, 20o9, it will be time for President Obama to put his money where his mouth is.

Will Obama have the stomach to stand up to his so-called "allies" in Congress? Can he use the bully pulpit of the White House to govern from the center? Will he include Republicans in his Cabinet? Will he include them in major pieces of legislation, such as health care reform or a platform for energy independence? Will he really do away with the rampant partisanship peddled by both the Bush administration and Obama's congressional allies? Will he really choose to govern as a centrist, reaching across the aisle to really usher our country into a different kind of political era, as he has promised?

Or will he revert back to being the old, reliable liberal rubber stamp, as he was for three and a half years in the United States Senate?

I genuinely believe that if Obama chooses to work across the aisle to lower taxes, balance the budget, finish off the war in Iraq and fully claim victory in Afghanistan, solve the looming Social Security crisis and give the country a good start toward energy independence, he can cement himself as a successful president, and win re-election going away in 2012. Many of President Clinton's greatest successes were a result of reaching across the aisle and finding solutions to big problems that ailed America. 

Come to think of it, that's exactly what this site is about.

So how will President-Elect Obama govern? 

I know my prediction. 
But as promised, I'll give him a chance. 

20 November 2008

On Obama (the nice edition)

Sen. McCain has no bigger supporter than me. However, the day after the election, I noted in a post on this site the historic nature of the 2008 election -- no matter my disappointment in the Senior Senator's defeat, the fact that America has elected its first black president a little more than a generation removed from the era of segregation is truly a remarkable thing.

Furthermore, I refuse to be among those moonbats who says things along the lines of, "Not my president." If you've caught yourself saying something like that after Nov. 4, we'd rather you just leave this site. I took umbrage at many liberals uttering that phrase after President Bush's victories in 2000 and 2004, and I believe such a remark reveals a shallow callousness and, to be frank, a complete lack of patriotism. You're not just an American when a Republican is in the White House. It doesn't work that way. 

Barack Obama is my president. I expect to be one of his harshest critics in my future, but I support him and genuinely hope he succeeds. Do hope otherwise is to literally root against the country, and I'll leave that childish behavior to the left.

Any suggestion that Republicans should root against Obama (much like congressional liberals publicly cheerleaded against the Iraq troop surge in 2006 and 2007, and like many liberals across the country did against Bush post-2004) is asinine. Obama is your president. Period. If you don't like it, move to Canada, and don't let the doorknob hit you on the way out. The Republican Party has proven itself wholly incapable of effective governance, and the voters decided it was time for a change. 

15 November 2008

The Russkies are coming!

On Tuesday, November 4, Sen. Obama decisively defeated Sen. McCain to become the 44th president of the United States. On Wednesday, November 5, three things of note happened: The stock market dropped 500 points; Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai called on the president-elect to stop killing Afghani civilians; and Russia announced plans to move missiles to the small Russian enclave west of Lithuania on its border with Poland. 

Let me repeat that: Each of those things happened the day after Obama's election.

Then, late this week, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev announced plans to visit both Cuba and Venezuela later this month. A Russian flotilla is currently on its way to Venezuela to conduct military exercises with Venezuelan troops. Under the iron rule of Hugo Chavez, Venezuela has moved to buy millions of dollars in Russian weaponry and has invited Russian energy companies to begin drilling in its oil fields.

Is all this a coincidence? Highly doubtful. Medvedev and Vladimir Putin, obviously relieved that Russian antagonist McCain won't be in the White House come January (McCain has gone so far as to call for Russia's expulsion from the G-8), see an obvious weakness. When Russia invaded their tiny neighbor Georgia in August, Sen. Obama presciently noted that Russia's aggression "violated the spirit of the Olympics" and called on both countries to calm their aggression toward each other. I can only imagine Putin and Medvedev doubling over in laughter. 

The hard reality is this: While the world might have cheered an Obama victory on Nov. 5, America's antagonists and enemies cheered it for very different reasons than our allies in western Europe. Putin and Medvedev have a very clear agenda, and their actions -- jailing dissidents, crushing opposition, severely curtailing freedom of the press, attempting to rig the 2006 presidential elections in Ukraine, invading Georgia, allying themselves even closer with communist states and now moving missiles to their border with Poland -- should be a wake-up call to our new president that sticks must be used and not just carrots. The mere fact of Obama's election has not, as many of his supporters implied, appeased the aggressors across the globe, nor has it altered the agendas of people like Iran's Ahmadenijad, Belarus' Lukashenka or the Castro brothers in Cuba. Putin and Medvedev, in particular, will walk all over Obama if he is as spongy in the White House as he was on the stump. 

Did Obama's supporters -- and did the candidate himself -- really believe that Russia's agenda would be different on the morning of November 5?

This should be a further wake-up call to our president-elect that he had better be serious about energy independence as well, as Russia and Venezuela remain two of the largest exporters of oil in the world.

As much as his supporters might disagree, the hard reality is that Obama's election has changed very little in the rest of the world. And if he thinks mere diplomacy or fireside chats at the White House will convince Putin and Medvedev to scale back their aggression, then he will have proven himself to be a wholly incapable commander in chief.

12 November 2008

On the McCain campaign, Part III

Fifth, it must be said again: In an act of sheer political malpractice, Gov. Palin was badly mishandled. I supported her selection in late August because I believed that she could reach across the aisle to disaffected supporters of Sen. Clinton, as well as highlight McCain's independent credentials like no other candidate except Sen. Lieberman. I'm unsure about whether I will support her in 2012 (given that she's damaged goods, it's doubtful). I'm also unsure of how to react to the backbiting that reared its head in the campaign's final days, which all too often implicated Palin as a know-nothing crank. I don't believe she's dumb, as many liberals do. I do, however, understand why many people believe she is. 

And that's Steve Schmidt's fault.

Palin gave a slam-bang performance at the RNC in late August, with many conservatives (including the Gipper's son, Michael) calling her "the next Ronald Reagan." I was far less effuse with my praise, but noted that she has the unteachable political skill of effectively twisting the knife with a smile on her face. Bill Clinton, among few others, was great at this. Her approval rating back in Alaska is in the 80s, and she's wildly popular in her home state for a reason: She's shown that rare instinct to kick party demagogues in the teeth from time to time, and she's an incredibly skilled politician. 

I believed that Schmidt, Rick Davis, Mark Salter and the rest of the McCain team needed to blast her out to everyone who would listen. What good does it do to add a tremendously skilled, genuinely likable politician to the ticket and limit her to three major interviews in six weeks? Further, what use is it to use her only to toss red meat to long-since-converted supporters at highly scripted campaign rallies? If she was added to the ticket to appeal to undecideds, why not use her to target them?

In her interviews with Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric, the highly coached Palin painfully grasped for bulletpoint after bulletpoint. Many of her answers made no sense given the context of the question. Even when Couric tossed her a softball, asking about the media outlets from which she gets her news, Palin stammered, then answered, "All of them." It was a cringe-inducing moment. She was over-coached and overly saturated with many of the same talking points that McCain hammered at every day. Steve Schmidt, a highly disciplined GOP operative, believes in driving home a consistent message day after day. With Palin, it backfired.

And when these train wrecks of interviews were the only points of reference that voters had to judge Palin, the opinions that she was "dumb" or "ignorant" were certainly well-founded. Why limit her? Why shouldn't she go on Larry King, Chris Matthews or the late-night talk shows? Everyone makes gaffes -- that's to be expected. 

The vice-presidential debate was a classic example of why I believed Palin, if used wisely, could have been a tremendous asset to the McCain campaign. She talked forcefully, appeared confident, made a number of very good points, hit Sen. Biden hard on several occasions and was generally affable. At the end of the debate, it seemed that both she and Biden had genuinely enjoyed each other's company. She more than held her own. Every one of her redeeming qualities came out, even though she hardly won the debate on substance. 

I talked in a prior post about the die having been cast. By the time the VP debate rolled around, previously independent voters had already decided they had seen enough.

Perhaps I made a mistake in supporting the choice of Palin, as I assumed that she knew at least as much as I do about national and international affairs. Perhaps I made too great an assumption in endorsing her selection as VP that she could name one Supreme Court decision that she disagreed with, other than Roe v. Wade. And perhaps I overestimated her ability to form complete sentences or tie her shoes. 

I don't think I believe Palin is that stupid. And if she is, Schmidt & Co. made a horrific mistake by choosing her. 

Sixth, the McCain team's ground game was just awful. State party leaders openly complained to the press about the lack of communication between Schmidt & Co. and the rank and file. While Obama's team sent community organizers into places like Iowa and New Hampshire, working from the ground up, by all accounts, McCain's team did very little to attract new recruits. (Again, check out Newsweek's 7-part expose', which lays out Obama's ground game in detail. The level of organization was remarkable, and it probably will revolutionize how candidates campaign for president.) Point six is very simple: In an election where the playing field was already tilted against him, McCain and his team did themselves no favors by having a terrible get-out-the-vote campaign and ground game come election day.

10 November 2008

On the McCain campaign, Part II

Continuing our postmortem on the McCain campaign's failures...

Third, it's clear that Sen. McCain's team horribly mismanaged the bailout issue, as the Wall Street meltdown (and the Senior Senator's reaction to it) were clearly the tipping point in this election. In a mid-September entry, I suggested that Sen. McCain return to Washington for a few days in the wake of the forthcoming bailout. He did this. However, I also suggested that he personally sit in on Finance & Banking Committee hearings and hold regular press conferences, so as to give the impression (real or implied) that McCain was the one driving the bipartisan compromise that was sure to come. The point, of course, was to tout his bipartisan, problem-solving credentials. Whether it's something like campaign finance reform or reworking the country's immigration laws, this is simply something that has been a hallmark of his career, for better or worse.

What I didn't suggest that he do was skip out on Letterman, threaten to cancel the first presidential debate, suggest firing SEC Chairman Chris Cox, and appear at the White House with Sen. Obama. The first three gave the impression that he was erratic; the fourth -- where he was photographed sitting at an opposite end of the table from the Changemaker, with the president in the middle -- dashed any hopes of a presidential, problem-solving moment that he could glean from the crisis. Seven weeks from election day, what good is such a bold move if your opponent is invited to do the exact same thing? 

Fourth, in an election that pitted a purported change agent against a Washington veteran of three decades, McCain's trademark dry wit (he likes to crack that it's always darkest before it goes completely black) and engaging personality were too often neutered. At times, McCain appeared angry -- during the first debate, he barely looked at Obama. In the second, while he performed much better, he was widely seen as lecturing his younger opponent. McCain's age clearly was an issue, and he seemed to be baited into overreacting at times by Obama's cool demeanor. He looked like the angry old uncle.

Remember the Saddleback Forum? Rick Warren asked McCain a very good question about whether he thought his age would be a factor in the election, and in response, McCain slumped over in his chair and pretended to fall asleep. It was hilarious, and it's the McCain that I've come to know and admire over the past few years. Unfortunately, the happy warrior of 2000 and the 2008 Republican primary -- he of the endless riffage sessions with reporters, myriad town-hall meetings and yes, the trademark humor that allowed him to seem 8 or 10 years younger than he really was -- was noticeably absent from the last several months of his campaign. Even in his cherished town-hall debate format, McCain looked unnatural and uncomfortable. It wasn't until the final debate that he actually began to look like himself again, and by that time, the die had been cast.

For instance, in early October, after press access had been severely curtailed, McCain sat down for an interview with two reporters from Time magazine. The reporters tape-recorded the interview and their editors published it verbatim. The short, curt politician snapping at his questioners just didn't seem like McCain. It was moments like this that played directly into Obama's hands.

Overall, McCain's team allowed Obama to paint him as an aging, out-of-touch Washington insider who was ill-equipped to deal with America in the 21st century. How exactly this happened, I'm not quite sure -- but the burden clearly fell on Team Maverick to combat this perception, and they failed.

08 November 2008

On the McCain campaign, Part I

In the wake of Sen. McCain's defeat, I've struggled to apportion blame among the various actors, and to decide where I think the sure-to-be-reformed GOP should be headed. I'll take on the GOP on a different day -- there is much sorting out and soul-searching to do. But what of McCain's campaign?

One thing must be made clear: From early July until the selection of Gov. Palin as McCain's #2, the McCain campaign was nearly flawless. Steve Schmidt -- the Bush/Cheney '04 communications guru, and Team Maverick's chief strategist who formally took the reins in late June '08 -- was fighting an uphill battle from the start, and the fact that the McCain campaign kept their candidate within the margin of error, and even at times ahead, of their opponent was impressive. But the country obviously was tired of the Republican Party, thanks in large part to the incompetence of the Bush administration, and Sen. Obama found himself with a perfect storm at his back.

The playing field was tilted from day one, no matter who the Democratic nominee was. I believe Sen. Clinton would have won by an even bigger margin than did Obama. So McCain's team was forced to, at times, take an outside-the-box approach.

As a result, they clearly did not run a perfect campaign -- far from it. From early September to the finish line, I was bitterly disappointed in Schmidt's operation.

Also, to all you conservatives: Let's live in reality and not expect that every post-mortem account of the McCain campaign is being exaggerated by liberal media elites. Media bias pervades everything from Joe Klein columns to the "all-star panel" on FOX News. That's precisely why you get your news from more than one source. Newsweek recently ran a fascinating seven-part series on the McCain and Obama operations, as the mag's embedded reporters enjoyed virtually unbridled access to the two campaigns (as well as that of Sen. Clinton) for over a year. While you might think that each one of these reporters has an axe to grind, please remember that the election is over. 

What have the last eight years taught us? That Republicans can and do make mistakes. Sometimes big ones.

So where exactly did McCain's campaign -- and Steve Schmidt, in particular -- fall short?

First, the McCain team never settled on a narrative or a message to drive until it was far too late. Footsoldier in the Reagan Revolution? Experience? Change? Country first? Which one was it? For 18 months, Obama ran on "change we can believe in." Truth be told, campaign slogans mean nothing to me, and I believe Obama's obsessive fixation with platitudes was a clear effort to dress up his extremist record. (The record and the left-wing platform are there, folks -- he just didn't run on them.) But they exist to drive the campaign's narrative and to reach undecided voters. 

So what was McCain's message? Robert Draper wrote a fascinating account of Team Maverick's meandering ways that appeared in the Oct. 26 edition of the New York Times Magazine. It wasn't meant to be critical of McCain -- Draper was complementary toward the candidate and told the story of the McCain team attempting to recast the Senior Senator upon the happenings of major events along the way -- Obama's trip to Europe, the selection of Gov. Palin, the onset of the Wall Street meltdown, and so on. Each time, the campaign's narrative changed. Obama's stayed the same. 

I've mentioned this in a prior post, but it's worth repeating: David Brooks (a longtime McCain admirer) pointed out that Sen. Obama's operation was very much about the whole being more than simply the sum of the parts -- that is, while Obama's concrete policy proposals might be mentioned here and there, Team Hope ran a "change" movement. The Hopemonger seized upon an electoral discontent, simultaneously reached out to disaffected voters, and drove a consistent narrative for 18 months. Every single response or press conference was couched within this overarching message. It was truly a brilliantly executed campaign. 

Second, McCain's economic message (which clearly differs from the overall narrative of his campaign) was just awful. At the first debate -- during which the economic crisis dominated the first 40 minutes -- the candidate focused on earmark abuse, out-of-control spending, and stump-speech catchphrases like the DNA of bears in Montana or the Woodstock museum. No one disputes that pork-barrel earmarks and irresponsible spending are problems. But McCain's tepid, almost dismissive response to the Wall Street meltdown was highly damaging. During the second debate, Sen. McCain went the other way, taking a page from the John Edwards playbook, proposing that the Treasury Secretary buy up bad mortgages and renegotiate them. It was perhaps merely a coincidence, but Team Maverick chose to begin hitting Obama on Bill Ayers and Tony Rezko during this time. And what kind of message is that supposed to send to voters? That John McCain is more interested in negative personal attacks than solving the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression? Because that's exactly what swing voters heard.

What was most disappointing about McCain's directionless message during this time was that Sen. Obama was even less ready than McCain to handle the meltdown. The idea that Obama is prepared to deal with a crisis of this magnitude because he "ran" a presidential campaign for the better part of two years is beyond laughable. (I'm qualified to deal with this crisis because, well, I'm Barack Obama!) By that logic, any CEO of a company with more than a couple hundred employees is qualified to be the leader of the free world. 

05 November 2008

What did the voters really say?

Was yesterday's result a function of an acceptance of a new, liberal Democratic agenda advanced by Sen. Obama, or was it simply a rejection of the incompetence and failures that we've seen over the last eight years?

It's clearly the latter.

With all due respect, the Obama campaign was never about policies or ideas or a political platform. It was a movement. The man who I've derisively called "the Changemaker" ran on the same, tired Pelosi/Kerry/Dukakis platform that the Democratic Party has put forth for the better part of a generation and that voters have repeatedly rejected. He is much more Carter than Clinton.

Obama's campaign was about image and platitudes, and about the whole being more than the mere sum of the parts. As David Brooks so astutely noted in early October, the reverse was true of Sen. McCain's campaign: He probably had the more practical ideas, and likely, the policies that resonated with the majority of the population. But Team Maverick lurched haphazardly among themes and never seemed able to drive a consistent message. Team Hope enjoyed a monopoly on vagueries.

Yesterday, a well-reputed exit poll asked voters, among other things, to identify their partisan affiliation. Forty-four percent of voters identified themselves as "moderate," about a third "conservative," and less than a quarter identified themselves as "liberal." This indicates to me that the country remains center-right, or at least firmly moderate. And it also indicates to me that Obama -- who ran in every way as the anti-Bush and attempted to tie the president around McCain's neck at every turn -- successfully made this election a referendum on the Bush administration. 

Sen. Obama is a smart man. His chief strategist, David Axelrod, is a brilliant man. They seized upon this pervasive anti-Bush, anti-Republican sentiment among a center-right electorate and used it to bury the quintessential center-right candidate. The fact that Obama successfully ran as a middle-class tax cutter and talked of fiscal discipline is a damning criticism of what the Republican Party (sans McCain, Coburn and a few others) has become: A corrupt (Stevens, Craig, Vitter, Delay, Cunningham, Abramoff ... need I go on?), incompetent (Rumsfeld), do-nothing (the 109th Congress), big government (the Bush administration generally) party. Just like with the Democrats in 1994, voters decided it was simply time to throw the bums out.

It thus can be said that George Bush beat John McCain twice -- once in the GOP primary in 2000, and again in the general election campaign in 2008.

What's most disappointing about this election to me is not that the Democrats have swept back into power, or that the Republican Party is in disarray, or even that a Republican candidate lost the race for the White House. It's about the Republican who lost. John McCain is an honorable man, an American hero, and his independent streak was exactly the tonic for what ails our country and our government. He's perhaps the most qualified candidate for the presidency that we'll ever see. Among the Senior Senator's many admirable qualities, his affinity for the hard challenge is perhaps his greatest asset. I'm genuinely disappointed for him. He deserved better.

It's bitterly disappointing that George Bush beat him again.

The sun still rises in the east

While I expect to be one of the harshest critics of the incoming Obama administration, I'll put that aside for at least the next few hours and offer some nice words.

I am not an ideologue. I firmly disapprove of the Bush administration. I break with the GOP on numerous issues -- the Gang of 14, warrantless wiretapping, tort reform, deficit spending, its focus on social issues, etc. In addition to voting for Sen. McCain for the presidency and voting to re-elect Rep. Todd Akin in the 3rd congressional district, I also crossed party lines and voted for two Democrats for statewide office in Missouri: Jay Nixon for governor, and Chris Koster for attorney general. I don't hate Democrats; I don't think they're always wrong; and I don't think the Democratic Party is evil incarnate, as many conservatives do. The reason I supported Sen. McCain was, in large part, because his policy positions matched up closely with mine, and the reason I so voraciously opposed Sen. Obama was because of his extremist record.

That said, it's is an incredible thing for America to have elected its first black president. Despite my strong affinity for Sen. McCain, I appreciate the historic nature of the 2008 election. We all should. It says quite a bit about our country that, barely a generation removed from the era of segregation, we have elected a black man to be president.

I'm willing to give Sen. Obama a chance. I hope he governs like Clinton and not like Carter. If he surrounds himself with centrist Democrats, reaches across the aisle with some regularity and shows a desire to take on legitimately tough challenges (see: Social Security), I will be at least placated. There are certain issues that will require a legitimately bipartisan effort to move forward. Obama has long claimed to be post-partisan savior, even though his thin record indicates that he's anything but. I hope my expectations are wrong.

Despite the cultish attitude that often surrounded him, Sen. Obama inspired millions of new voters to come out to the polls. Although many of them couldn't give you many good reasons why they were voting for him -- other than the vagueries and platitudes belted out at his campaign rallies -- political involvement is always a better option than political apathy. As Sen. McCain noted with relative frequency, that's something to be commended.

03 November 2008

The Commish's predictions

We at Bipartisan Rules wholeheartedly endorse Sen. John McCain for the presidency. However, the unfortunate realities of the current political climate -- thanks in large part to the the crushing economic crisis and the mismanagement and incompetence of the Bush administration -- are such that Sen. Barack Obama will become the 44th president of the United States.

First off, the Democratic Party will make enormous gains in the U.S. Senate. I expect the Dems to pick up seats in Alaska, Colorado, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina and Virginia. I do not believe, as many pundits do, that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will be knocked off in Kentucky, nor do I think that Republican Saxby Chambliss will lose in Georgia. I also expect Sen. Norm Coleman to stave off Al Franken in Minnesota. This would give the Democrats 56 seats, plus "independent" (see: socialist) Bernie Sanders of Vermont. The Republicans would then have 42, plus Joe Lieberman, who presumably will caucus with the GOP once he's tossed out of his chairmanship.

I don't much care to predict the House races, but needless to say, the GOP is in for another long night on that front.

Finally, with respect to the presidential race, I do not believe Sen. Obama will approach the 350-vote threshold that many pundits are gleefully predicting. That said, the Hopemonger will almost assuredly flip Iowa and New Mexico to his column (both were Bush states in 2004). I also expect Obama to win in Nevada, Colorado, and crushingly, by a razor-thin margin in Virginia. The Changemaker will hang on by four points in Pennsylvania, and will win by eight in McCain-friendly New Hampshire.

I expect McCain to hold on to win in Ohio, Missouri, North Carolina, Montana, North Dakota and Indiana. 

I have no clue about Florida, which has decided the last two elections and on which Obama has zeroed in heavily. The most recent poll -- conducted by Rasmussen -- put McCain ahead 50-49, but given the toxic political climate in which the Senior Senator finds himself, I can't imagine that he'd win every single toss-up state. 

Thus, the prediction: Obama 317, McCain 221.

This will be no means be a blowout. I expect Obama to reach 51% nationally, with McCain at 48 and Nader and Barr taking a combined 1 percent.

Is there still hope?


Reason one: The guys at Politics1.com -- who are, notably, predicting the Dems to win a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate -- have predicted that 80% -- yes, eighty -- of undecided voters will break toward Sen. McCain. Although their methodology still puts Sen. Obama with 300 or more electoral votes, they instructed to watch the polls closely -- if the two candidates are even in a particular state, or if Obama is polling at 48% or less, expect that state to tip red.

Reason two: A national Zogby poll of 1,000 likely voters conducted Friday night actually showed McCain with a 48-47 lead.

Reason three: State polls tend to lag behind national polls.

Reason four: Missouri, the ultimate bellwether, is trending back toward McCain.

Reason five: People are racist.

So how can McCain possibly win tomorrow night? Here are two scenarios.

As has been noted, if both candidates start at the same place the 2004 election left off -- with Obama taking all the Kerry states and McCain all the Bush states -- the margin is 286-252. Iowa and New Mexico will almost assuredly tip blue, leaving McCain at 274. 

First, let's note the Senior Senator's must-wins -- if he loses any of these, he's cooked: Missouri, North Carolina, Indiana, Montana, Ohio and Florida. The three 2004 red states that will potentially cost him the election are Virginia (13 votes), Colorado (9) and Nevada (5). If McCain won all of these states, he'd win 274-264. Polls in both Virginia and Nevada show an Obama lead of 4 or 5 points. It's not implausible to think that McCain could win one of these, especially with so many undecideds (some national polls still put the number above 10%) this late in the game. 

(Let's also be clear that in all of the above "must win" states, the margin of victory for either candidate will be within five points. Even thought the polling data looks more favorable to McCain than it did two weeks ago, nothing is guaranteed.)

Scenario two: McCain wins all of his "must wins," takes Virginia, and somewhat miraculously swipes Pennsylvania from the blue column. Polls show great fluidity in the Keystone State, and its incredible diversity (white, do-gooder liberals outside of Philadelphia; blue-collar, Reagan/Hillary Democrats in and around Pittsburgh and rednecks in the western part of the state.) If there is a state in which race will be factor, Pennsylvania is it. The most recent Rasmussen poll put Obama up by just six, and political analysts across the spectrum agree that Pennsylvania is the most difficult state to get a handle on. If McCain snatched victory in the Commonwealth from the jaws of defeat, pulled out a Pennsylvania miracle and gave up Nevada and Colorado, he'd win 281-257. 

Scenario three: McCain wins all of his must-wins, keeps Virginia and picks up Pennsylvania. He could then lose Missouri, Colorado and Nevada and win 270-268. 

The reason many believe Virginia -- perhaps the most crucial state this election cycle -- is up for grabs is its large percentage of undecided voters. A Mason-Dixon poll late last week showed a 47-44 Obama lead, with 9 percent still undecided. To be fair, that's the only poll that's showed Obama under 50% in the last week or so. But if we use Politics1's methodology, if McCain won three-quarters of those undecided voters, he'd win the Commonwealth by a margin of approximately 50.5-48.5. Plausible? Yes. Likely? Meh ...

The Commish's final electoral predictions will be up later tonight. As an aside, I correctly predicted a 286-252 margin of victory for President Bush in 2004.

Needless to say, I don't expect to be forecasting the Hopemonger anywhere near the 350 mark that some are hoping for.