Why McCain is Toast

Will Saletan:

Since Labor Day, the media have released about 20 polls on the presidential race. Three show a dead heat, one shows John McCain leading by a single percentage point, and the rest show Obama leading by one to 10 points. In the latest polls, Obama leads by an average of five points. It's fashionable at this stage to caution that "anything can happen," that McCain is "retooling," and that the numbers can turn in McCain's favor just as easily as they turned against him. But they can't. The numbers are moving toward Obama because fundamental dynamics tilt the election in his favor. The only question has been how far those dynamics would carry him. Now that he has passed McCain, the race is over.

Yes, in principle, McCain could win. The stock market could crash. Obama could be caught shagging an intern. McCain could electrify the country with the greatest performance in the history of presidential debates. But barring such a grossly unlikely event, there is no reason to think McCain will recover. Ultimately, reasons drive elections. For months, pundits yapped about McCain's lead in the polls without scrutinizing the basis of that lead. Now they're doing the same to Obama. But look closely at the trends beneath the horse-race numbers, and you'll realize why it's practically impossible to turn those numbers around. Obama doesn't just have the lead. On each underlying factor, he has the upside as well.

Wait, that's not true. Just change McCain into Bush and Obama into Gore and it's the article he wrote eight years ago.

Things may be leaning one way in the polls but that doesn't mean it's over. We have a few weeks to go and anything can happen.


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