Political analyst Charlie Cook says he might be forced to go into the fast-food business if John McCain wins today's presidential election. That's because Cook has predicted a big loss for the Republican nominee in his race with Democrat Barack Obama.
Cook was only joking about his professional future last night on PBS, but his larger point was serious. A McCain win would embarrass most of the nation's pundits and pollsters and send them scrambling to figure out why they had been so wrong for so long about the outcome.
The consensus today among the supposed political cognoscenti continues to be that Obama will trounce McCain by what analysts estimate will be either a few percentage points or a landslide. Few give the Republican candidate much of a chance.
The final Gallup Poll has Obama ahead among likely voters by 11 points, 53 percent to 42. The final NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds Obama ahead among likely voters by nine, 51 percent to McCain's 42. The latest Marist poll says 52 percent of likely voters support Obama and 43 percent back McCain. Rasmussen Reports gives Obama a 52-to-46-point margin. Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby gives Obama an 11-point advantage, 54 to 43. The Real Clear Politics average of 14 polls has Obama ahead by eight, 52 to 44, with all those surveys giving the Democrat the edge.
Privately, while pollsters and pundits are confident of their assessments, they worry about a repeat of the debacle of 1948, when Harry Truman famously defeated Thomas Dewey in probably the biggest upset in U.S. electoral history. A McCain victory today would rival the 1948 outcome in terms of an underdog surprising the supposed experts. But, as they say in polling, that remains very unlikely.