Any time a family member was pregnant, my mother-in-law would pick
two large family events and make two separate and competing
announcements: one, the baby will be a girl and two, the baby will be
a boy. On the day of the birth she would proudly remind us all of
how she had accurately predicted the baby’s gender and even remind us
of the event where she made the proclamation. My mother-in-law
missed her calling and while she could not have cared less about
politics, she should have been a political expert.

Last summer there were two certainties in presidential politics.
One, Hillary Clinton would be the Democratic nominee for president.
She could not be beat. She had the name, the husband, the money, the
connections, the organization, the staff and the support of the
party. The other summer of ’07 certainty was that John McCain’s
candidacy was dead in the water. He was too old, too moderate, too
independent (or not independent enough), his staff was in disarray,
and he didn’t have enough money to run an effective campaign. As a
matter of fact, if you missed those McCain news stories last year,
not a problem. The exact same stories are being run today.

If you’ve followed the political experts over the last year, you
would know that Rudy Giuliani was a lock for the Republican
nomination, right up until Fred Thompson decided to run. You would
have had to look very deep into news coverage to even see the name
Mike Huckabee. As it turned out, McCain won, Giuliani was crushed,
Thompson ran for about an hour and a half before he got bored and
quit, and Huckabee finished second with momentum.

Four years ago, Democratic Senator John Kerry not only led President
Bush in the polls going into the election, he led the exit polls as
people came out of the voting booths. Yet, President Bush won. The
problem with polls and prognosticators is that they are fabulously
and famously faulty. No matter how often they are wrong, the same
people keep on polling, the same people keep on analyzing the
results, and in the end those frustrating Americans who actually vote
always make their own decisions.

Look at the last three decades of presidents. Reagan was an
ideologue joke, Carter and Clinton were small state unknowns, Bush 41
was too soft, and Bush 43 wasn’t even the best candidate from his own
family (most favored his brother Jeb). And yet – they all won the
presidency. The American people have a funny way of ignoring the
experts and deciding for themselves who should run the country. The
only sure thing is that we are unpredictable.

It’s interesting to note that the world of sports parallels failed
political predictions. Just this year, the Patriots were a lock to
win the Super Bowl and the smart money was on the Lakers to take the
NBA Championship. However, it appears no one bothered to tell the
Giants and the Celtics, who are now both world champs. The reason
they play the games and hold the elections is that events, athletes –
and voters – are unpredictable.

Perhaps the best lesson from sports is the baseball season. Like a
presidential campaign, it lasts a long time—162 games played over 6
months. It is said that every team will win 54 games and every team
will lose 54 games. It is the 54 “undetermined games,” usually
transpiring in the stretch to the playoffs and World Series, that
dictate the success or failure of the season. Presidential politics
works the same way. Committed Democrats are going to vote for Obama
and committed Republicans will do the same for McCain. It’s the
“undetermined,” independents, conservative Democrats and liberal
Republicans, who are going to decide our next president. And most
American voters don’t begin to pay attention until after the
conventions—the “stretch” in the race for the White House.

You can take all the polls you want in July. Likely voters,
registered voters, past voters, black voters, white voters, male
voters, female voters, left-handed voters – talk to them all. It
doesn’t make a whit of difference. Between now and November 4, there
will be major debates, changes in Iraq, in the economy, with housing
and healthcare, and a couple of major unforeseen unpredictable
events. The mood of the American people will change multiple times
and the experts and polls will tell us at every turn “what that
means.” However, in the end, the only results that matter are the
ones that occur on November 4.

On November 3, 1948, the day after the presidential election, the
Chicago Tribune ran the most famous headline in American newspaper
history: “Dewey beats Truman.” Rest assured that the only thing we
know for sure today is that we don’t know what the headlines will be
on November 5, 2008, and don’t let anyone tell you differently.