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Election Day Minus Three: Clear as Mud

I'm beginning to wonder about my own prediction that one of the candidates will blow the campaign wide open this weekend.

The polls show no indication of movement whatsoever. President Obama's lead in the still Gallup-less Real Clear Politics average is 0.1%. As things now stand in the RCP state averages, the president would be re-elected. But the president's margin is so small in several swing states that in the actual vote, it could easily be wiped out by a good Republican turnout and a slightly weaker one for the Democrats.

On Monday, Gallup will publish its final poll. So will everybody else. If there isn't major movement by then- and it's looking less and less likely- it will all come down to an old fashioned contest in state after state to see which side can do a better job of getting out the vote.

It used to be that we had to go door to door, or at least telephone all the voters in a given precinct, in order to be able to identify our voters. A poll-watcher would sit there on the polls on election day, crossing their names off as they came in to vote. During the last hour before the polls closed, there would be a desperate final push to twist the arms of any favorably disposed voters who had yet to cast their ballots.

Now that's all changed. Sufficient personal information is out there on each of us for the campaigns to feed it all into a computer, which will forecast who we're going to vote for with over 90% accuracy. The election day operation, too, has gone high-tech. It all comes down to which of the election day operations wins the battle in key states. All the high tech in the world doesn't change the fundamental rule that it's not how many supporters you have that determines the outcome of an election; it's how many votes you have.

As a veteran of the Chicago precinct wars, I look forward next Tuesday to helping to play a game that is very familiar to me. Barring a last-minute, 1980-style break for one of candidates in the closing days of the campaign (of which we probably would have already seen signs at this point), the presidency of the United States will come down to which side can do the best job of getting out the vote.

Just like a contest for alderman back home.


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