Conventional wisdom says that John McCain has lost. Real Clear Politics (RCP) and Yahoo! both have Barack Obama ahead by more than 6 percentage points. Even Republican Mike Huckabee seems already to be campaigning for 2012. I got an email yesterday telling me that if I sent his HuckPAC $10 I would receive an oval "HUCK" sticker for my car. No mention where the money is going, but since McCain's spending days are over, you can draw your own conclusions.
In fact, Huckabee was in my hometown of Charlotte, N.C., yesterday, but he wasn't making any public appearances. Officially, he was bucking up the troops for the final push at the local GOP headquarters. Unofficially, he was sizing up party activists for his own 2012 campaign.
But don't stick a fork in McCain yet. There's definitely something going on here. Both the RCP and Yahoo! polls are averages of the most recent national polls. What almost no one has noted, though, is that both of these averages include a poll by Pew Research that shows Obama up by 15 points. No other poll has the Democratic candidate with anything like that kind of lead, and Fox, Rasmussen, Gallup, and McClatchy show him with a 5-point lead or less.
If your eyes are glazing over, pay attention to this: The Pew poll is almost surely a fluke, but there's no doubt it's skewing the numbers. What will happen over the next 24 to 48 hours is that the Pew result will "cycle out" of the polls being averaged, and because it was so different, we'll see an immediate rise in McCain's numbers on RCP's and Yahoo!'s "survey of survey" figures. That means that McCain definitely will have some momentum going into the weekend-if for no other reason than because of this statistical anomaly.
The question is: How much momentum? Obama has to walk a bit of a tightrope over the next few days. After Wednesday night's infomercial, we're hearing grumblings that Obama is trying to "buy" the election. Yet he can't afford to take things for granted. The worst thing that could happen to Obama would be for him to lose by fractions with $100 million in the bank. He won't allow that to happen; he'll keep spending and he'll start experiencing some real backlash over the weekend.
The Republicans, on the other hand, always have had a strong final 48-hour ground game, and I expect that will be the case this time, too. If McCain is within the margin of error (3 percent, in most polls) on Monday, that will be a massive energy boost to the Republicans' get-out-the-vote effort. And I predict, for the wonky reasons I cite above, that McCain will be within those 3 percentage points by Election Eve.
Will that be enough? I truly don't know. As Yogi Berra said, "Predictions are tricky. Especially predictions about the future!" But Yogi Berra also said this: "It ain't over till it's over."
So I will predict this: The next few days will be very exciting indeed.