For many of us--we who've had an unhealthy obsession with this presidential campaign for 20 months and who've developed an amazing tolerance to read the same punditry, same polling data, and other identical political miscellany many times over as it ricochets around the blogosphere--it's incredible to see the finish line clearly, and to see that our horse is ahead. And now Obama has emerged unscathed from the third debate, which was said to be McCain's last best opportunity to turn the race.
Can we exhale yet? Polls are predicting an electoral blowout, so why wait?. Go ahead and pop the champagne (or pull the tab off your Coors widemouth can if you fear the elitist label) that you've been saving for this very occasion. It seems like, dare I say it, Obama's win is becoming "inevitable." But those who can remember back a year ago to the Democratic primary know that word well. Hillary Clinton's campaign was happy to cultivate the notion of inevitability (hey, Mark Penn, good idea?), and we know how that messaging worked out.
Many conservatives have now started resigning themselves to the outcome on November 4th and some are writing of Obama's inevitability. From Hugh Hewitt:
The financial panic helped Obama establish a lead and he and Joe Biden are doing everything they can to project inevitability (and getting a lot of help from their MSM friends in doing so, right down to the "hate-speech-at-McCain-rallies" stories).
Of course, the hapless Hewitt has had the anti-Midas touch of late, what with his earlier homage to Mitt Romney, A Mormon In the White House, and his still currently unsold oeuvre, How Sarah Palin Won the Election... and Saved America. Lucky for us, Hewitt has backup titles.
And then there's NY Times editorial foil Bill Kristol, opining in Monday's paper:
If the race continues over the next three weeks to be a conventional one, McCain is doomed. He may be anyway. Bush is unpopular. The media is hostile. The financial meltdown has made things tougher. Maybe the situation is hopeless -- and if it is, then nothing McCain or his campaign does matters. But I'm not convinced by such claims of inevitability.
First of all, the only "claim of inevitability" that Kristol cites is the one he just invented. In the words of Austin Powers, "allow myself not to be convinced by... myself."
So why are Hewitt and Kristol writing of Obama's inevitability? Is it a feint? No, they're reading the same polls we are. And besides, that would be giving them too much credit.
But their use of the word is a good reminder and kick in the pants for the rest of us. As much as we're waiting for the day when we can loose the political monkey from our backs and purge our minds and bodies of election-related psychoses (in LA, we have a special cleanse for that), we're not there yet. Yesterday, two colleagues separately expressed to me their concern that Obama's lead is too big, and we're being set up for a severe case of complacency if voters start thinking he's got it in the bag. Not that those of us who relish poring over political minutiae on the Internet and spend our weekends phone banking will rest on our laurels, but will our non-obsessed (and luckily so) family members, friends, and coworkers? I doubt it. But if you're concerned, make it your job to see that they don't. Can our first black candidate for president really ever rise to the level of being inevitable? Maybe. But if we're smart, we (and the Obama campaign) must resist that label.