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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Too Close to Call

I’ve been watching the national elections since the Nixon/Kennedy presidential race of 1960. Even though we had moved to Paris, France in July of that year, I still followed the campaign through the newspaper (The International Herald Tribune) and the endless dinner table conversations with opinions flying!

One of those memorable moments in life for me was in the spring of 1961. Just a few months before Jack Kennedy was sworn in as our thirty-fifth president, he made a trip to Paris paying a call on President Charles de Gaulle. They made a drive through Paris in an open-aired car, circling the Etoille around the Arc de Triomphe and down the Champs Elysees. My mother and I took the bus into Paris to get a glimpse of our new president. The crowds were massive! As a twelve-year-old I was too short to see over the crowd, so the best I could do was catch a quick look at the top part of JFK’s head as the limo rolled by. For a young American kid in a foreign land, this was an exciting moment.

As I write this, the pollsters are all over the board in their predictions on the presidential race. Today, thirteen days out, one pollster, Pew Research, has Obama ahead by 14 percentage points nationally. Then there’s the Associated Press with Obama ahead by 1 percentage point. I realize that there are any number of ways to conduct these polls, and that these polls are not scientific. One pollster described it as an “art.”

Over the years I have learned not to take the polls too seriously. Why have I come to this conclusion? Simple. Every presidential election in my lifetime has come down to the last day of the election with the news anchors and pundits intoning that “The election is too close to call.” This, despite the blowouts in several elections, namely: Johnson over Goldwater in ‘64. Nixon over McGovern in ‘72. Reagan over Mondale in ‘84. Bush over Kerry in ‘04.

To listen to some of the news sources today you’d think that Barack Obama and the Democratic Party have this election salted away. Perhaps they do, but I’m betting the day of the election will, once again, be declared “too close to call.”

There is a marked increase in voting this time around. Here in California there has been an increase in registered voters by nearly a half-million since the 2004 election. At present there are 16.2 million registered voters in the Golden State setting a new record for the state. Registered Republican voters make up 32.3 percent, while there are 43.9 percent of registered Democrats, and 19.49 percent of registered voters that fit in the category, “Decline-to-State.”

My concern through all of this is for those of us who live out west. The polls on Election Day close at 8:00 PM. But with the three hour difference, and the absolutely ravenous appetite of the Main Stream Media for feeling the need to be the first to proclaim victory for the next president, the election is often decided before those of us out west even get to the polls after work. This may not have a significant affect on the presidential election, but everything else is still in play. There are many state and local offices up for grabs, as well as ballot measures. Knowing the results of the presidential race early can be a discouragement to those who have not managed to get to there polling station until later in the day. Let me encourage everyone to vote regardless of the national election results. The state and local are every bit as important and need to be decided by you, the voter.

Don’t let the early results of the polls dissuade you from making the effort to exercise your right to vote. Remember – on Election Day in 2004 the TV news stations made a lot of premature predictions using inaccurate exit polls to declare John Kerry the runaway winner of the presidency. Obviously, these projections were wrong.

So, expect that the race will be close, in fact, “too close to call.” That’s okay. Just make sure you cast your vote. It’s the American thing to do!

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