[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/10/18/art.mccains.gi.jpg]Steven Stark
The Boston Phoenix
NOVEMBER 5 — Last night, I woke up in a sweat. I'd had a very bizarre dream . . .
There was Wilson over Hughes. And, of course, Truman over Dewey. But there's never been a surprise in presidential politics like the one that awaited Americans this morning, who woke up to discover that, somehow, John McCain had been elected president over Barack Obama.
Not a single poll, tracking or otherwise, had McCain ahead. The articles had all been written: Michael Scherer of Time, "McCain's Struggles: Four Ways He Went Wrong"; Jonathan Alter of Newsweek, "We're Heading Left Once Again"; and Joan Vennochi of the Boston Globe, "That's It for McCain." To be fair to them, it was hard to find a single major pundit anywhere who predicted McCain would win - though the astute Michael Barone, author of The Almanac of American Politics, did pen a column 17 days before the vote warning that a surprise was possible. Given Barone's credentials, someone should have listened.
Of course, Wednesday-morning quarterbacking is ridiculously easy, but in retrospect, what happened should have been crystal clear: Obama's lead was never as great as the media hype that accompanied it - he only led by two to six points in some major tracking polls. In several of them, Obama tellingly never cleared 50 percent. (There was a larger-than-usual undecided vote.) And whether it was the so-called "Bradley effect" (suggesting a racial element to the vote) or something else, Obama performed last night exactly as he often had in the spring against Hillary Clinton: he ran below expectations.
Meanwhile, the tsunami of youth support for Obama never materialized. Instead, it was the over-65 crowd who turned out as if the election were a five-o'clock dinner special, and who voted in record numbers for their fellow senior citizen.
"It was fear of the known versus fear of the unknown - and fear won out," quipped one McCain aide.
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