I have previously stated that McCain is done, and that Obama is going to win this thing. On the other hand, nothing is really done until it’s done. So, what are the scenarios under which he could lose?
While I’m the first to admit that conspiracy theories are fun, they rarely reflect reality. As a result, I’m going to just look at those ways that are at least somewhat possible.
1. The young and/or first time voters don’t turn out. Obama’s grassroots efforts with those in, or just out of, college has been amazing. However, there is certainly precedence for first time voters showing considerable energy during the campaigns, yet failing to show up on election day.
Potential Impact: Mild to moderate. Obama’s lead is such that there would have to be a stunning number of students getting drunk and forgetting to vote.
Likelihood: Good chance that this costs Obama a point or two, but it’s rather unlikely to cost him the election.
2. Democratic Party apathy. Obama’s lead is so strong, and his winning so certain, that some can’t be bothered to show.
Potential Impact: Also, mild to moderate. It’s not going to be a game changer.
Likelihood: Very good chance that some stay home, but this is not likely to happen in close states, so it doesn’t matter.
3. Joe Biden doesn’t keep his mouth shut. Biden is an idiot and a loose cannon. His propensity to make gaffes makes George W. Bush sound almost eloquent. Even if the Obama camp continues to try and hide Biden, chances are good that he’ll say something stupid in the eight days that are left.
Potential Impact: Very little, unless it is one hell of a whopper.
Likelihood: That he says something stupid in the time that is left? Virtually guaranteed. But it won’t be bad enough to matter.
4. The “Joe the Plumber” factor. Though Americans are understandably distrustful of the Republicans on economic matters, the interest in Joe the Plumber shows that they’re not entirely comfortable with Democratic Party plans for wealth redistribution either. It is deeply ingrained in the American psyche that hard work and cleverness should be financially rewarded. While I suspect that Obama’s “communist leanings” are over-stated, some of his statements don’t give the best impression.
Potential Impact: Moderate, perhaps. I’d like to believe that the American Dream is alive and well, but I fear it has been replaced by the desire to trade freedom for temporary security.
Likelihood: The concerns are certainly out there, and McCain has finally started talking about this in his campaign, but it’s too little, too late. It won’t make enough of a difference to swing any states McCain’s way.
5. Conservatives come out of the Republican closet. It must be tough to be a conservative Republican these days. You’re party’s approval ratings are in the toilet, and your president is a worldwide embarrassment. Hollywood and the hip kids all love Obama. Over the last few weeks, however, I’ve seen a lot more McCain/Palin signs in front yards. But then, I do live in a fairly conservative suburb of Austin.
Potential Impact: Moderate to heavy. People lie to pollsters, and if the Republican Party can get their members to turn out, it could make a huge difference.
Likelihood: Quite low. The fundamentals a still going to Obama and the Democrats. Nothing the Republicans can do can change that.
6. Another 9/11 happens. I can’t imagine that even the most craven Republican could hope for this, but a terrorist attack in the waning days of the campaign could swing things McCain’s direction. While I’m not a fan of most of his policies, it seems clear that many would trust McCain more in such a situation than Obama.
Potential Impact: Extremely high. Truly a game changer.
Likelihood: Rather low. Given the lack of a successful attack over the last few years, it’s unlikely to happen in the next week.
7. McCain gets a personality transplant. If you had told me two years ago that the Republicans were going to pick a candidate who is not only more hawkish than Bush, but is also a worse public speaker, I never would have believed it.
Potential Impact: Quite high, if the Republicans could switch his personality with one that is likable, and, well, presidential.
Likelihood: Quite low, as I don’t think any such surgery has been successfully performed, and I’m not sure the Republicans could find such a person in any case.
8. Be found in bed with a dead girl or a live boy. In a nod to Edwin Edwards, let’s discuss the potential for some self-imposed destruction to come down on Obama. Perhaps he killed someone. Or committed some other despicable crime in his youth. Or cheated on his taxes. Or hates puppies.
Potential Impact: In theory, extremely high, although video evidence would likely be required.
Likelihood: In reality, the impact probably wouldn’t be that high, unless it was something horrific. Obama has already addressed his drug usage. And George Bush’s DUI didn’t slow him down. If something were going to come out, it would have by now.
The net-net is that a rather large number of unlikelihoods would have to come to pass to swing this thing McCain’s direction. Barack Obama is going to be the next president of the United States.