Conventional wisdom suggests this year's presidential election will be close. Practically every poll taken has the race within the margin of error.
At the risk of looking like a fool, I am prepared to respectfully disagree with conventional wisdom to offer the following contrarian perspective: The election will not be close.
Before you sit down to your computer to begin your "Williams, have you lost your mind?" rant, hear me out. I have reached this conclusion for two reasons. My first reason is shaped by what polls cannot see.
When I was in Philadelphia last week, the Philadelphia Inquirer ran a story in the local section that addressed increased voter registration. The final day of registration in Pennsylvania and New Jersey last week brought huge crowds to registration offices. As of September, Philadelphia had received 219,000 applications from either new voters or those who had moved or had been stricken from the rolls. With some 60,000 applications arriving on the final day, it is possible the city's volume this year could break the record of 293,000 applications set in the tension-filled mayoral race of 1983 between Wilson Goode and Frank Rizzo.
This trend of increased voter registration is replicated, in particular, in a majority of the battleground states.
According to the New York Times, voter registration campaigns in heavily Democratic areas have added tens of thousands of new voters to the rolls in the swing states of Ohio and Florida, a surge that far exceeds the efforts of Republicans in both states.
The analysis by the Times of county-by-county data shows that in Democratic areas of Ohio -- primarily low-income and minority neighborhoods -- new registrations since January have risen 250 percent over the same period in 2000.
In comparison, new registrations have increased just 25 percent in Republican areas. A similar pattern is apparent in Florida: In the strongest Democratic areas, the pace of new registration is 60 percent higher than in 2000, while it has risen just 12 percent in the heaviest Republican areas.
Project Vote says it has registered 147,000 new voters in Ohio. Americans Coming Together said that, together with allied groups that are part of America Votes, it had registered 300,000 new voters. In New Mexico, the Secretary of State's office reports that since May voter registration has jumped from approximately 958,000 to a little more than 1 million, possibly all new registrants.
Those younger than 30 who are increasingly concerned about a potential draft are also registering in increased numbers.
These new registrants are not considered in most polling. A growing number of young people use cell phones as their primary phone number. This further diminishes the possibility that their support for either candidate would be reflected in polling data. Thus, they are the great unknown in this election.
My second reason, if history is any barometer, is that when incumbent presidents seek re-election, it is a referendum on the previous four years. Since 1932, 11 incumbent presidents have sought re-election; with the possible exception of 1948 and 1976, none of the races has been close.
When we want to keep a president, we keep him; Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Johnson, Nixon, Reagan and Clinton are prime examples. Likewise, when we want him out, he's out: Hoover, Carter and Bush 41.
More and more this race is shaping up like 1980. That race remained close until the last few weeks, when voters found a comfort level with then-challenger Ronald Reagan that allowed them to oust President Carter.
It difficult for me to believe the race is as close as the polls indicate, especially when one considers that 56 percent of the electorate feels the country is headed in the wrong direction. Moreover, it has been 16 months since 50 percent felt we were headed in the right direction.
I don't believe we will be in court discussing hanging, dimpled or pregnant chads on Nov. 3.
© 2004 Byron Speaks.com