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What, Me Worry?

By Frank Gruber

The flu vaccine shortage is "not a health crisis .... The worst thing for seniors to do is to wait in line and get sick while they are waiting in line." -- Tommy Thompson, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Sunday, Oct. 17.

Friday evening I attended the big "Democracy for the Senate" rally at Bergamot Station, the one that featured ten percent of all the current Democratic senators (Hillary Clinton, Debbie Stabenow, Tom Harken, John Corzine, and Barbara Boxer), as well as Howard Dean, rising star Barack Obama, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

It was a rousing event. Afterwards a bunch of us went out to eat Chinese at Royal Star, where we bumped into retired judge and former City Council member David Finkel and his wife Bruria, Santa Monica's arts doyenne.

Still excited after the rally, I asked them if they had been there. No they hadn't, and so I told them about it. After I finished, Judge Finkel asked me if anyone at the rally had talked about any "late polls."

"Late polls?" What did he mean by that? Then I remembered. I came down from my rally-induced euphoria. You see, Friday was a bad day for poll-obsessed Democrats. For some reason perhaps related to Mary Cheney's sexuality, the day after the third debate Pres. Bush had a sudden blip upwards in the tracking polls. What Judge Finkel was asking me was whether the organizers of the rally had been able to disclose the results of any more recent, better polls. I.e., a late poll.

It was a relief to know that my obsessions were shared, if not exceeded, by someone with the probity of the retired judge.

The next day the polls started trending toward Kerry. I don't know how much time Judge Finkel spends on his computer, going from polling site to polling site (or just clicking on www.realclearpolitics.com every half hour), but I hope he's breathing easier.

In the all-important Zogby poll -- all-important because Zogby the Wizard of Polls has the best track record and the most consistent results -- Kerry and Bush, as I write this Wednesday, Oct. 20, are tied at 46. This is a good place for the Democrat because the undecideds (six percent in Zogby's poll) are likely to break in Kerry's direction.

In fact, I'm going to be a Pollyanna and predict that Kerry will win the popular vote 51 to 47, which will translate into 311 electoral votes. There's no reason for me to do this except for my own ego, but since like all pundits I won't be fired if I'm wrong, why not go for it? If I'm right, I'll be a genius. If I'm wrong, I'll just claim that the difference between 51 and 47 was within the margin of error.

The strange thing about this election is how little has changed notwithstanding a billion dollars worth of advertising and a thousand points of heat. Six months ago you knew that 45 percent of voters would vote for Bush, and 45 percent would vote for Kerry, and it was all about that middle ten percent. Still true.

The Bush campaign by September had finally pounded it into the head of the electorate that Kerry was a "flip-flopper." Although Kerry never fell out of the hunt, the polls looked bad. But then the Kerry campaign came up with a succinct way to summarize everything that is wrong about Pres. Bush; namely, that he and everyone around him live in fantasy land.

I mean, we all know about the fantasy called Iraq, but consider the flu shot scandal. Thirty-six thousand Americans die each year from the flu, and the most dangerous place for an old person to be is in line to get a flu shot?

I don't feel so bad being a Pollyanna about Kerry's chances, given that Bush is a Pollyanna about Iraq and Tommy Thompson thinks that when we're 40 million flu shots short, the worst place for an old person to be is in line to get one.
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