The polls now all indicate an Obama win on Nov. 4; some even suggest a landslide. But there's a strong chance the race will tighten back up this month.
Anger over the Wall Street mess has been pushing voters to Barack Obama in droves. And John McCain's effort to get involved in the solution only hurt him.
By suspending his campaign and heading to Washington, McCain made himself a central actor in the unpopular bailout, and thus a target of populist outrage. It also hurt his effort to show how he far he is from President Bush there he was, shoulder to shoulder with Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, Bush and Wall Street.
But October may see the end of Obama's surge: He's peaking too soon.
Once the Democrat is seen as the clear leader and likely winner, the spotlight will inevitably shift to him. And he may not benefit from the increased attention.
Obama didn't do well when he last emerged on top, in later Democratic primaries. The more it appeared that Hillary Clintonwould lose, the more voter concerns over Obama's relationship with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright cost him state after state in the later primaries.
Obama still beat Clinton because he'd already amassed a sufficient delegate lead earlier on. That dynamic doesn't apply in the general election.
The Democrat gained by standing back during the rescue-bill drama. But now voters (with a strong push from the McCain campaign) will be giving him a closer look and some won't like what they see.
They will examine his tax proposals and spending plans, and question his economic credentials. Facing one of the gravest crises in our nation's history, they'll wonder: Is it wise to trust an ingénue with little experience with the power of the White House?
All the cash Obama wanted to spend on health care, education and infrastructure just walked out the door en route to Wall Street. He must either abandon his program, hike taxes on almost everyone or run a huge deficit.
His ties to unrepentent terrorist William Ayers will also draw new attention. The record clearly shows that Obama was lying when he called Ayers just a guy "who lives in my neighborhood."
Ayers got a $50 million grant for the Chicago Annenberg Challenge. Obama was put in charge of giving out the money and funded left-wing groups like ACORN for a program that's now billed as "school reform" but amounted to political indoctrination.
As Stanley Kurtz wrote in The Wall Street Journal, Obama and Ayers "worked as a team to advance the CAC agenda," namely "Ayers' educational philosophy, which called for infusing students and their parents with a radical political commitment, and which downplayed achievement tests in favor of activism."
So Obama will be in the spotlight on how he'd handle the economy and on whether he is part of the political mainstream.
Voters will still be in the mood for throwing the Republicans out of office, so Obama may not fall all the way down but October will be no cakewalk for the Democrat.