The Democrats are poised on the brink of victory. And they cannot stand it. The news is too good. Something has to go wrong.
On Saturday, Charlie Cook, an independent analyst and author of the Cook Report, wrote: "This election isn't over, but it is looking very bad for Republicans and seems to be getting worse."
This plunged the Democrats into a deep gloom. Good news is always bad news for them.
On Monday, CNN's John King announced: "Most top [people] in the McCain campaign now believe New Mexico and Iowa are gone, that Barack Obama will win New Mexico and Iowa. They are now off the dream list of the McCain campaign. More interestingly, most top people inside the McCain campaign think Colorado is gone."
Democratic pessimism deepened when, that same day, Chris Cillizza and Shailagh Murray wrote in The Washington Post: "In the 13 battleground states that require voters to register by party, there are nearly 1.5 million more Democrats than at this time in 2004. The comparable Republican numbers, by contrast, have fallen by 61,000 during that time. Registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by more than 3.3 million in these same 13 battleground states, roughly double the edge 1.8 million they enjoyed over the GOP four years ago."
Can it get worse for the Democrats? Yes! On Tuesday, The Associated Press wrote: "Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama spent $87.5 million last month and began October with nearly $134 million in the bank. The numbers illustrate his vast financial advantage over John McCain, his Republican rival, in the final stretch of the contest. McCain ended September with $47 million in the bank."
The story went on to note that Obama "spent $65 million in advertising in September to McCain's $22 million. In October, he has outspent McCain 4-to-1 in advertising."
Awful news. Obama has a money problem. And you know what it is? He might run out of time to spend all the money he has! Election Day might come and go before Obama can spend the $5 million a day he is now raising. (If this does happen, I suggest he borrow a page from Oprah and buy everyone in America a Pontiac. Just as a gesture.)
Obama himself has reacted to the dismal drumbeat of good news. At a fundraising concert in Manhattan last Thursday featuring Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel, Obama got up and said: "Don't underestimate the capacity of Democrats to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Don't underestimate our ability to screw it up."
Which is the prevailing mood in the top echelons of the Democratic Party right now. The McCain campaign cannot possibly be as hapless as it looks, party leaders feel. It is lulling the Democrats into complacency. The Republicans have to have an October surprise, because the Republicans always have an October surprise.
Besides, the robocalls could work. Never underestimate the power of the robocalls. Because people really like getting robocalls, right?
You are at home, it is dinnertime (which is when they call you because they figure you are at home then), and you are either trying to relax or get the kids fed, and the phone rings and it is this recorded voice saying: "I'm calling for John McCain and the RNC because you need to know that Barack Obama has worked with domestic terrorist Bill Ayers."
And does that make you feel more or less positive about John McCain? Does it persuade you that McCain has a plan to save the economy? Or to help you pay your mortgage? Or that he has a steady hand on the tiller?
For the robocalls to be effective, the Republicans would need Bill Ayers to plant bombs today and not when Barack Obama was 8 years old. They need Ayers to plant bombs in key states right now with stickers on them that say: "I am Barack Obama, and I endorse this bomb."
But McCain may have found his October surprise after all. In Bensalem, Pa., on Tuesday, McCain said: "Now, I'm not dumb enough to get mixed up in a World Series between swing states. But I think I may have detected a little pattern with Sen. Obama. It's pretty simple, really. When he's campaigning in Philadelphia, he roots for the Phillies, and when he's campaigning in Tampa Bay, he 'shows love' to the Rays."
And rumors are now flying that McCain has proof that when Obama was in the second grade he once ate paste.
The Democrats are fearful of all this. The Democrats are always fearful.
"We have been on the precipice of victory before," Dan Pfeiffer, an Obama spokesman, told me. "You have never seen a more superstitious campaign than ours. We do not talk about victory."
Talk about it, no. Plan for it, yes.