This is the week when the Democrats should be lacing up their Adidas in anticipation of a victory lap. Many of them are.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the queen bee of the San Francisco Democrats who may (or may not) become the speaker of the House of Representatives even if her party prevails on Nov. 7, answered with an expansive boast when a reporter asked which office suite she expects to throw a Republican out of: "I'll have any suite I want."
Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania, the ex-colonel of Marines who "supports the troops" by mocking their resolve and dismissing their fighting spirit, predicts that "a tidal wave" of Democratic votes will wash the Congress clean of Republican control, clearing the way for his strategy of cut-and-run from Iraq.
Stanley Greenberg, the pollster who was dispatched to find good news for Bill Clinton every time Bubba forgot where he left his pants, predicts nothing short of a Republican "meltdown." He tells the New York Times: "I don't see how we can lose the House. I don't think it's even close." (The House, currently controlled by a Republican margin of 15 seats, is not the Democrats' to lose, but we get the point.)
The New York Times observes, with a note of satisfaction, that "a party that has become so used to losing is considering, disbelievingly and with the requisite worry, the possibility that it could win in November."
Glee is enough to give wiser and cooler old gray heads the homestretch heebie-jeebies. "I know a lot of people are in somersault land," says Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "I just don't have the liberty or the freedom to do that."
Steve Elmendorf, who advised John Kerry in 2004, recalled the Democratic euphoria on that memorable election eve, born of exit polls that encouraged Teresa Heinz to think of at least 57 changes she would make in the draperies and décor of the White House. "All that was wrong," Mr. Elmendorf says. "We've been up this hill before." The wiser, cooler heads are well aware of how the prospect of Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Murtha, of Barney Frank and Charley Rangel in charge of the House could inspire a lot of sullen conservative Republicans, who feel betrayed by Republicans who came to strongly resemble the Democrats tossed out in the great tsunami of '94, to get out of bed on Election Day after all.
Against the prospective new tsunami of great expectations comes the voice of Wall Street money, saying, "Hey, wait a minute." Writes Jim McTague in Barron's, the Dow Jones financial weekly: "Jubilant Democrats should reconsider their order for confetti and noisemakers ... Our analysis, based on a race-by-race examination of campaign-finance data, suggests that the GOP will hang on to both chambers, at least nominally. We expect the Republican majority in the House to fall by eight seats, to 224 of the chamber's 435 [seats]. At the very worst, our analysis suggests, the party's loss could be as large as 14 seats, leaving a one-vote majority ... In the Senate, with 100 seats, we see the GOP winding up with 52, down three. We ... based our predictions ... on which candidate had the largest campaign war chest, a sign of superior grassroots support. We ignore the polls."
The Barron's analysis is, as you might expect a Wall Street analysis to be, based on cold, hard cash: No sentiment, please, we're all capitalists here. Cash in the stretch not only buys the television commercials the meaner the better everyone says he hates, but reflects the confidence of the checkbook.
Barron's employed the money test in both 2000 and 2004, and, bucking conventional media wisdom (always a good thing to do), correctly predicted the Republican gains in both years. In the 34 years since 1972, an eternity in politics, the candidate with the most money has won more than 90 percent of the time 98 percent, in fact, in the most recent elections. The best of the pollsters can only dream of such results.
Close calls only occasionally make Christians of infidels, as the ancient saying goes, and conservatives willing to believe in the redeeming grace of second chances should not expect miracles. Nevertheless, the prospect of Nancy Pelosi as speaker could give new life to the Republican mantra: "Vote Republican, we're not as bad as you think."