Michael Barone

Most voters were ready for an alternative, but were wary of Reagan, who was 69 years old and supposedly extreme conservative. He might have disqualified himself in a number of ways.

Instead, in his one debate with Carter, on the Thursday before the election, Reagan echoed a 1934 Franklin Roosevelt fireside chat, which he remembered but the press corps didn't. "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" he asked voters.

Opinion moved quickly. Weekend polling showed an unprecedented 10-point shift from Carter to Reagan. Pollster Pat Caddell had to go to the White House Monday morning and tell Jimmy Carter that he was not going to be re-elected president of the United States.

Could something like this happen this year? It is my view that Obama was helped in 2008 by a widespread belief that, in the abstract, it would be a good thing for Americans to elect a black president. I know I felt that way myself.

This year, I sense that many, perhaps most voters do not want the country to be seen rejecting the first black president. Such a feeling might be buoying Obama's support despite the lagging economic recovery and the widespread opposition to his signature policies.

If that is correct, it is possible that in the last days of the campaign a large number of voters will decide, quietly and out of public view, that they just don't want any more of what they've had for the last four years and they will try the other guy and see if he can do better.

That's what happened in 1980. Reagan carried 44 states and won the popular vote by 10 points, more than anyone else since. Chances for the 1980 scenario: maybe 20 percent.

So what remains for the chance of the 2000/2004 long, hard slog scenario? At least 55 percent. Still the best bet. But not the only one.

Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM