As one looks at the polls, the issues and the candidates, the election of 2008 resembles what poker players call a "lay-down hand."
Two-thirds of the nation believes the Iraq war a blunder. Sixty-nine percent disapproves of President Bush. Eighty-one percent thinks America is on the wrong course.
Inflation is at 4 percent and rising. Unemployment is 5 percent and rising. Gasoline, heating oil and food prices are soaring. The dollar has lost half its values against the euro. Homes are being foreclosed upon at Depression rates. The stock market is in a swoon. And 3.5 million manufacturing jobs have vanished under Bush.
Hillary and Obama have both raised far more than John McCain.
Democratic turnout in the primaries and caucuses is two and three times what it was for the GOP. The youth, energy and enthusiasm are on the Democratic side. Voter registration is rising dramatically, and the new registrants are almost all Democrats or independents.
Thirty Republican House members are retiring. In the Senate, the big question is whether Democrats will achieve a 60-40 margin to enable them to kill Republican filibusters.
By all odds, Republican retention of the White House should be as imperiled as it was in 1932, when the hapless Herbert Hoover faced FDR.
Yet John McCain, who presides over a disconsolate party many of whose leading lights not only do not love him, they do not like him, is even money to be the next president of the United States.
What explains this?
Answer: Barack Obama, the probable nominee of the Democratic Party -- his cool and pleasant demeanor aside, and his oratorical skills notwithstanding -- is being steadily pushed by his own mistakes, and rivals Hillary Clinton and McCain, outside the social, cultural and ideological mainstream of American politics.
Hillary's victory in Pennsylvania confirmed what Texas, Ohio and Florida hinted at. Barack has not closed the sale with Middle America. Moreover, he may never close the sale.
What is Barack's problem?
Though he has stitched together the McGovern wing of the party -- the anti-war crowd, the cause people, the professoriat -- with the Jesse Jackson wing -- 90 percent of the African-American vote -- he is being systematically pushed out of the heartland of the party, the white working and middle class. And reinforcing the impression in Middle America that Barack is "not one of us" is the core of both the Clinton and Republican strategies. And they are working.
In Ohio and Pennsylvania, resistance to the probable nominee hardened and calcified among Catholics, ethnics, union and blue-collar voters, even as Barack outspent Hillary two and three to one.