Paul Greenberg

It's a snap commenting on yesterday's elections the morning after. The hard part is saying something about the elections before the results are in, which is when this column is being written. And my crystal ball is in the shop, dangit.

The late not-so-great Westbrook Pegler started out as a talented sportswriter and engaging political commentator back in the last century, but wound up a sodden right-wing crank. He once confessed that, contrary to popular belief, it wasn't his hatred of Eleanor Roosevelt that had driven him bonkers. It was having to write on Monday and not being published till Friday in those slow-motion, Via Air Mail days. He should have tried writing a Wednesday column about a Tuesday election that hadn't happened yet.

But that's no problem in our high-tech age. Thanks to the modern miracle of public opinion polls, with all their latest scientific advances, we now know just how the elections will go even before the polls are closed. Why go through the formality of counting the votes?

Here's what that kind of thing leads to: Not long ago I spent the day of the New Hampshire primary pounding out a trenchant analysis of why Barack Obama had scored so decisive a victory over Hillary Clinton in that early test of their electoral strength. We all knew just how the vote would come out. The polls had told us: It would be Obama by a mile; his lead was insurmountable.

Here at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, our editorial for the next day analyzing the significance of Barack Obama's dramatic victory was in type well before the polls closed in New Hampshire. Early in the evening as the election returns began dribbling in, Sen. Clinton took a slight lead, which surely would fade as the night went on.

Always thinking ahead, my syndicated column along the same presumptuous lines had already been dispatched for distribution first thing in the morning. All a couple of us on the editorial page had to do was hang around the newsroom just for safety's sake. Miss Hillary's edge was sure to fade as the night wore on, wiped out by the Obama tide. It was a sure bet. Even the Clinton camp was preparing to explain why its candidate's loss in New Hampshire wasn't all that serious.

But a funny thing happened on the way to Senator Obama's triumph in New Hampshire. It never happened. Instead, Senator Clinton's early lead widened instead of disappearing, and by our final deadline - our last chance to yank that editorial - she was eking out a victory. Discomfited as I was, I did the only thing a man could: laugh out loud.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.