Rich Galen

Two hundred and seventy three years ago, when this Presidential election cycle began, it was generally agreed that it would be the most wide-open election for President since at least 1952.

There is no sitting President or Vice President in either party to claim the title of "Nominee Presumptive." That has not happened since Harry Truman's Vice President, Alben Barkley, decided that, as he would be 75 years old shortly after election day, he would not run for election as President.

On the Democratic side, the closest thing to a sure bet has been Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) whose campaign has been based on the inevitability of her nomination and eventual election.

On the Republican side, the early favorite was Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) who, the theory went, was next-in-line among GOP primary voters because of his run in 2000.

The McCain campaign had to go into Chapter 11 in mid-year when the amount of money it could raise did not match the amount of money called for in the campaign plan, and ceded the title of front-runner to Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

The Clinton campaign was caught unawares by the ferocity of support for Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) and has had to raise and spend enormous amounts of money to maintain its lead in the national polls.

Polls are now being released on an average of every 47 minutes. There is a basic principal that political pros use to read polls and that is to treat them like the scoring in Olympic figure skating competitions: You throw out the high and the low score (knowing that, back in the day, the East Germans and the French were cheating) and the remaining scores are probably pretty close to what actually happened on the ice.

Current research is extremely difficult to read on a poll-by-poll basis because you have to know if the pollster is testing all adults, registered voters, or likely voters, and whether the poll is looking at national results or the results within a specific state.

This week, a USAToday/Gallup poll was released and showed Hillary Clinton was still leading nationally but her support among Democrats had slid from 48% - tantalizingly close to the coveted 50% mark - down to only 39%. That is still a lead of 15 percentage points over Obama, but a long way from the 26 point lead she had enjoyed only two weeks previous.

Rich Galen

Rich Galen has been a press secretary to Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich. Rich Galen currently works as a journalist and writes at