With a month still to go before voters go to the polls, the proverbial alien landing within reach of a screen or speaker might think the election has been decided. No, wait a minute, that one over there has a different result. There are polls on specific elements of policy, polls of voters committed to parties and voters who wouldn't go near a party card, polls by ethnicity, polls by gender, polls by how they voted or if they voted last time around. Then there are the "never failed" totally irrelevant predictors, such as Family Circle Magazine's revelation that Michelle Obama's cookies with both white and dark chocolate chips were given more votes than Ann Romney's with M&Ms candies.
We're not even content with predictions of the election outcome. Americans will be watching the presidential debates that began on October 3, not primarily to learn more about our candidates and their policies, but to see who "wins." Even here on PolicyMic, it looks as though half the articles published the day before promise to see more in the debate than you can see for yourself, and to let you know what you've just heard right along with the pundit. On Monday, Slate published perverse "good news for the GOP challenger," based on not one, but two polls, President Obama's campaign had failed to lower expectations for his performance below expectations for Governor Romney's. Yes, an actual majority of likely voters may think Obama will do better in the debate, and that's supposed to mean that Romney can make more mistakes and still be declared the "winner."
Wait. Who declares the winner? Will there be a scoreboard? Have the team owners settled their proxy labor dispute with the skilled referees? No, that was that other violent national pastime. We will rely on each other, here on PM and myriad other sites, and on every radio and video and print news source from Wednesday night to the second debate — and of course on new polls — to tell us how to evaluate what we heard for ourselves if we cared to.
I don't know whether I'll watch the debate. I will not be following my fellow PM pundits' live blogs — sorry, gang — though I too hate to think I might not see the great gaffe of the campaign as it happens and be able to chortle with other spectators. If I have my laptop open, I'll get "breaking news" alerts by e-mail every 15 minutes from at least two newspapers. I will probably scan some of the highlights in writing on Thursday morning. I will not be asking who won.
I'm pretty sure of the outcome of the only poll I can affect, my measly vote among millions for presidential electors. I won't be tracking the polls over the next month. I probably won't stay up that night to be told moment by moment how it's trending. There'll be plenty of time to hear in the morning how it trended and who actually, truly won. Well, assuming the electors are faithful.