It's On

If you're John McCain right now, you've got to be feeling a little queasy about the news that Dixville Notch, N.H. broke for Barack Obama, 15-to-6.

Since 1948, residents of the tiny town in northern New Hampshire have honored their special place in political Americana, casting and counting local votes just after midnight on Election Day.

Even for the white-rats-on-speed networks, the vote total is probably not quite enough evidence to call the election, but it sure seems like a good omen for Obama, given that a Democrat has not carried Dixville Notch in 40 years. Of course, the party's candidate the last time, in 1968, was Hubert Humphrey, who finally lost a heartbreaker to big Dick Nixon, so, as Yogi Berra may or may not have said, nobody knows nothin'. For the record, the 21 votes cast represent 100 percent turnout in the town.

Speaking of omens, Obama sadly announced that Madelyn Dunham, his beloved grandma who helped raise him, died Monday at 86. It was just a week ago that Obama broke off campaigning to visit her, recalling that he had failed to take a break from allegedly Important Stuff to go see his seriously ailing mother a few years ago, right before she died.

Whatever you think about the guy, he does seem to have his priorities straight, as shown earlier by taking a week off in summer to spend with his wife and kids in Hawaii, even though leaving the trail cost him some points in the polls and led to widespread derision from the pundits, led by Beltway Diva Cokie Roberts, who suggested at the time that the Aloha State was more or less a foreign country.

Speaking of pundits, Huffpost assembled an all-star cast of about 30, ranging from Carville on the left to Rove on the right, to offer their predictions for the election. All but one Fred Barnes, Mr. Cranky Pants Conservative himself picked Obama, with at least 320 electoral votes. Barnes, probably shrewdly, likely figures no one will remember if he's wrong but on the off-chance he's right, he could end up more famous than Joe the Plumber.

The estimable Jim Rainey of the L.A. Times offers a swell recap of the race, reminding us that when it started, the Dow was well above 11,000, the key issue was the Iraq war, and Hillary Clinton was viewed as a slam dunk for the Democratic nomination. Proving anew, as loyal CL readers never cease chanting, the conventional wisdom is always wrong.

Another piece of sad pre-election news: Bill Stall, one of the most decent men ever to trod the California political beat, passed away Sunday at 71.

In his long journalistic career, Stall worked for many years for the L.A. Times, and won a Pulitzer in 2004 for an erudite series of common sense editorials on state government. I got to know and admire him when we both covered the 1990 governor's race, he for the Times and me for the Chron.

In a business increasingly filled with braying, obnoxious and self-regarding Chris Matthews clones, Stall was low-key but relentless, the kind of old school reporter who never tried to make himself the story. He learned his craft at the Laramie (Wy.) Daily Bulletin later the Daily Boomerang and genuinely cared about the substance and details of public policy with a quiet passion and mastery of material that quickly exposed candidates and campaign spinners who tried to fake it.

More than any political reporter I've met, he believed and behaved as if campaigns actually ought to be about issues of governance, rather than clown shows about trivial nonsense. Stall was the real deal. RIP.

I'm off to San Francisco for election night, where I'll be offering live on-air commentary for viewers of Sky News TV in Great Britain, providing the views of the colonized "Nigel, you raise an interesting point" while trying to keep track of Greenwich Mean Time. Don't forget to vote.

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